(This is the fourth in a series of posts addressing specific arguments and statements that Senator Lindsey Graham made in the floor speech in support of his amendment ending habeas for Guantanamo detainees. A Word doc of Graham's speech is here.)
Two medical malpractice claims have come out of this…. Never in the history of the rule of law of armed conflict has an enemy combatant, POW, person who is trying to kill U.S. troops, been given the right to sue those same troops for their medical care"—Senator Lindsey Graham.
In our last post, we linked to a motion (pdf) filed by the attorney for Sami al-Laithi, alleging medical malpractice. As we said then, anyone who wants to know which "frivolous" cases Lindsey Graham is talking about should read this motion in its entirety. As before, bear in mind that none of this information would be available if Graham's amendment had already been in force.
Al-Laithi's motion contains a number of other allegations of medical malpractice. There are too many of them to be listed. However, a few that stand out:
* pp. 8-10 describes a Afghan juvenile with a history of mental illness. During the war in Afghanistan, he was ordered to stop (in English); he does not speak English, kept walking, and was shot in the top of his right thigh bone. He was operated on, but was not told that his bone had been broken, or that a bolt had been implanted in it. At Bagram, he was forced to walk every day for three months; "He cried and screamed from pain until he would collapse unconscious." (p. 9) He was then taken to Guantanamo; on his arrival, he could not walk, having been strapped very tightly in the plane. He was ordered to sit cross-legged with his head touching the floor, and screamed and passed out. He was sent to isolation.
"Approximately one week later he felt something pressing the flesh around his thigh. They took him for an x-ray at the hospital and it turned out that the bolt used to hold the bone had broken. His hip was black from the decay and infection. He needed a new metal hip. When they did this operation, they made the hip replacement four centimeters too short. When this mistake became apparent, rather than operating again, they merely told him he should wear one platform shoe."
* p. 14:
"[redacted] is from Yemen. He had an injury to his shin and the US amputated more than necessary. However, because he has refused to cooperate with his interrogators, the US military refused for two years to give him a prosthetic limb. The clinic showed him such a prosthetic several times and said that he could only have it if he talked to his interrogators.
Other prisoners who have been denied prosthetic devices unless they cooperate with the interrogators include (...) [redacted] from Saudi Arabia who was denied a prosthetic limb for more than eight months, [redacted] from Yemen who was denied a prosthetic limb for more than two and a half years, and [redacted] from Tukistan (sic) who is without a prosthetic foot to this date, after three years."
* p. 16: One detainee reports the following:
"One mental health professional actually described to Mr. Begg how he could hang himself. She said that he could take his underwear, thread a blanket or trousers through this, and use it to hang himself. Mr. Begg has since been unable to get this image out of his mind, and it haunts him constantly. For a mental health professional to say this to a patient is the height of stupidity, irresponsibility, or sadism."
* pp. 18-20: A prisoner was injured by a bomb, and had five operations on his shattered leg while in Pakistani custody. He was about to recieve the main operation in which his bone would be fixed when he was taken into American custody and moved to Kandahar. There he was beaten and left naked, and did not receive medical care. On his transfer to Guantanamo:
""They gave me no medical care. They never changed the bandages. They gave me no pain-killers." He was in Camp X-Ray screaming in pain. He was afraid of infection. Every time he asked for new bandages, the US personnel said, "Tomorrow."
This went on for fifteen days without relief. Ultimately the wound swelled up alarmingly and the sin (sic) became discolored with a bad odor. The pain became much worse.
"One night I was crying in pain and I asked the guard to get a doctor. A translator came to me and said, 'You get no treatment until you admit to being a terrorist.' I said I need medication and pain killers. The translator held out some pain killers but said, 'I'll give you none of this until you confess.' I said, I bleed too much. 'Muslim blood is worth nothing', he said.""
Eventually, he was told he would have to have his leg amputated, or else risk gangrene. He agreed, but the wound was infected, and so he had to have six more operations, cutting off a little more bone each time. A year later, the wound swelled up again; this time, the doctors discovered that they had left some cotton in the wound during the previous operations. He had three more operations as a result. A year and a half after that, "the leg got infected again with pus, and it took him six months to get medication. The doctor found that they had forgotten to take the wires out from the second round of operations. On May 27, 2004, they finally removed these. This was his eleventh operation in Guantanamo Bay."
These are just some of the allegations contained in the Al-Laithi motion. There are others. Read the whole thing. If you really feel ambitious, you can read the government's response, and Al-Laithi's lawyers' response to that (pdfs). And then ask yourself: do we really want the detainees described in these documents to have no way to make their case, to question their treatment, or to ask the courts for any sort of relief?