After 10 Yrs of Gitmo Injustice, US Detainees Arriving When?
First a bit of positive news from Andy Worthington, Brit investigative journalist and champion of due process for the Gitmo detainees and author of The Guantanamo Files. (Worthington was a featured speaker in a World Can’t Wait forum on Sunday in NYC.) If former President George W. Bush travels outside the borders of the United States to a foreign country, upon his arrival there is a good chance he immediately will be arrested for war crimes, particularly the perpetration of TORTURE! This is why George Bush canceled a recent trip to Switzerland.
You see, outside the “U.S. bubble” of conscience-less denial, minimization, indifference or (“we are always the good guys”) naivete, there are millions of non-Americans who grasp the depth of the international war crimes perpetrated by the USWarMachine. People who actually have a sense of moral justice. Well, it is understandable they would be more aware, since THEIR moral radar is not constantly jammed by a prevaricating and distracting US corporate mass media.
Foreign peoples are coming to recognize the mass defiling of the sanctity of human lives by the heart of darkness leadership of this once constitutional republic. Many foreigners questing for democracies of their own have woken up to the loss of such democracy in the United States, woken up so much faster to the tragedy than the U.S.‘s own citizenry.
The travesty of the indefinite detention of so many innocents at Gitmo, a decade worth of detention with, thanks to Obama’s New Year’s Eve 2011 signature, the promise that it will continue on for all of them until they die of old age. (We won't even go to the even darker black hole of Bagram in Aghanistan in this blog.)
Efforts to combat that situation for the Gitmo detainees are becoming harder and harder for our human rights advocates in America, since Republican racists have become rampant in all levels of our court system readily joining the Obama administration in thwarting detainee appeals.
We have a Congress, the vast, vast, vast majority of which, along with a style-not-substance president, didn’t even blink at dooming arbitrarily-declared (by the executive branch ONLY) American citizens to indefinite incarceration without due process. After 220 years of the bill of rights, it got finished off substantially without much of a citizenry whimper less than two weeks ago.
Will it be at Gitmo, I wonder, where such citizen internment will begin, or Bagram or whatever secret DHS internment facility has already been readied (privatized for contractor profit, of course) for the messengers of truth to power (Americans capable of conscience) to a not so moral nor so super super power? Not moral, not super, at all, in fact.
Wherever it is, they won’t have to disclose where said Americans will be “disappeared” to. That kind of disclosure is not required in a fascist society. I suppose American internees should be grateful if they aren't "droned into red mist" (h/t to lambert for such a blunt and graphic and grave distillation) like more and more foreign-declared “terrorists” all over the map right now by the US and NATO (the real terrorists) war machines! Not that the Prez doesn't have that citizen-droning legal right.
So much evil comes from political hubris. Grew out of political hubris, first in the Bush regime but now in the Obama one. Impression management has been at the root of the cancerous growth of evil within this country, at Gitmo especially, as this evil continues to proliferate under the “impression management at all costs” Obama administration.
The victims of Gitmo. Permanent incarceration of innocent foreign people unlucky enough to be at the wrong place at the wrong time in so very many, many, many quietly proven (but a craven U.S. corporate media will never tell you) instances.
Was and is that -- the rendition, torture and incarceration of innocents -- such a bad trade-off for the political aggrandizement of first President Bush and his cabal and now Obama and his? Shoving these 99 percent ordinary human lives and the lives of their social networks under the proverbial rug (which euphemism doesn’t do the physical and psychological horrific levels of pain justice) for short-term political power?
Bad trade-off? A colossally vile and evil trade-off. And it continues.
