Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Tragically Ironic

The picture above is of the Ship USS Peleliu, from an article I read in the Guardian. The article is about a report which is to be released on the United States use of Prison Ships, potentially 17 total since the 9/11 attacks. The report alleges, "the United States is operating floating prisons to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees." The report is to cite sources inside the US Government, including the Military and other international governmental sources.

I titled this post tragically ironic in part because of the following information gleaned from the article:

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as "floating prisons" since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu...

To many younger Americans, and some baby boomers, the name Bataan probably doesn't mean much at all, but I became intimately aware of the significance of that small tropical Filipino peninsula when I was in ninth grade while doing a History Day Project on one of the victims from McColl, SC, and I'll never forget the horrors and tragedies associated with that location.

What many don't realize is that we weren't just attacked at Pearl Harbor that December day in 1941, we were also attacked in the Philippines as well as other smaller installations in the Pacific. Our Pacific fleet having been ransacked in an effort to shore up the Atlantic by what we presumed to be the greater threat of Hitler, we were caught off guard and left nearly defenseless with very little 'modern firepower' and only the courage of the men, American and Filipino, stationed in Luzon and Manila. Shortly after the initial air attacks on Pearl and Manila (the Pearl of the Philippines), the Japanese invaded and managed to push the Allied forces back through the following months to the tiny Bataan Peninsula towards what was a stocked Spanish American War Island Fortress, Corregidor, where presumably aid from the US Navy would come to carry off the defenders.

Aid never came, and what followed was a forced march of over 75000 American GIs over rugged Jungle Terrain under torturous conditions including forced starvation, beatings and humiliations and random acts of murder by the Japanese of not only the prisoners, but Filipino Civilians who dared offer any aid or comfort to the weakened GI's. The episode is recorded as the Bataan Death March, and unfortunately for surviors didn't always end at the "Death camps" in the center of the Island. No, Prisoners who in turn survived their tenure at the camps would be routinely forced to march northward to the coast where they would board prison ships and rendered to the Japanese Mainland from the Philippines to various work camps. (One of the more infamous of these ships being the Arisan Maru the ship which is believed to have been the one to hold the subject of my 9th Grade Project).

So it should be no wonder, in knowing this history, that to learn that a US Ship named in honor of the survivors of such a heinous event in American history is being used as a vehicle of imprisonment and allegedly torture, or even as a stepping point to torture (because that's what rendition is) is tragically ironic, outrageous and a disservice to the memory of so many who died at the hands of our enemy, an enemy who we then charged for such behaviour and called - war crimes.

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