Sunday, February 19, 2006


Uncorroborated Evidence

From the BBC: "US attacks UN Guantanamo report: The White House has rejected a UN report demanding the immediate closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp calling it "a discredit to the UN"."

From the conservative New York Sun: "The findings are based almost entirely on uncorroborated accounts of former Guantanamo detainees."

Un·cor·rob·o·rat·ed (ŭn'kə-rŏb'ə-rā'tĭd) pronunciation. adj. Not corroborated: uncorroborated testimony.

At my most cynical I've long held that politicians attack their tormentors at the point they themselves are weakest. As reflected in the quote from the New York Sun (a handy, almost word-for-word, recitation of the first White House talking point used to counter this story) the big push back against the UN report this week was centered around the refusal by UN investigators to visit the detention center at Guantanamo Bay to conduct interviews and collect evidence under strict American conditions and on their collecting testimony from released detainees around the globe. The word "uncorroborated" featured heavily in White House dismissals and was let pass on news broadcasts uncontested. The implication is that the UN report is fatally flawed as the investigators did not enter the camp and instead spoke to people who were likely to have a grudge about having been held at the prison.

A factitious person could of course make a comparison with the reports that reached the outside world about Saddam's excesses inside Abu Ghraib when he still held the reins in Iraq. After all, most of the evidence of torture, miscarriages of justice, and ill-treatment came from disgruntled former inmates with a chip on their shoulder about having been in the clink. Did the US or UN ever get to inspect the "rape rooms" and torture chambers, to hear the claims of the wrongly imprisoned or pressure Saddam to hold judicial reviews before the 03 invasion? Alas no, but enough circumstantial evidence and victim testimony accumulated to supply a retroactive casus belli and to turn Christopher Hitchens into a raving war-hawk. But I digress.

Back to the issue of corroboration. The unspoken suggestion by the White House of course is that all these former detainees- Afghans, Kuwaitis, Pakistanis, Britons, Somalis, and so on- were all working from a script ("We know that al-Qaeda terrorists are trained in trying to disseminate false allegations."- White House Press Officer Scott McClellan, 2/16/06). Every single man-jack of them was a) in Guantanamo for a reason; b) was in or affiliated to Al Qadea or the Taliban (but apparently not so affiliated as to preclude their release); and c) despite having been held for large stretches in solitary confinement and with many of them being closely monitored by the security services in their own countries upon release were able to come together in some sort of bizarre alumni club to coordinate their stories to the point where they passed muster with a multinational team of UN investigators. These folks are mad and they are lying seems to be the Bush administration's sotto voce commentary; If only the UN had come to Gitmo; we would have been glad to show them around. However, there would have been a few teensy rules.

So, "uncorroborated". And exactly who was going to "corroborate" the testimony of this geographically diverse bunch? The inmates at Guantanamo whom the UN inspectors would not be allowed to talk to? The prison authorities, who still deny the use of coercive "torture lite" tactics despite continued reports from a variety of respected organizations (Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo: NYT, 11/30/04)? The Pentagon? The White House?

Of course, uncorroborated is a great word; worthy of the great malevolent genius Karl Rove himself. It doesn't mean "untrue", merely "unproven", but the calculation was made that to Joe Six Pack it was a legal enough sounding word to be thrown about on blogs, in bars, and at the water cooler, a great way to sound smart and batter the wooly liberals and bleeding hearts who don't seem to get that the Bush Administration never makes mistakes or mishandles situations. I mean, just look at the missing WMD, the lack of credible links between Saddam and Al Qadea, the post-war situation in Iraq, attempts at social security reform, Medicare Part D Hurricane Katrina, or quail hunting. These guys are top notch, disciplined, and play by the rules. And no amount of uncorroborated testimony is going to prove otherwise.

The use of "uncorroborated" is just another example of the calculated assault on the English language conducted by the Bush adminstration and its predecessors (as opposed to the uncalculated mangling of syntax by Dubya). Indeed, the very reason the prison at Guantanamo Bay exists- the War on Terror- is a prime example of this governmental lexiographical vagueness. We no longer declare war on countries, only nouns; poverty, drugs, terror and so on. A war on "terrorism" would at least give us a broad strategic definition; in our current terminological mire I'm left wondering if I could get the president to bomb clowns, as I am surely not alone in feeling terror at the sight of their garish faces. As a hysterical lefty screaming from my chair as the mice of deception run around my kitchen floor, I'd like to point out as I hyperventilate that this is the sort of thing Orwell was warning against in 1984; not the physical manifestation of totalitarianism but rather the shutting down of the intellectual capacity for oposition by the mutilation of language.

I'm not one of those types who believes that Bush and Co. are hell-bent on unleashing a new form of fascism on the world. Elites learn from their mistakes and they are aware that such overt horror didn't work in the middle of the 20th century it certainly won't work now. It would be like trying to force through free health care for all; enough people are watching for it and there are enough shrill voiced tub thumpers to make it near impossible. My question for my left wing fellow travelers who unlike me subscribe to the Worldwide Plot of the Illuminati* is why when you are already on history's winning team would you have to disrupt the anesthetized lifestyles of the folks below you? Instead, like in one of my other favorite books about imaginary dystopia Brave New World, you metaphorically release calming clouds of gas while a loudspeaker murmurs soothing words to ease the troubled minds of the masses.

The findings are based almost entirely on uncorroborated accounts of former Guantanamo detainees- go back to sleep- The findings are based almost entirely on uncorroborated accounts of former Guantanamo detainees- move along, nothing to see here- The findings are based almost entirely on uncorroborated accounts of former Guantanamo detainees- Did you see last week's American Idol?- The findings are based almost entirely on uncorroborated accounts of former Guantanamo detainees, The findings are based almost entirely on uncorroborated accounts of former Guantanamo detainees....

Can I prove any of this? Of course not: it's all uncorroborated.

(*I hold that people who hold common interests- holding onto their vast wealth, for example- tend to form alliances of shared values. Is that a conspiracy? only if you are using the same crappy dictionary as the White House. Besides, even if it is, it has to be the most out-in-the-open, plainly visible conspiracy ever concocted).


country mouse said...

Right on! (Ok... I didn't read it. I got to the second paragraph and spaced out thinking about Rachel Raye's Cheese Fun-due recipe and if fake bacon will be appealing to the meat eating friends at the party I'm going to on Sunday. I'm I a silly ditz because I can't keep pace with post such as these?) You're smart.

weasel said...

Ultimately it serves as a brain-dump. Imagine if all I did instead was sit on the couch and spout this guff at you. Thanks dearest.

Will you be as annoyingly, gratingly energetic as Rachel Raye when you make it? Can I have the left-overs? I'm pretty certain that the rubber chicken dinner I'm going to on Saturday ain't gonna cut it...