This from Barbara Quintilian last year summing up the sordid history of Gitmo:
Not long after the Bush administration declared war on terror, Afghanis noticed that it was raining leaflets. The brochures airdropped by the U.S. military's PsyOps promised $5,000, " enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life," for each al-Qaeda fighter delivered to Northern Alliance who then turned them over to our military. And boy, did we ever get our money's worth. Almost 800 prisoners, most captured nowhere near a battlefield, were rounded up and sent to Guantánamo Bay. An executive order issued February 7, 2002 declared them all "unlawful enemy combatants," stripping them of their Geneva Convention rights. The infamous torture memo issued by Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee in August 2002 deprived detainees of their human rights as well and paved the way for that other national disgrace, Abu Ghraib.
Realizing that it had been duped (once again), the Bush administration began to release small groups of detainees, spiriting them away on planes under cover of darkness"after subjecting them to torture -"uh, I mean enhanced interrogation techniques. Best practices such as chaining prisoners to the ground in a fetal position and leaving them lying in their own excrement, forcing them to stand naked in the cold after being dowsed with ice water, and smearing them with what they believed to be menstrual blood. Nothing was too brutal for these men, the worst of the worst, according to Dick Cheney. After all, John Yoo had declared the President an absolute monarch in war time.
Since January 11, 2002, when the first prisoners landed at Gitmo shackled, blindfolded, and stacked one up against the other like so much bulk cargo, top Judge Advocates General have strenuously objected to interrogation methods used on them, and FBI personnel have filed reports describing the abuses they witnessed. Former interrogator Matthew Alexander found out first hand in Iraq that "our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda," and a Physicians for Human Rights case study has allowed some of the victims to tell their own heartbreaking stories. Courageous attorneys like H. Candace Gorman have fought for Gitmo prisoners' habeas corpus rights and vilified for doing so by Pentagon officials.
Yet revelations of atrocities keep coming. In 2006, three detainees supposedly hanged themselves, thus committing what Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris called "an act of asymmetrical warfare" against the U.S. However, those deaths have come to look suspiciously like homicides linked to "Camp No," a mysterious Gitmo compound from which screams have been heard. Even more recently, a Seton Hall Law School report has revealed the routine administration to detainees of high doses of the antimalarial drug mefloquine, causing paranoia, hallucinations, and other neuropsychological damage.
This is what Tracy McVeigh of the Observer writes of the Gitmo captives:
Any involvement the men may or may not have had with the fighting in Afghanistan or with any terror plots has never been proved. Most, says Guantánamo expert and author Andy Worthington, were “a bunch of nobodies”.
“One tries to stay very objective in taking an overview of Guantánamo, but at the end of the day it’s pretty evident that all but a handful of the people caught up in the trawling approach the Americans took post-9/11 in Afghanistan were not terrorists,” he said.
“Some were hanging out in Afghanistan because it was a cheap place to live or study, some young idealistic men might have gone to training camps to get involved in fighting against the Northern Alliance but, not to be too flippant, it was a bunch of boy scouts with AK47s. A combination of drifters and footsoldiers. The Americans were so busy cranking up the significance of what they were doing and hanging on to people they should have let go, it became a colossal waste of resources.”
In a truthout blog entitled “Ten Years of Gitmo, What Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld Knew” Jason Leopold focuses on the disclosures of Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, one of the few U.S. military “officials” decent enough to share the reality of what was going on during the early launching of the “War on Terror” -- the evil landscaping of the Gitmo indefinite slippery slope.
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, said President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld knew that many detainees had done nothing wrong but still kept them prisoner for political or PR reasons.
In a nine-page sworn declaration filed with a lawsuit by former Guantanamo detainee Adel Hassan Hamad, Wilkerson said Cheney, in particular, pursued a cynical strategy regarding the detainees in which “the ends justified the means” and assumed that “innocent people languishing in Guantanamo for years was justified by the broader war on terror.”
Wilkerson came to conclude that “at least part of the problem was that it was politically impossible to release them [because] if they were released to another country, even an ally such as the United Kingdom, the leadership of the Defense Department would be left without any plausible explanation to the American people, whether the released detainee was subsequently found to be innocent by the receiving country, or whether the detainee was truly a terrorist and, upon release were it to then occur, would return to the war against the US.
