New York Times Breaks Blockbuster Story On Torture Of Guantanamo Detainees

Politics & Current Events

Three Guantanamo guards systematically forced Afghan detainees to humiliate themselves, in order to be allowed to eat.

Accusations against a Marine lieutenant and his subordinates have sparked an internal investigation that led to the lieutenant being discharged for forcing inmates to dance to the music of Usher and other American pop stars, according to a source speaking on condition of anonymity.  The Times has been provided with an incident report prepared by the office of the Marine Corps Inspector General.

On April 11, the Inspector General said Lieutenant Dominic Martucci made detainees dance to American rock music, forcing them perform "old school" dances such as the "Robot" and the "Electric Slide" in order to receive scheduled meals.  The source said that detainees were told those who refused to dance for the soldiers' amusement would be forced to eat uncooked or raw food.

According to Walid Hallabee, an Islamic scholar at Rutgers University, such treatment would constitute "grave insult" to Sunni Muslims.  Sunni Islam is the dominant religion in the volatile Pashtun regions of Afghanistan, and of the majority of Afghan detainees at Guantanamo.

Detainees complained that Martucci forced them to do a 5 minute "bump and grind" routine while other Marines watched, according to the incident report. The Inspector also accused Sergeant Ronald Metcalf, Corporal Jacob Hoover, and Corporal Emilio Zalick of observing the mistreatment, but doing nothing to stop Lieutenant Martucci, nor of reporting his misconduct to superior officers. Metcalf, Hoover, and Zalick were given disciplinary notices but have not been charged in the matter.

According to the Inspector General's report, Lieutenant Martucci admitted to the "dance party", stating that it was necessary because a handful of detainees would not return directly to their cells following Friday prayers as ordered.

Sergeant Hoover, in a statement furnished to the Inspector Genral, wrote that the detainees seemed to be "having a good time" and that they were dancing by themselves.  According to Hallabee of the Rutgers Center for Islamic Studies, this is highly unlikely.  "Sunni Islam teaches that the sole musical use for the human voice is for the glorification of God, as in a Muezzin's call to prayer, and that dancing is against the teaching of the Prophet Muhammad.  It is inconceivable that these men, from a very conservative sect in a very conservative country, would have debased themselves in such a fashion," Hallabee informed the Times. "As for eating uncooked food, in addition to being unsafe this is strictly Hara'am, forbidden to those who follow the Islamic faith. These men had to choose between humiliation and starvation."

Lieutenant Martucci refused to provide a written statement, citing his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

At a preliminary hearing early Wednesday, a military prosecutor charged that the actions of Martucci were "unbecoming of a Marine," and announced that court martial proceedings would commence within the month.

Read the full story here.

The New York Times, as well as the Washington Post and ABC News, should all be commended for their bravery in bringing this story to light.

Americans may not want to hear it, but journalists have a duty to inform us when our military, in violation of the Geneva Convention, forces prisoners of war to undergo embarrassment and humiliation worse than what one would expect to find in some podunk county jail.  In this era of journalistic consolidation and cutbacks, we should all be proud that the national media covers such atrocities and unconstitutional treatment which would never be inflicted on an American citizen.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White

41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. tpp  •  May 3, 2012 @7:54 am

    Color me not surprised.

    Now, let's see the statements of "we need to look forward" from the administration while they put the whistleblowers in jail and let the actual criminals write books about their crimes.

  2. Patrick  •  May 3, 2012 @8:12 am

    I couldn't agree more, tpp. The Obama Administration just looks the other way as prisoners are humiliated in the name of keeping America safe. If this had happened to American citizens in a foreign prison, you can bet they'd be all over it.

    Note that Eric Holder hasn't said a word about this abuse of human rights, going on under his very nose.

  3. PubDef  •  May 3, 2012 @8:21 am

    Uhhhh…that's not what the story at the link says. Same people, same accusations, but not at Gitmo. Not marines, either.

  4. Goober  •  May 3, 2012 @8:36 am

    It is a human rights violation that any of them are there to begin with. If they are criminals, try them. If they are not criminals, then what are they doing there?

