All About Trey

Life, Travel, Adventure

Honor Bound to Defend Freedom

The timing of this post is a little bit odd. It's been a long crazy week and this is my first opportunity to write anything and today is Veteran's Day. So it's just an odd combination.

Last week, I went to go see Guantanamo at the Studio Theatre. Other than the subject title, I knew little about the play. I've got some strong feelings on this subject, so I was looking forward to this play. And I guess I should say that the term "play" probably isn't appropriate. Performance art isn't the right term either. On the playbill, they use the term "spoken evidence" and "documentary theatre" that's what it is. Against a back drop to cots and chain linked fences are several detainees and in the fore ground there are six chairs. At the beginning, actors comes to sit in the chair and take turns speaking to the audience. The "play" is a collection of personal stories told from interviews, personal letters, and transcripts from news accounts or press briefings. It focuses on four British detainees captured in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Gabon who are transported to and detained in Guantanamo.

The whole evening was just amazing in a sort of intense way. We've read of the detainees and the treatment in Cuba. But they are just faceless entities that are beyond our knowledge. It's bad that it's happening, but it's happening to people we don't know, have no connection with. But by using the transcripts, and interviews, and letters (which includes parts where an ominous off screen voice declares "censored" as the actors speak), it humanizes these detainess as real people. And to be honest, hearing these actors speak with a British accent makes it even more real. If the characters had spoken with an arabic accent, it might have been easy to dismiss the stories of their treatment, but it's hard not to believe someone who sounds just like us when they sign their letters, "Love to you and Mum."

The Washington Post did a good review of the play. And I'll admit that Post is right that the play is pretty strong in its positions and that the way the play is performed it doesn't lend itself to presenting any opposing point of view. The arragant, cavalier portrayal of Donald Rumsfeld during one of his many press conferences during the war just seems so callous and cold now. The Post also mentions that the problem with the play is that only people who are pre-disposed to opposing the situation in Guantanamo are the ones who will see this play. Needless to say, I don't think Frist, Hasturt, or Bill O'Rielly are going to see this play.

Earlier this year I sent an email to my USNA 89 mail list to see what my classmates thought of Abu Ghraib, Guanatanamo, and the torture and I got a serious flaming for believing that this was anything more than a small group of bad apples. So I actually started to read up on the subject. The ACLU has reuqested copies of the Army's CID reports via the Freedom of Information Act, and despite the parts that were redacted, a pretty clear picture formed in my head. The different reports told of prisoners, detainess, being held and tortured in safe houses and other facilities all across Iraq. Not just Abu Ghraib. And there were affidavits from medical officers saying that some of the wounds on Iraqi prisoners were not caused by the excuses being offered by some of the authorities. In reading one of the reports I learned that a great way to inflict pain on someone with minimal physical evidence is to stand on someone's head. There is little muscle between the skin and the skull, so no bruising. How sick is that. And the reports from CID were maddingly incomplete. Prisoner A reported this. This piece of evidence (a statement, or medical report, or something) supported this claim. Interviewed suspected soldier who denied claim. Unable to obtain any additional information. Report closed as unsubstantiated. There were hundreds of these types of reports. And with my military background, I could see the "going through the motions" effort that was taking place.

"Honor Bound To Defend Freedom" is the motto of the Joint Task Force in Guantanamo. I just don't think we are living up to the motto. And how sad is that?