“Another concern was that the detention efforts at Guantánamo would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were. Such results were not acceptable to the Administration and would have been severely detrimental to the leadership at DOD.”
So, Wilkerson said many of the original 742 detainees, who had been shipped to Guantanamo by late August 2002, were left to languish, though it was clear that many of them had been picked up in Afghanistan or another country with little due process and often because their local captors earned a $5,000-per-head bounty.
“It was also becoming more and more clear that many of the men were innocent, or at a minimum their guilt was impossible to determine let alone prove in any court of law, civilian or military. If there were any evidence, the chain protecting it had been completely ignored.”
Wilkerson blamed the “incompetent battlefield vetting” on the insufficient regular US Army troops sent to Afghanistan in the early days of the conflict. The Bush administration had decided to rely on a small number of US Special Operations Forces working with elements of the Afghan Northern Alliance.
The Special Forces didn’t have the manpower, the training nor the inclination to deal with the problem of assessing whether captives were enemy combatants or simply unlucky civilians who fell into the hands of local US allies, Wilkerson said ...
Despite the uncertainties surrounding the captures, Wilkerson said the Bush administration viewed the detainees as not only potential sources of information about Al Qaeda but for evidence “on contacts between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s intelligence and secret police forces in Iraq” that could help pave the way for the planned invasion in 2003.
The combination of the uncertainty about whether detainees actually knew anything and the harshness of their treatment set the stage for desperate captives to provide bad intelligence – saying whatever they thought their interrogators wanted to hear – which would then serve the Bush administration’s Iraq War aims.
That proved to be the case with alleged al-Qaeda captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who responded to threats of torture by claiming to know about an operational link between Hussein’s government and Al Qaeda. It was exactly the kind of information that the Bush administration had been seeking and was later cited to justify invading Iraq.
But it turned out to be wrong. In early 2004, al-Libi recanted his statements, claiming he had lied because of both actual and anticipated abuse, including threats that he would be sent to an intelligence service where he expected to be tortured.
You would think this would be BIG and WIDELY KNOWN news. Not in USWarMachine led America. Wilkerson should give us hope, however. Leopold writes:
Wilkerson said he “made a personal choice to come forward and discuss the abuses that occurred because knowledge that I served in an Administration that tortured and abused those it detained at the facilities at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere and indefinitely detained the innocent for political reasons has marked a low point in my professional career and I wish to make the record clear on what occurred."
He added, “I am also extremely concerned that the Armed Forces of the United States, where I spent 31 years of my professional life, were deeply involved in these tragic mistakes. I am willing to testify in person regarding the content of this declaration, should that be necessary.”
So, the original number of detainees was 742, shipped to Gitmo in 2002, many by opportunistic local captors from several countries cashing in on the $5000 per head few questions asked bounties. Colossal abuse once again of taxpayer dollars for diabolical destruction of human lives. When do we say ENOUGH????
Wilkerson refers to TRAGIC MISTAKES commited by the Armed Forces of the United States. Are they still worthy of the label “tragic mistakes” as they continue on, “officially” unacknowledged and not rectified?
Not only is being America never having to say you are sorry, but being America is embracing evil ever more tightly for the sake of collective national self-delusion as well as craven oligarch-driven hegemony.
No, the Gitmo travesty is assuredly not to be rectified by Obama. It has already been compounded by him and Congress especially with the National Defense Authorization Act. The anti-constitutional tidy and vile opportunity for Obama and his descendant Presidents to take care of America’s and/or his (and later their) “belligerent” political enemies by "disappearing” them.
WTF? Just add any American dissenters (now that dissent is criminalized) calling out propaganda hiding war crimes to the ranks of the already indefinitely detained. And maybe the “worst of the worst” dissenters, again, can even slyly be droned into “red mist”. Who's to know? This horrifying unethical now legal power from and by Mr. Second Day In Office Executive Order to Close Gitmo Obama (although all that he meant was to move the prison to the U.S. mainland, instead of really “righting” its colossal wrongs, but Obama got mileage out of the fuzziness of his intention, of course, and people projected what they wanted it to mean onto it and him. And it never got tested, the actual physical closure, because of the insane racism of the deranged fear-harping obstructionist Republicans.)
