Saturday, April 23, 2011

When our soldiers were treated as unlawful combatants

Laura Hillenbrand's story of Louie Zamperini, Unbroken (2010), also features another unnerving reminder of more recent events. (I wrote about its bearing on the waterboarding debate in my previous post.) Hildebrand recounts that Zamperini, a captured US Air Force bombardier, was placed in “a secret interrogation center called Ofuna, where ‘high-value’ captured men were housed in solitary confinement, starved, tormented, and tortured to divulge military secrets.” The prisoners held at this secret camp, moreover, were not acknowledged by their captors to be POWs. Instead, the Japanese maintained they were “‘unarmed combatants’ at war against Japan and, as such, didn’t have the rights that international law accorded POW’s. In fact, they had no rights at all. If captives ‘confessed their crimes against Japan,’ they’d be treated ‘as well as regulations permit.’ Over the course of the war, some one thousand Allied captives would be hauled into Ofuna, and many would be held there for years.” (192)

Can one read this and not be reminded of Guantánamo?

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