April 4, 1945: the Ohrdruf Concentration Camp was liberated by American troops led by Brigadier General Joseph Cutrona. Eight days later, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, toured Ohrdruf, which was part of the larger Buchenwald complex of forced labor and death camps in central Germany.
The scene those men witnessed was unlike anything they had ever encountered, even when compared to the 20 other extermination camps run by the Nazis.
David Cohen, one of the troops under Cutrona’s command, recalled the horrors he and his fellow soldiers saw upon their arrival. “We walked into a shed and the bodies were piled up like wood. There are no words to describe it,” he said, describing the smell as overpowering and unforgettable.
Shortly after Eisenhower’s visit, the future 34th president of the United States cabled the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, DC to document what he saw and ensure that history would never forget and could never deny or repeat the atrocities of the Holocaust:
The most interesting – although horrible – sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.’
It was never supposed to happen here, but seventy-five years later, history appears to be repeating itself, or at least, running on a shockingly parallel track.
President Donald Trump’s racist stances on immigration were the original tenents of his candidacy for the presidency. He launched his White House bid by characterizing Mexicans as “rapists and criminals” that were bringing “drugs and crime” across the border.
Thus, the policies Trump has crafted since taking office – family separation and mass deportations among them – have resulted in thousands of immigrants, most of whom came from Central and South America and were seeking political asylum, being herded into detention centers across the United States and left to suffer in what a 2019 report in The Atlantic described as “cruelly austere conditions.”
Poor treatment of persons of color and prisoners in the US is, of course, nothing new.
But on Monday, a new whistleblower complaint revealed the extent to which the abhorrent treatment of human being has expanded under Trump’s authority, which has offically met at least three of the criteria laid out in the United Nation’s definition of genocide, if not all of them:
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
According to the complaint by a nurse named Dawn Wooten, who was employed at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Georgia and was filed with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by advocacy groups Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network, the trauma inflicted upon immigrants and their families goes far beyond ripping them apart, locking them up, and subjecting them to living in filth, often without adequate access to bathrooms or food:
This complaint and Ms.Wooten’s accompanying Declaration (which is incorporated by reference) document recent accounts of jarring medical neglect at ICDC including refusal to test detained immigrants for COVID-19 who have been exposed to the virus and are symptomatic, shredding of medical requests submitted by detained immigrants, and fabricating medical records. In addition, this complaint raises red flags regarding the rate at which hysterectomies are performed on immigrant women under ICE custody at ICDC. This complaint also documents hazardous and reckless actions taken by ICDC management such as allowing employees to work while they are symptomatic awaiting COVID-19 test results and hiding information from employees and detained immigrants about who has tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, this complaint documents ICDC’s disregard for public health guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by maintaining unsanitary conditions and continuously allowing transfers of detained immigrants, even those who have tested positive for COVID-19, and punishing immigrants with solitary confinement when they speak out against these injustices.
Several women told Project South that they were “confused” about why they had their uteruses removed against their wills.
“Recently, a detained immigrant told Project South that she talked to five different women detained at ICDC between October and December 2019 who had a hysterectomy done,” the complaint stated. “When she talked to them about the surgery, the women ‘reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.’ The woman told Project South that it was as though the women were ‘trying to tell themselves it’s going to be OK.’”
The detainee added that “when I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies.”
Wooten said that the facility hired an outside gynecologist to perform the unnecessary procedures.
“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy—just about everybody,” Wooten said, noting that “everybody’s uterus cannot be that bad.”
The women nicknamed the gynecologist “the uterus collector” – a dark homage to Dr. Josef Mengele, Auschwitz’s “Angel of Death” and his sinister medical carnage – and could not come to understand “what in the world” he was doing.
“We’ve questioned among ourselves like goodness he’s taking everybody’s stuff out…That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector. I know that’s ugly…is he collecting these things or something…Everybody he sees, he’s taking all their uteruses out or he’s taken their tubes out. What in the world.”
Informed consent among the patients was one of the central issues in the complaint, as many of the victims spoke little to no English.
Wooten and the detainees recalled that consent was frequently obtained “by simply googling Spanish” and that the justifications for the surgeries was routinely inconsistent.
“She was originally told by the doctor that she had an ovarian cyst and was going to have a small twenty-minute procedure done drilling three small holes in her stomach to drain the cyst,” the complaint alleges. “The officer who was transporting her to the hospital told her that she was receiving a hysterectomy to have her womb removed. When the hospital refused to operate on her because her COVID-19 test came back positive for antibodies, she was transferred back to ICDC where the ICDC nurse said that the procedure she was going to have done entailed dilating her vagina and scraping tissue off.”
The other major issue brought forth by Wooten and the other women was a general lack of testing, safety precautions, prevention, and treatment of COVID-19, to which people living in close quarters are particularly susceptible.