    They are not prisoners of war, because they weren't fighting as uniformed soldiers under a flag, so the only question is "what can we charge them with." This indefinite detention thing is not only evil, but is wholly unecessary. We could acheive our goals without breaking our rules.

  5. Dan Irving  •  May 3, 2012 @8:36 am

    /second PubDef's comment – Link points to a KYPost link about a Sheriff's deputy fired for making inmates dance but no for their supper.

  6. Mercury  •  May 3, 2012 @8:38 am

    I can’t find the story either although I can understand how someone might mistake the bad music/food/shouting at a Democratic fund raiser for Gitmo. So let’s not take that possibility off the table. In any case, I’m willing to bet that any prisoner in any Muslim/Arab country would gladly trade up to a prison where his greatest fear was being coerced into dancing to bad 80’s music.

    But…maybe it’s time to revisit a “take no prisoners” policy nonetheless.

    Possibly amusing for you law firm types: http://www.zerohedge.com/contributed/2012-18-03/big-law-101

  7. David  •  May 3, 2012 @8:40 am

    Guys, if you look way, way over your heads, I think you might see the point passing by.

  8. Kevin  •  May 3, 2012 @8:42 am

    This is true – the link goes to a story about an incident in Ohio. Same alleged date, and the name of the Ohio deputy is the same, so I think something's mixed up somewhere. The larger point is completely valid, though – and my original comment was only going to be that I disagreed with Patrick that anybody would care much if the torture was inflicted on an American citizen accused of something, especially given that the 9th Circuit just held that nobody could have known in 2002 that the stuff inflicted on Jose Padilla was "torture." He's a citizen, but nobody cared.

  9. Patrick  •  May 3, 2012 @8:43 am

    Well said Goober. We should try them for their crimes, not humiliate them in a dungeon.

    I wish the media paid more attention to atrocities the government commits in the name of protecting us, no matter whether the victims are American citizens or Muslim terrorists.

  10. Mercury  •  May 3, 2012 @8:51 am

    Actually Goober, waging war out of uniform is a Geneva Convention violation too I believe. Two wrongs don't make a right but if you're looking for something to charge them with, start there.

  11. Dan Irving  •  May 3, 2012 @8:53 am

    @David – I get the underlying point nimrod … nice to see such though provoking explanations on this blog.

  12. David  •  May 3, 2012 @9:02 am

    At least they didn't force them to dubstep.

  13. Vladimir  •  May 3, 2012 @9:10 am

    Well played. When I skimmed this post on my phone it seemed like there had to be something like this going on.

    I wonder what else the cop did to manage to get fired.

  14. Craig  •  May 3, 2012 @9:17 am

    "…in violation of the Geneva Conventions…"

    Fixed that for you. :)

    Although I do agree Ken, it should be noted that the general provisions contained within treaties signed at the Geneva Conventions surrouned prisoners of war. As we know, our government (primarily the previous administration) went out of their way to remind us that the detainees were no prisoners of war, but were merely enemy combatants. Apparently this allowed them to circumvent the treaties agreed to in the Geneva Conventions via a idiotic loophole.

    I'm of the belief that we need to be held to a higher standard. If we would not condone this behavior from others, then we shall not approve of it being done on our behalf. Rest assured if Americans held in captivity in Iran or North Korea or anywhere else were treated in a negative manner, many of my fellow Americans would be outraged… yet these same Americans tend to remain silent as to some of the actions we have taken against these prisoners/detainees/whatever you wish to call them.

    It is disgusting – and I applaud any media organzation who has the gigantic bright brass polished balls to face it head on.

  15. mojo  •  May 3, 2012 @9:33 am

    "No, not "The Watusi!""

  16. mojo  •  May 3, 2012 @9:33 am

    PS: "Jail of 1000 Dances"

  17. Dan Weber  •  May 3, 2012 @9:43 am

    Guys, if you look way, way over your heads, I think you might see the point passing by

    The sarcasm level here gets so meta that I frequently have no idea what's going on.

