Former Gitmo Commander Who Called Prisoner Suicides 'Asymetrical Warfare' Named Ambassador To Australia


Donald Trump picks the best people! And he has decided that the best person to represent the United States to the nation of Australia is Admiral Harry B. Harris.

The statement given by the White House about the appointment describes Harris as a “[a] highly decorated, combat proven Naval officer with extensive knowledge, leadership and geo-political expertise in the Indo-Pacific region, he graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1978 and was designated a naval flight officer in 1979.”

Oh, well! That sounds lovely, doesn't it? Except that it does neglect to mention a rather important item on Harris' resumé -- the part where he was a Guantanamo Bay commander with a pretty sketchy human rights record.

Back in 2006, when Harris was in charge of Gitmo, three prisoners -- Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi al-Utaybi, Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed al-Salami and Yasser Talal al Zahrani -- all died in custody. Their deaths were reported as suicides.

Here is what Admiral Harris had to say about that:

“They are smart, they are creative, they are committed,” Admiral Harris said. “They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”

The gist, in his view, was that the prisoners who committed suicide (and were being indefinitely held without having been charged with a crime) did so to make the United States look mean. One could say that the very existence of Guantanamo Bay did their work for them, but clearly Harris did not see it that way.

The thing is... it is pretty likely that those prisoners did not actually commit suicide, but rather died while being tortured.

Via The Guardian:

However, a subsequent report by the centre for policy and research of Seton Hall University School of Law, under the supervision of its director, Professor Mark Denbeaux, attorney for two Guantanamo detainees, pointed to numerous inconsistencies in the official accounts of these deaths. The report suggested there had either been gross negligence or an attempt to cover up homicides of the men, perhaps owing to torture under interrogation.

In 2010, Harper’s Magazine published a story suggesting the three prisoners had died as a result of accidental manslaughter during a torture session, and that the official account was a cover-up.

Additionally, it was during Harris' tenure at Guantanamo that it became policy to force-feed prisoners going on hunger strikes -- a practice that is considered an assault on human dignity by both the American Medical Association and the World Medical Association.

So basically this guy is awesome at torture. I suppose we should be glad that he is no longer in charge of Guantanamo Bay -- but it sure seems pretty gross to have someone involved with that shit representing our interests abroad. And why him? Are we planning to go to war with Australia? Aside from Mel Gibson, what did Australia do to deserve this guy?

[The Guardian]

Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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