In one of several interviews with The Intercept, Wooten said there was “a silent pandemic” of the coronavirus tearing through the detention center.
“You don’t want to see what you’re seeing,” Wooten told The Intercept. “You’re responsible for the lives of others,” she said. But Irwin Management, despite repeated warnings by staff as the first cases started to appear in March, repeatedly downplayed the severity of the emergency – the same willful inaction that Trump confessed to Bob Woodward on tape.
Just like Trump, the warden, David Paulk, “didn’t want there to be mass panic,” Wooten recalled. Wooten was also instructed to triage a COVID-19 patient without being provided with a mask, which she refused to do.
“They’re still not taking this seriously,” Wooten said. “Enough was enough.”
The Intercept noted that Wooten’s health was seriously “imperiled” because of her job:
Her own health was imperiled while working at Irwin during the outbreak. She has sickle cell anemia, and although she told her supervisors her doctor had warned her that exposure to the coronavirus could be deadly, management at Irwin neglected to tell her that detainees she had contact with were symptomatic and, in three cases, had tested positive for Covid-19.
Priyanka Bhatt, a staff attorney with Project South, told The Intercept that “Ms. Wooten’s whistleblowing disclosures confirm what detained immigrants have been reporting for years – gross disregard for health and safety standards, lack of medical care, and unsanitary living conditions.”
Wooten’s accounts are, sadly, not the only narratives of prisoner of abuse and neglect perpetrated by the private, for-profit prison company, LaSalle Corrections, which operates more than a dozen facilities across the South. LaSalle, however, is not the only corporation that has been setting and forgetting human beings during a pandemic – all at taxpayer expense, according to The Intercept:
LaSalle – which runs 18 detention centers throughout the South, capable of holding over 13,000 people – isn’t the only for-profit detention company to face scrutiny for dangerous mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. But as the virus took hold in the region this summer, a pattern emerged of alleged abuses in LaSalle facilities. In July, medical staff at the LaSalle-owned Richwood Correctional Center in Louisiana submitted a letter to Congress detailing troubling allegations, including that LaSalle management withheld personal protective equipment from both staff and detainees, dismissed positive Covid-19 test results, and ignored symptoms. In the same month, medically vulnerable asylum-seekers detained at Richwood told The Intercept they were handcuffed, pepper-sprayed in the face, and thrown into solitary confinement after protesting the dangerous conditions. One of the men was transferred to River Correctional, another LaSalle-run detention center, where he told The Intercept that management there also neglected to take proper medical precautions to stop Covid-19’s spread. Asylum-seekers have described similar abuses at LaSalle-run Winn Correctional Center.
ICE and LaSalle both refused to comment on the specifics of the complaint when approached by The Intercept, although a spokesperson for LaSalle did offer a boilerplate save-face:
“LaSalle Corrections is firmly committed to the health and welfare of those in our care. We are deeply committed to delivering high-quality, culturally responsive services in safe and humane environments.”
The entire complaint can be read below:
Last Wednesday, Carl Bernstein accused Trump of “homicidal negligence” following the release of the Trump-Woodward tapes. Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) said on Thursday that Trump’s incompetence amount to “reckless homicide.” On Friday, Michael Moore called Trump a “mass killer” and a “bastard” for his refusal to protect the American people.
Given the details recounted in Monday’s astonishing whistleblower complaint, and the actions to which he has proudly admitted on television, on Twitter, and on tape with Woodward, Trump has proven himself to be a genocidal maniac with no regard for science, human life, or, as Bernstein said, “the wellbeing of the people of the United States.”
He is pathologically incapable of discerning truth from whatever reality his twisted mind fabricates and for experiencing empathy. He has bragged about sexually assaulting women. He inflames racial tensions and stokes the socioeconomic fears of his political base, which is comprised of white supremacists – the most dangerous extremists in the country that have been committing acts of violence at an accelerating pace – since Trump declared his candidacy.
He cavalierly jokes about using nuclear weapons. Trump has zero mental capacity for contemplating the consequences of his actions and decision-making, because there have never been any in the 74 years he has lied, cheated, conned, scammed, extorted, exploited, and failed upwardly throughout his life – or maybe he simply does not care.
Impeachment was a bust. Trump’s Cabinet will never invoke the 25th Amendment. The chances of him resigning are slim, if not nonexistent, and his claims of entitlement to remain in office for more than two terms are routine.
The next presidential election is 50 days away, and there exists a real and growing possibility that our democratic processes and institutions may not provide sufficient means of removing Trump and his incomprehensible perversions from power.
Voting is the most powerful tool we have as citizens. Yours matters. Please vote out that monstrosity and all of his Republican enablers in November.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.