Has Obama's Election Made "Abuses" At GTMO Worse?

Now, there are two ways to read a report like this one:

Abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has worsened sharply since President Barack Obama took office as prison guards “get their kicks in” before the camp is closed, according to a lawyer who represents detainees.

Abuses began to pick up in December after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.


“According to my clients, there has been a ramping up in abuse since President Obama was inaugurated,” said Ghappour, a British-American lawyer with Reprieve, a legal charity that represents 31 detainees at Guantanamo.

The irresponsible, partisan-hack way to read it would be to follow how the left has reacted to such stories under Bush: assume that everything bad in an initial report is conclusively proven true simply by the fact that someone makes the allegation, always, always believe the worst of American soldiers and the best of our enemies, and start pointing partisan fingers. It’s Obama’s fault!

The responsible way would be to take this sort of thing for what it is: the self-interested propaganda of jihadists and their mouthpieces. Which doesn’t make it necessarily all untrue, but rather deserving of deep skepticism and requirements for actual proof. Even Reuters seems to recognize, now that Obama is in office, that there could be two sides to such stories, and that even cases defined as “abuse” may not be all they are cracked up to be:

Following a January 22 order from Obama, the U.S. Defense Department conducted a two-week review of conditions at Guantanamo ahead of the planned closure of the prison on Cuba.

Admiral Patrick Walsh, the review’s author, acknowledged on Monday that reports of abuse had emerged but concluded all inmates were being treated in line with the Geneva Conventions.

“We heard allegations of abuse,” he said, asked if detainees had reported torture. “And what we did at that point was to go back and investigate the allegation… What we found is that there were in some cases substantiated evidence where guards had misconduct, I think that would be the best way to put it.”

Walsh said his review looked at 20 allegations of abuse, 14 of which were substantiated, but he did not go into details. Generally he said the abuse ranged from “gestures, comments, disrespect” to “preemptive use of pepper spray.”

Ooooo, gestures of disrespect! That’s even worse than cheap unscented soap and underinflated basketballs! (Preemptive use of pepper spray at least constitutes the use of sometimes-unnecessary physical force, but the decision when to use such force is a gray area that is inherent in the management of any prison; sometimes the guards will go too far, but sometimes they don’t go far enough and bad things happen to innocent people).

America’s military and intelligence professionals have endured an awful lot of slanders the past eight years for the offense of having a Republican Commander-in-Chief. That’s not to say they have never been in the wrong; war is a large, messy enterprise, and sometimes people with guns and authority do very bad things. But the absence of perspective and disinterest in accuracy has been appalling. Now that Barack Obama is the President, maybe we can all have a little more skepticism about taking the word of our sworn enemies at face value.