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in time for Columbus Day...

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Message Jayne Stahl
comes word, from Camp Pendleton, of a two page sworn affidavit sent this week to the Defense Department by Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, and reported by the Associated Press that got word of these allegations from a sergeant in the Marines that "striking detainees," at the controversial naval base in Cuba, is "common practice."

There are calls for an investigation into these charges which first surfaced from a claim by a paralegal who met several off duty guards at a bar, late last month, who boasted of such barbaric practices as banging detainees' heads against cell doors, depriving them of water, and prohibiting customary privileges without cause. As if that's not enough, the Marine sergeant also went so far as to describe the guards as sitting at the bar laughing while telling stories of beating Gitmo prisoners. Additionally, several guards bragged of "punching in the face" men in their custody. (AP)

Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, a "defense coordinator" for the Marine Corps., (AP) has called for a formal Defense Department inquiry into these allegations of abuse which he says are not only "offensive," but in violation of "United States and international law." Ahem...I'll say it once again, a high-ranking member of the Marine Corps. now suggests that the inhuman, and degrading actions of a group of marines, who happened to be caught confessing to their abusive practices while under the influence ,and whose actions are being described as commonplace, states, without equivocation, that these acts violate United States and international law.

Guantanamo Bay is now home to more than 400 so-called "enemy combatants" some of whom, over the past several months, have committed suicide; many of whom have engaged in massive hunger strikes, and only a handful of whom have been charged with criminal activity. The report that alleges guards boast of routine, senseless beatings w2as presented to the Department of Defense inspector general. While there are high profile Navy officers already stepping forward, and pledging to cooperate fully with this stunning investigation into what appear to be routine beatings for the hell of it, one wonders if the Joint Task Force promise to enforce "the safe and humane care and custody of detained enemy combatants" (AP) is little more than a bandaid on a wound that requires a tourniquet.

As Columbus Day approaches, one wonders what would our founding fathers say were they to learn about secret prisons, "enemy combatants," waterboarding, and routine beating of prisoners held only hundreds of miles away from Miami? If nothing else, Columbus Day is celebration of leadership, however misguided, thus it is appropriate to ask where were those "in command" when their subordinates engaged in these wanton, and criminal acts?

Surely, no rational person would believe, for a minute, that a group of several off duty guards at Camp Pendleton would openly describe, and relish these disgusting beatings to a total stranger in a bar without one commissioned officer being aware of them. Can it be that those in command look the other way when this abuse is taking place? If so, then these sergeants, lieutenants, and any officer who knew about these abuses must be held accountable. If we can expect the Speaker of the House to step down because of a cover up involving a member of Congress, then why, in the hell, don't we demand the same from our armed forces!
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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