I'll conclude with an excerpt from Andy Worthington's blog of January 10th addressing the braver than brave activism of the Gitmo detainees themselves in supporting the protesters in Washington DC rallying on the detainees' behalf this week -- the shameful tenth anniversary of their captivity.
Today, prisoners at Guantánamo will embark on a peaceful protest, involving sit-ins and hunger strikes, to protest about their continued detention, and the continued existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, three years after President Obama came to office promising to close it within a year, and to show their appreciation of the protests being mounted on their behalf by US citizens, who are gathering in Washington D.C. on Wednesday to stage a rally and march to urge the President to fulfill his broken promise.
Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York, and one of the attorneys for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, said that his client, who is held in isolation in Camp 5, told him on his last visit that the prisoners would embark on a peaceful protest and hunger strike for three days, from Jan. 10 to 12, to protest about the President’s failure to close Guantánamo as promised.
He explained that the men intended to inform the Officer in Charge ahead of the protest, to let the authorities know why there would be protests, and added that the prisoners were encouraged by the “expression of solidarity” from US citizens planning protests on Jan. 11, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison.
Kassem also said that another of his clients, in Camp 6, where most of the prisoners are held, and where, unlike Camp 5, they are allowed to socialize, stated that prisoners throughout the blocks were “extremely encouraged” by reports of the protests in Washington D.C.
The prisoner, who does not wish to be identified, also said that banners and signs had been prepared, and that there would be peaceful sit-ins in the communal areas. He added that the prisoners were concerned to let the outside world know that they still reject the injustice of their imprisonment, and feel that it is particularly important to let everyone know this, when the US government, under President Obama, is trying to persuade the world that “everything is OK” at Guantánamo, and that the prison is a humane, state of the art facility.
He also explained that the prisoners invited the press to come to Guantánamo and to request interviews with the prisoners, to hear about “the toll of a decade” of detention without charge or trial, and said that they “would like nothing more” than to have an independent civilian and medical delegation, accompanied by the press, be allowed to come and talk to the 171 men still held.
In Camp 5, Shaker Aamer and the other men still held there will not be able to stage a sit-in, as they are unable to leave their cells, but they will participate in the protests by refusing meals.
No one knows how the authorities will respond to the protests, especially as the new commander of Guantánamo, Navy Rear Adm. David Woods, has gained a reputation for punishing even the most minor infractions of the rules with solitary confinement.
According to Kassem, prisoners have complained that the new regime harks back to the worst days of Guantánamo, between 2002 and 2004, when punishments for non-cooperation were widespread.
Of the 171 men still held at Guantánamo, 89 were “approved for transfer” out of Guantánamo by a Task Force of career officials and lawyers from the various government departments and the intelligence agencies, and yet they remain held because of Congressional opposition and President Obama’s unwillingness to tackle his critics. 36 others were recommended for trials, and 46 others were designated for indefinite detention without charge pr trial, on the basis that they are too dangerous to release, but that there is insufficient evidence against them to put them on trial.
That is a disgraceful position for the government to take, as indefinite detention on the basis of information that cannot be used as evidence indicates that the information is either tainted by torture, or is unreliable hearsay. It remains unacceptable that President Obama approved the indefinite detention of these men in an executive order last March, even though he also promised that their cases would be subject to periodic review.
Just as disgraceful, however, is the fact that all of the 171 prisoners still at Guantánamo face indefinite detention, as none of them can leave the prison given the current restrictions. That ought to trouble anyone who cares about justice and fairness, and the protests by the prisoners, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, ought to convey, more eloquently than any other method, why the pressure to close the prison must be maintained.
[cross-posted at correntewire and open salon]