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Thursday, April 30, 2009


Political prisoners

I wrote recently about the 200 people imprisoned in Cuba who the U.S. insists on calling "political prisoners," and who Barack Obama and the U.S. government suggest must be released before the U.S. makes any more "concessions" (as if removing restrictions on American citizens was a "concession" to Cuba), and who the Cuban government says they'll gladly release once the U.S. releases the Cuban Five heroes. Well, "political prisoner" is an entirely subjective term, and there's little point in arguing over to whom it applies and to whom it doesn't. But one thing we know for sure about the 200 Cuban prisoners is that every one of them had a trial, every one of them was convicted and sentenced, and that not a single one of them has been tortured.

Now contrast that to a group that Jeremy Scahill reminds of about today - the 15,058 people being held prisoner in Iraq by the "Multi-National Forces" (multinational only in the sense that the American military is Caucasian, Black, and Latino, not to mention consisting of both U.S. citizens and mercenaries from other countries, not in the sense that any other actual nation is a significant part of that force), along with the 26,213 more being held by U.S. "ally" (a.k.a. "puppet") Iraq. Not only have few if any of these 41,271 had trials or been convicted of any crime, but, as a new U.N. report (about which Scahill writes) reveals, brutal torture of those prisoners is absolutely routine. And not only routine, but so "acceptable" that a senior Iraqi police official even openly complained that the Iraqi government's pending ratification of the Convention against Torture would "not be helpful," stating, "How are we going to get confessions? We have to force the criminals to confess and how are we going to do that now?"

So the next time the U.S. government or media start talking about how Cuba should release 200 prisoners to show its commitment to human rights, someone should ask the speaker when the U.S. and Iraq are going to stop torturing and even try 200, or 2000, or 20000, of the 41,271 prisoners they are holding in Iraq, most of whom could easily qualify as "political prisoners" by someone's definition of the term. After all, what else is fighting to resist the occupation of your country other than a political act?

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