The Mix

98 people dead in U.S. custody

Guess how many people convicted of the murders.
"Custody" must mean something different to U.S. law officials than it does to the American Heritage Dictionary, which says the word means "care and supervision."

A Human Rights First report found that roughly 100 people have died in U.S. custody since 2002. This number doesn't include accidents, external violence (such as bombs), or prisoner-on-prisoner violence. It does include the Iraqi guy who was forced by U.S. officers to jump off a bridge, the guy who was suffocated in a sleeping bag wrapped in an electrical wire and the guy who was stomped to death.

In only 12 of those cases has any punishment been handed out to the people responsible. The most severe punishment for torture? Five months in prison! And no one above the rank of major has been punished. Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, the guy responsible for suffocating the man in the sleeping bag, wasn't even given a day of prison time, just a reprimand, a fine, and a 60-day restriction on his movement.The only possible rational conclusion is that the U.S. doesn't care much and doesn't care who knows it. This is a mistake, of course, not just morally and ethically, but also strategically. Between this and the Abu Ghraib photographs released last week; it would be the perfect time for the U.S. to at least make an effort at modelling responsibility and showing regret for these deaths.

Not a chance. Bryan Whitman, deputy Pentagon spokesman, described the report as “hogwash.” And Donald Rumsfeld just shrugged and said "Some 250 people have been punished in one way or another." Only if by punished you mean promoted.
Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.
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