  18. Scott Jacobs  •  May 3, 2012 @9:49 am

    Let us all just be thankful that the macarena wasn't involved…

  19. Luke  •  May 3, 2012 @10:10 am

    Well played Patrick and the point is completely true.

  20. SPQR  •  May 3, 2012 @10:14 am

    A good troll by Patrick, although I am still debating whether Ussher is really "torture" or not … criminal abuse of the musical form, yes but torture?

    The converse is a point that I've made before. That the prisoners at Gitmo were treated better than most prison inmates within the US.

  21. plutosdad  •  May 3, 2012 @10:36 am

    "Dominic Martucci"? God, why do all the Italians that make the news have to be so embarrassing? sigh.

  22. delurking  •  May 3, 2012 @11:52 am

    There is an interesting tension between arguments like the one Patrick is making, and similar arguments made on this blog by both Patrick and Ken about offense.

    As staunch defenders of our constitutional rights, many (including me) argue that offense to the listener is irrelevant to the exercise of our rights of speech and expression. This is especially obvious in cases such as the Mohammed cartoons or desecration of the Host, where the religious claim extreme offense and psychological torture, and we all just tell them to stuff it.

    But, somehow, when people are convicted of some crime and have their most important constitutional rights taken away (freedom of movement and expression), we go to lengths to assure that other circumstances of their confinement are not embarrassing or offensive to them, even if those same circumstances wouldn't be embarrassing or offensive to the vast majority of us.

    Now, this particular case is distinguishable from the point I am making because the officers in question were abusing their authority by imposing additional (albeit fairly minor) conditions on their confinement, but I think the more general point still stands because it relates to intended conditions of confinement as well.

  23. Crissa  •  May 3, 2012 @1:28 pm

    At least the deputy was fired, but that seems a poor choice for changing how things are operated – the odds that no one above him knew of his behavior seems incredulous. Then again, there may have been no one above him; he may have been the highest ranking person to check on prisoner conditions.

    We really need better ways for whistle-blowers both small and large to bring their claims without being afraid for their positions, and checks and balances need to be common enough that either they catch this stuff or that checking in due to a whistle-claim isn't going to be out of the ordinary.

    But that would be more government jobs and regulators, doncha know. x-x

  24. C. S. P. Schofield  •  May 3, 2012 @1:31 pm

    OK, a couple of points;

    "If this had happened to American citizens in a foreign prison, you can bet they'd be all over it."

    No, I wouldn't want that bet. Obama in particular and the Democrats in general are a little too fond on "international relations" to ever step up to the "Pedecaris alive or the Raisuli dead" standard. Of course, if you want to be picky, Pedecaris was an excuse; he had renounced his American citizenship.

    Unless I am misunderstanding something, the Geneva Convention and the Laws of War in general provide out-of-uniform combatants with bupkis other than the right to a bullet in the back of the head. When the treaty was originally signed, none of the signing nations had much concern for "freedom fighters", other than to put them down as effectively as possible. Out of uniform combatants are considered spies, and may be treated as such (ie quite unpleasantly).

    Lastly; OK, no, this doesn't make me proud. On the other hand, after a decade of schweeming about torture, has so little surfaced that this counts as a big story? Really? We're nicer people than I thought.

  25. Goober  •  May 3, 2012 @4:11 pm

    Ugh. I've been trolled by Patrick. Well done, friend, well done.

    That being said, the points I made above still stand, despite my having been trolled into making them. As for the "in violation of geneva conventions" thing that i left out above, I left it unsaid because I thought it was obvious when I started talking about them fighting out of uniform.

    I don't know if I really LIKE that precedent, but it is a precedent under which we can at least try them and get this "forever or until we say so" BS out of the way.

    The reason I don't like this precedent is that I try to put myself in the shoes of a man who's country was invaded by a forgeign power, kind of a "red dawn" situation, if you will. I am not sure that I would worry much about finding a uniform under those conditions, I would just grab my rifle and go start shooting some Mf'ers, and for that, i would be a war criminal.

