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The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday on the case of a Marine Corps colonel, V. Stuart Couch, who refused to handle the prosecution of a Guantánamo detainee, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, after concluding that the evidence he was asked to use to press the case had been secured through the use of torture.
In the following weeks, Mr. Slahi said, he was placed in isolation, subjected to extreme temperatures, beaten and sexually humiliated. The detention-board transcript states that at this point, “the recording equipment began to malfunction.” It summarizes Mr. Slahi’s missing testimony as discussing “how he was tortured while here at GTMO by several individuals.”
Funny how often this happens—DVDs disappear, videotapes can’t be found, and recording equipment malfunctions—whenever torture is in play. But the core of Jess Bravin’s well crafted story lies in how Couch came to realize he could no longer be silently complicit in the torture process.
In May 2004, attending a baptism at Virginia’s Falls Church, Col. Couch joined the congregation in reciting the liturgy. The reading concluded, as is typical, with the priest asking if congregants will “respect the dignity of every human being.”
“When I heard that, I knew I gotta get off the fence,” Col. Couch says. “Here was somebody I felt was connected to 9/11, but in our zeal to get information, we had compromised our ability to prosecute him.” He says, in retrospect, the tipping point came with the forged letter about Mr. Slahi’s mother. “For me, that was just, enough is enough. I had seen enough, I had heard enough, I had read enough. I said: ‘That’s it.’ ”
Couch asked that his objections be brought to the attention of DOD General Counsel William J. Haynes II. Of course, Haynes was the author of a notorious memorandum to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld advocating the introduction of highly coercive interrogation techniques in Guantánamo in the first place.
Couch makes clear that his actions were not inspired by any sense that Slahi was innocent. To the contrary, Couch felt he had “blood on his hands.” “I’m hoping there’s some non-tainted evidence out there that can put the guy in the hole,” he says.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Years ago, I lived in Montana, a land of purple sunsets, clear streams, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars drifting through the cold air. There were no speed limits and you could legally drive drunk. My small apartment in Missoula had little privacy. In order to write, I rented an off-season fishing cabin on Rock Creek, a one-room place with a bed and a bureau. I lacked the budget for a desk. My idea was to remove a sliding door from a closet in my apartment and place it over a couple of hastily cobbled-together sawhorses.
Average number of bacteria living in a pound of U.S. mud:
Canadian doctors saved a baby from drowning in his own drool by using Botox on his salivary glands.
In North Korea, a missile capable of striking U.S. bases overseas blew up immediately after a test launch, and in North Carolina, a G.O.P. headquarters was firebombed.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”