Friday, April 3, 2009

Bush Administration's Craven Misuse of the USS Bataan

I just read a post by Solly Mack on the Democratic Underground site where I learned for the first time that the USS Bataan was used as one of the Bush administration's prison ships.
The US has admitted that the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu were used as prison ships between December 2001 and January 2002.
So not only did the Bush administration have these dastardly prison ships but they specifically allowed the USS Bataan's name to be tarnished for being one of them. Why is the use of the USS Bataan any worse than using another ship for this purpose? Here's why.

Here are some snippets of information about the history of the USS Bataan from their website.
USS Bataan memorializes the valiant resistance of American and Filipino troops on the Bataan Peninsula in the dawning days of World War II.
Tens of thousands of American service members died either in battle or during the unconscionable “Bataan Death March.” The 65-mile “Death March” alone claimed the lives of more than 21,000 allies in less than a week and is marked as one of the greatest travesties of World War II. Those who survived the march faced starvation and disease aboard “hell ships” during transportation and later in prison camps until Japan's formal surrender in 1945.
Bataan was the last American stronghold in the Pacific theater to fall until MacArthur fulfilled his famed prophecy, “I shall return,” by reconquering the Philippine Islands two-and-one-half years later. The battle of Bataan and ensuing “Death March” are widely regarded as one of the greatest examples of allied courage, endurance and sacrifice in the history of military conflict.
So the cowardly Bush administration turned a valiant ship, whose very name brings to mind the courage of our military personnel, who endured savage mistreatment at the hands of our enemy, into a ship who will also be remembered for playing a part in our own savage mistreatment of prisoners. Yeah, they turned the USS Bataan into one of their floating prison ships that were specifically designed to enable them to conceal prisoner's whereabouts from the Red Cross, human rights lawyers and others. 

Based upon our knowledge of how the Bush administration treated prisoners it's also quite possible that these prisoners were also tortured on board the USS Bataan. This pathetic misuse of the USS Bataan makes me so angry because it adds insult to the injury our country has already experienced from operating these prison ships in the first place. It was bad enough that we had prison ships but how could anyone, who knows the proud history of the USS Bataan, have allowed her, of all ships, to be used for this despicable purpose?

The people who did this have no honor and obviously have no respect for the military or the values of this country. They must not be allowed to get away with their crimes or their cowardly misuse of a ship whose very name represented our proud heritage.  

** Update** After I wrote this diary someone in the comments section suggested that I look for additional information about this issue. I thought it was a great idea and one that I really should have done before writing my diary (inexperience). Evidently, according to there is some disagreement about the extent of how the USS Battan and other ships have been used.
The U.S. Navy said that ships have been used to hold a small number of prisoners for short periods, but it denied that vessels were used as long-term floating prisons. "We do not operate detention facilities on board Navy ships," said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. "Department of Defense detention facilities are in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay."
The human rights group, Reprieve, posted this information on their website:
A former Guantánamo prisoner told Reprieve about conditions aboard the USS Bataan: There were about 50 other people on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on television. The people detained on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantánamo. The USS Bataan is also known to have been operating in the Indian Ocean region. Reprieve believes that prisoners held aboard the USS Bataan were routinely photographed and examined by medical personnel in between interrogations, and that such records are held by the US administration. 

They also stated this:

In June 2005 the UN's special rapporteur on terrorism spoke of “very, very serious” allegations that the United States was secretly detaining terrorism suspects in various locations around the world, notably aboard prison ships in the Indian Ocean region. Reprieve, the legal action charity, believes that the US has operated a number of ships as floating prisons (possibly as many as 17), where prisoners have been interrogated under torturous conditions before being rendered to other, often undisclosed locations. Details regarding the operation of prison ships have emerged through a number of sources, including the US military and other administration officials, the Council of Europe, various parliamentary bodies and journalists, as well as the testimonies of prisoners themselves. 

I hope that what Cmdr. Gordon states is true but based upon our knowledge of how our government has lied to us over and over when it concerns prisoners I won't just take Cmdr. Gordon's word at face value. I think this is another area where the American people deserve to know the truth.

***Big hat tip to
Adios who posted a link to a story that appeared in the Guardian that referenced Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon (the guy that denied that we used navy ships like the USS Bataan as floating prisons). In my opinion after reading that story there is very little room for doubt that Gordon was probably lying through his teeth when he said 
"We do not operate detention facilities on board Navy ships"  
Yeah, just like you don't torture.

Previously published on Daily Kos 3/9/09 and revised here.

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