  26. Scott Jacobs  •  May 3, 2012 @4:14 pm

    Unless I am misunderstanding something, the Geneva Convention and the Laws of War in general provide out-of-uniform combatants with bupkis other than the right to a bullet in the back of the head.

    I frequently point this out… When you get down to it, if given the choice between being water-boarded or shot by the highest ranking officer within earshot, I would pick the former every single time.

    Then again, I would also pick most any form of torture – real or the discomforts some on the left claim to be torture – over how our UNIFORMED fighters are treated by the enemy…

  27. nlp  •  May 3, 2012 @4:14 pm

    A variety of interesting questions. Abuse of prisoners is abuse wherever it happens, no matter whether it's in Ohio or Gitmo or in Egypt at the request of the American government. And yes, if Americans are supposed to be setting an example of fairness and democracy we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. The argument that the prisoners at Gitmo aren't part of an army is a weak one. They were fighting American soldiers on their home soil. Let them stand trial and either free them or sentence them, but they shouldn't be left dangling.

  28. Scott Jacobs  •  May 3, 2012 @4:24 pm

    The argument that the prisoners at Gitmo aren't part of an army is a weak one

    No, it really isn't. The GC is quite specific at to who it covers, who it does not cover, and what is acceptable regarding those it does not cover.

    If you engage in hostilities against a uniformed military, if you are NOT in a uniform, you are a saboteur/spy, and are largely fair game.

  29. C. S. P. Schofield  •  May 3, 2012 @4:29 pm

    Scott Jacobs,

    Mind you, I don't necessarily ENDORSE the "secret trial and then execute" standard that actually IS international law; I just get a little weary of people getting their panties in a wad over "violations" of a code we are, in fact, following rather better than is usually done.

    nlp,

    No, the argument that they aren't part of an army is NOT a weak one. Rather, it is at the core of the whole "treatment of prisoners" segment of the Geneva Convention. It exactly follows the standards set up by international treaty.

    And, incidentally, many of the captured insurgents are not in their own country. In fact the anti-war Left made something of a point of that during the Bush years; going on about how our forces were attracting jihadists from all over.

    You can still make a case, I think, for our treatment of captured jihadists being wrong. but it IS in accord with established International standards. The countries that wrote the treaties had scant use for 'revolutionaries' or 'freedom fighters'.

  30. Bob Roberts  •  May 3, 2012 @6:56 pm

    KSM was Rickrolled until he confessed.

  31. Jerryskids  •  May 3, 2012 @8:16 pm

    This is one of the best posts I have read in a long, long time. It not only took a wickedly sharp jab at a certain multiculturalist hypocrisy, it gave me hope that some people still understood satire. But then I read the comments.

  32. EH  •  May 3, 2012 @8:25 pm

    Around here, it's n00b sheriffs who work in the jail for a couple years before they're turned out on the streets. It kind of pains me to say this, but I see this as the system working as intended and weeding a psycho out of the force before they're turned loose on the public and generating settlements in real money. That it takes something like this to spark action tells me the filter is wound a bit too tightly, but you take what you can get, especially with law enforcement.

  33. Tarrou  •  May 4, 2012 @4:51 am

    So I set off fully of intertrons fury to correct some horrific misunderstandings in this post…..only belatedly realizing my mistake. Serves me right for reading blogs before I've had my coffee. The mark of good satire is a certain plausibility, so well played sir, well played.

  34. Nate  •  May 4, 2012 @6:29 am

    Of course there is also the question of whether successor states are bound by the treaties of their predecessor states, the answer depends on who you happen to be talking to at that moment.

    Thank God we have The Times to keep us aware of this horrible treatment of unlawful combatants (who are, by default, war criminals).

    This makes me think though… I think I was tortured in High School…

  35. Nate  •  May 4, 2012 @11:17 pm

    I also note that Al Qaidas Facebook page (who knew?) notes that they are a "stateless army", a clear admission that they don't fall under the Geneva Conventions protections against the loud playing of music.

