A BOY CALLED MOHAMMED
By Fred Mittag
Bob Herbert of the New York Times wrote a piece that makes a normal stomach feel like throwing up breakfast. It’s about a boy named Mohammed Jawad who was seized in Afghanistan when he was – well, nobody knows how old he was. Some guessed his age at 12 and some thought he might be 14. There’s no dispute that he was a child. “Mohammed,” by the way, is the most common boy’s name in the world, which is in itself something to ponder for foreign relations policy.
Mohammed has been in American custody six and a half years. I think specialists in child development must have some strong things to say about that. We have tortured him and that is part of his childhood development. He has tried to commit suicide by banging his head against the wall and was restrained.
Mohammed’s treatment was so outrageous that an Army Officer, Colonel Vandevelt, described as “gung ho” to secure convictions, and who was assigned to prosecute Mohammed, removed himself from the case. He said that he could not “in good conscience” serve in the military tribunals set up to try accused terrorists. As he looked at the evidence, he became increasingly dismayed and then refused the role of prosecutor.
The colonel explained that by pure accident he came across the official report by an Army criminal investigation of abuse of prisoners at Bagram. Colonel Vandevelt wrote a sworn affidavit in which he said Mohammed had been tortured. The colonel said that he lacked the words “to express the heartsickness” he felt as he came to fully understand how Mohammed had been treated by American soldiers. The colonel certainly speaks for me.
There is no evidence against Mohammed and a judge has ruled his confession by torture to be inadmissible evidence. The judge’s ruling sounds like the beginning of sanity and justice – but hold on. President Obama’s lawyers are opposing defense efforts to secure Mohammed’s freedom. And in the best tradition of a Fascist state, administration lawyers are using Mohammed’s “confession” as the basis for holding him – a confession under torture that has already been ruled inadmissible and without merit. The law is being interpreted however the “Führer” thinks it should be interpreted. Well, to calm down a bit, Obama has stopped torture, heeding his better angel. But to oppose legal rulings in Mohammed’s favor amounts to accreditation for the methods of torture that produced the so-called “confession.” This does not make legal sense, and it certainly doesn’t make any moral sense.
I’m inspired by Colonel Vandevelt. He’s no longer on active duty, but has joined the efforts of military defense lawyers and the ACLU (of which I’m a proud member) to secure Mohammed’s freedom. The colonel said, “Six years of virtual solitary confinement is enough for someone who was not much older than a child when he was taken into custody.
My breakfast felt unsettled when I read about Mohammed this morning, and Colonel Vandevelt felt “heartsickness” when he learned about Mohammed – the very boy he was assigned to prosecute. I hope you have been stirred, also, at the failure of justice and the profound immorality. It’s done in your name and in mine, in the name of America. Terrorists destroy buildings and lives. We are destroying America.
The United Methodist Church, along with many others, is a moral voice against torture. I urge you to sign their petition, below. They want all signatures, not just those of Methodists members. The Methodists have a persuasive and eye-catching sign in front of their headquarters in Washington, D.C. that looks like this:
Add your name to our petition!
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