The United States Does Not Torture

And if you believe that, you probably know better than to read about the experiences of detainees held at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan:

American soldiers herded the detainees into holding pens of razor-sharp concertina wire, the kind that’s used to corral livestock.

The guards kicked, kneed and punched many of the men until they collapsed in pain. U.S. troops shackled and dragged other detainees to small isolation rooms, then hung them by their wrists from chains dangling from the wire mesh ceiling.

Former guards and detainees whom McClatchy interviewed said Bagram was a center of systematic brutality for at least 20 months, starting in late 2001. Yet the soldiers responsible have escaped serious punishment.

The public outcry in the United States and abroad has focused on detainee abuse at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but sadistic violence first appeared at Bagram, north of Kabul, and at a similar U.S. internment camp at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.

“I was punched and kicked at Bagram. … At Bagram, when they took a man to interrogation at night, the next morning we would see him brought out on a stretcher looking almost dead,” said Aminullah, an Afghan who was held there for a little more than three months. “But at Guantanamo, there were rules, there was law.”

Nazar Chaman Gul, an Afghan who was held at Bagram for more than three months in 2003, said he was beaten about every five days. American soldiers would walk into the pen where he slept on the floor and ram their combat boots into his back and stomach, Gul said. “Two or three of them would come in suddenly, tie my hands and beat me,” he said.

When the kicking started, Gul said, he’d cry out, “I am not a terrorist,” then beg God for mercy. Mercy was slow in coming. He was shipped to Guantanamo around the late summer of 2003 and imprisoned there for more than three years.

Bagram, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib… Someday these names will have the same emotional kick as Dachau, Buchenwald, and Auschwitz have now.

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