  36. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master  •  May 5, 2012 @8:58 pm

    >>> forces prisoners of war to undergo embarrassment and humiliation worse than what one would expect to find in some podunk county jail.

    Sooooo, you figure being forced to dance to the music of Usher is … worse than dancing to the tune of Bubba, the serial ass rapist?

    'cause that's the only context in which your statement makes sense.

    I'm not blowing off what happened — it's unacceptable and those guilty of it — directly as well as indirectly (by failing to report it) — should generally be seriously reprimanded… and certainly lose rank and authority as a result of it.

    But this is hardly getting beaten with wet towels every day. And I'm personally suspecting that it's nowhere near as bad a treatment as is common in most prisons outside the USA, Canada, and Scandinavia.

    Perhaps we should transfer them to being held in Turkish Prison…?

    This is the problem I have with reportage like this — not that it should not be reported, but that the context in which it's made is just ludicrously "pristine" — the things occurring here are hardly life threatening or emotionally scarring for life… Yeah, that includes having to listen to "Usher". :-S

    Wrong, yeah.

    Shocking and horrifying? Gimme a BREAK.

  37. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master  •  May 5, 2012 @9:07 pm

    >>> If they are criminals, try them. If they are not criminals, then what are they doing there?

    They are spies and saboteurs by most of the international laws of war. They CERTAINLY aren't "POWs" by any international legal measure, nor are they "criminals" to be tried or otherwise given the legal status given citizens or peaceful visitors to the USA.

    As a result, they can be summarily executed without any trial. Got that?

    So how, praytell, are these people being treated unjustly when we go to the time and expense of merely holding them until their ability to cause trouble is reduced to our satisfaction, rather than just killing them outright?

    They AREN'T criminals, they AREN'T PoWs, they are spies and saboteurs subject to being SHOT AT WILL.

    Why the eph is this so hard to not only grasp, but to Get It such that you don't have to be constantly reminded of it by having it re-explained from scratch on a regular basis?

  38. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master  •  May 5, 2012 @9:18 pm

    >>>>>> They were fighting American soldiers on their home soil.
    >>> And, incidentally, many of the captured insurgents are not in their own country.

    Exactly. I've never seen stats from Afghanistan, but in Iraq the VAST MAJORITY of combatants were NOT from Iraq, were NOT "Freedom Fighters" in any sense of the term — they were just agents of other international organizations looking to do nothing different in Iraq from what our government was doing there — looking to influence the future direction of the nation and it's people.

    And for the most part, we did so without indiscriminate killing of the local citizenry.

  39. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master  •  May 5, 2012 @9:19 pm

    >>> and it's people.

    "its". Doh!

  40. David  •  May 6, 2012 @9:46 am

    "Apparently this allowed them to circumvent the treaties agreed to in the Geneva Conventions via a [sic] idiotic loophole."

    Unfortunately, the conditions defining the imprisonment and treatment of prisoners of war are very specific in the Geneva Conventions, and are clear: the Conventions simply do not apply to non-state-sponsored/recognized terrorists. If they are agents of a state, then they're not in uniform and much, much harsher rules apply, according to international agreement codified in the Conventions, than to uniformed military prisoners. So, you'd rather they be treated as out-of-uniform troops of an enemy state? Shot as spies and saboteurs? That'd work for me.

  41. Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master  •  May 6, 2012 @12:29 pm

    >>> Unfortunately, the conditions defining the imprisonment and treatment of prisoners of war are very specific in the Geneva Conventions

    No "unfortunately" about it. They are what they are for very specific historical reasons. They are designed as they are not only to protect soldiers but innocent civilians, by placing a VERY high price on having individuals able to meld in and become indistinguishable from enemy non-combatants (i.e., "civilians on the opposite side"). If you are caught not wearing a uniform, you risk paying a much higher price than a captured soldier.

    These rules all have serious reasons for being what they are, and if you think yourself worthy of expressing an opinion, you should be at least vaguely familiar with the history of them and why they say what they say.