Politics of the absurd?

The State Department refuses to give a U.N. team access to prisoners at Guantanamo, then dismisses their critical report as “without merit” because it isn’t based on first-hand evidence.

Sometimes I wonder whether the gang of war criminals now ruling us consists of people who are entirely humorless, or whether instead they are capable of Catch-22 levels of black comedy.

They’ve already claimed that a man whom they have tortured at Guantánamo can’t see his lawyer to complain about being tortured because the means of torture used on him are a state secret.

Now they’re blowing off a harshly critical UN report about Gitmo conditions. The report, says the State Department, is “largely without merit and not based clearly on the facts.” Why? Because the U.N. team, lead by torture rapporteur Manfred Nowak, hadn’t actually visited Gitmo, where they would have had “access to Guantanamo similar to that which we provide to U.S. congressional delegations.” That is, they would have been able to inspect the cells and talk to the guards, but would have been forbidden to see any of the prisoners in the absence of their captors: the minimal condition for a competent prison inspection, which we routinely insist other countries provide to U.N. inspectors.

So, having made it impossible for the U.N. team to learn all the facts, the State Department criticizes the report for not being based on the facts. Could Samuel Beckett have invented anything more cruelly absurd? It’s hard to see how.

Moreover, says the State Department, issues about detainee policy “are fully and publicly debated and litigated in the United States.” Of course, the Administration has staunchly refused to discuss in public or disclose to Congress precisely what torture techniques it uses (security, you know), and has done everything in its power to keep the torture question from being “fully litigated,” or indeed litigated at all.

I’m really surprised more of the Bushies don’t have beards. How is it possible for them to look in the mirror long enough to shave?

(Hat tip: Normblog.)

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com