Skip to content

Did the New U.S. Ambassador to S. Korea Whitewash Military Homicides at Gitmo?

The new U.S. ambassador to South Korea is Adm. Harry Harris. He was born in Japan to American father and Japanese mother, and has been a career military man, in the Navy.

The only other time I had heard of Harry Harris was a few years ago when Naval Postgraduate School economics professor and Hoover Institution research fellow David Henderson wrote about the time when Harris spoke to the student body and faculty and Henderson asked him an important question during Q&A. Dr. Henderson advocates a non-interventionist foreign policy from an economist’s perspective.

Dr. Henderson wrote:

Wondering more about who Admiral Harris was, I checked the web. And, lo and behold, I found something interesting: in 2006, he assumed command of the prison at Guantanamo in Cuba. Not only that, but it was on his watch that three prisoners, Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi Al-Utaybi, Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed al-Salami and Yasser Talal Al Zahrani, died in the custody of US forces. Harris claimed that these were all suicides and said at the time, “I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” When I read that statement, I recalled having heard it; I just didn’t remember the name of the Admiral who made it.

Reading further, I learned that Harper’s Magazine writer Scott Horton, in a March 2010 article titled “The Camp Delta ‘Suicides’: A Camp Delta Sergeant Blows the Whistle,” raised some doubts about whether these really were suicides:

According to the NCIS documents, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously.

Here was Dr. Henderson’s question for Adm. Harry Harris:

When you were in command of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, three prisoners died at around the same time. Those deaths were reported as suicides. At the time, you stated, “I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” Later, Harper’s Magazine published a story suggesting that they had died as a result of accidental manslaughter during a torture session, and that the official account was a cover-up. Now, with hindsight, do you still think the deaths were suicides and do you still think that they were acts of asymmetrical warfare?

Henderson wrote that Harris’s answer was “You’re right … that happened on my watch. That was on my watch. I’ve looked at all the reports and I’m still sure that those were suicides.” But Harris didn’t answer the last part about “asymmetrical warfare.”

Henderson said that he asked those questions, tough but fair questions, to benefit the military students in the audience, because, he wrote, “few of them seem to know much about what their own military does.” And he wrote that, “I feel a moral obligation to model a certain kind of behavior for them: speaking truth to power or, at least, asking powerful people about the truth and putting them on the line to defend, deny, or admit.”

Published inUncategorized