Why is the world concerned about the classification of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and, why are Americans so blissfully unconcerned?
The world is concerned because, as possible victims, it can't afford to forget. Americans are not because they have never come to terms with the evil our government committed against prisoners during the Vietnam War.
During Vietnam, America tortured, raped and murdered thousands of Vietnamese. We classified these people as neutralists, insurgents, communists and unlawful combatants--anything but prisoners of war. Our conduct in Vietnam, all though still glossed over by media and government, has left the world at large gravely concerned and uneasy. It casts a pale over our claims to be lovers of liberty and proponents
A few facts from that dark period should help us understand the world communities strong concerns. Help us see why we the people should never allow any military or governmental leaders to redefine international law. Help us see when small-minded men makeup classifications like "unlawful combatants" they do irreparable damage
to the collective safety of all mankind.
Some facts about Vietnam that concern the world today:
The U.S. built and maintained Tiger Cages at the notorious Con Son Island Prison. On this island, located far out in the South China Sea, was situated the largest South Vietnamese prison for non-combatantsâ€"9,600 prisoners all with no legal rights.
Tiger cages were deep, dank concrete pits, four by nine feet; each held three to five prisoners. Steel grates covered the top of each pit. Prisoners lay shackled to the floor of these concrete abysses and their guards beat them without mercy. Above each Tiger Gage was a bucket of lime; warders would throw down clouds of it onto the
chained prisoners as a form of sanitary torture. After months of internment, prisoners would lose the use of their legs, develop tuberculosis, gangrenous feet and life threatening dysentery.
Throughout the war, U.S. Officials claimed the cages did not exist. Frank E. Walton, Director of the U.S. Public Safety Program Vietnam said about Con Son Prison: "This place is more like a Boy Scout Recreational Camp."
An exchange between then Congressman Tom Harkin and a prisoner who hollered his testimony up from one Tiger pit abyss best explains why the world, conditioned by Nazisque brutality, is wary of bland American assurances that our violations of international law will be mild mannered. "I am a Buddhist monk and I spoke for peace in 1966. I am here for no reason except wanting peace." The date of this exchange was 1972 when the war was almost over.
Americans interested in a better understanding just what the world fears, should read Hostages Of War by Holmes Brown and Don Luce, Atrocities In Vietnam by Edward S. Herman, or Diverting The Buddha by Bob Swartzel.