July 21, 2009

Bagram: Nobody Here But Us Humanitarians

(Note: One image somewhat graphic)

One of the hallmarks of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns has been the absurd disconnect between what the military showcases for the visual media as compared to what otherwise is happening “on the ground.”

Writes DDay yesterday:

From the did you know file, did you know that the United States continues to operate, and assert the legality of operating, a detention facility that indefinitely locks up suspects without charging them? No, not Guantanamo, which the President has vowed to close. I’m talking about Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, which is not merely a POW facility but which ships in terror suspects from all over the world and confines them in a legal black hole. There is little knowledge of this or outcry about it in the United States, but the prisoners themselves have begun acts of civil disobedience. (More.)

According to a piece in yesterday’s Washington Independent, the dismissal of a Bagram prisoner’s habeus corpus petition at the end of June has led to mass upheaval on the part of the prisoners:

Reports today that the U.S. military is calling for an overhaul of the Bagram prison in Afghanistan follow weeks of little-reported protests by prisoners there, who since July 1 have refused to leave their cells or participate in video-phone calls with family members, all to protest their indefinite detention, says the International Committee of the Red Cross, which informed families of the protests. Prisoners are reportedly refusing even to meet with the ICRC.

If you track the news photos from Bagram over the past month at a newswire site like Daylife, however, what you get, over the past month, is a smattering of photos of soldiers remains being shipped to the U.S.; the treatment of wounded soldiers at the Bagram hospital; a U.S. change-of-command ceremony at the air base: a few images showing soldiers removing land mines; and military ceremonies marking Memorial Day.

Of the images, though, impossible to miss are the nineteen pictures or so dealing with eight-year-old Razia, who — according to the captions:

…was evacuated to the hospital in May after she was severely burned when a white phosphorus round hit her home in the Tagab Valley, killing two of her sisters during fighting between French troops and Taliban militants.

Although Razia’s father does appear in a couple of pictures, it’s great to know she has otherwise bonded with American military personnel (no hard feelings), received the best health care money can buy, and has even learned a few of our games. …All that, while events on the POW-side proceed along stealthily the way things at black sights typically do.

(images: Rafiq Maqbool/A.P. June 2009. For captions, see link below slide show)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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