Barbara Quintiliano and Andy Worthington on Gitmo: "The Citadel of Shame" (re-post)
This is a re-post from 1-10-11. Almost a year ago. With the ever-increassing militarization of our government Gitmo as of this month has become all the more profoundly entrenched and revitalized. Conveniently useful now for internment of our own most heroic citizens of conscience who can (and will) be declared "belligerent" on the "say so" of someone in the administration and then efficiently and unconstitutionally (but that doesn't matter to the President and the vast majority of Congress) "disappeared" there (or elsewhere) forever without right and access to legal support and protection.
Obama promised to close Gitmo within his first year. He even signed an Executive Order. Revelations from Barbara Quintiliano and Andy Worthington say it all so well, repellant as these Gitmo circumstances are: "We" are so on the wrong side of history:
Guantánamo mon amour
By Barbara Quintiliano
Remember the old adage about the best laid plans of mice and men? Or the one about the road to a certain fiery destination being paved with good intentions? Well, here is a stunning example furnished by our country's recent history:
Executive Order of President Obama, January 22, 2009: "By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America "the detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order."
CNN interview with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, December 26, 2010 (almost 2 years later): " It's certainly not going to close in the next month". I think part of this depends on the Republicans' willingness to work with the administration on this.''
Notice that in the first excerpt the author unabashedly brandishes the power of the presidency, while in the second failure to achieve the goal is blamed by someone else on someone else. In other words, the leader of the free world sends his proxy to bemoan his powerlessness to defend the human and legal rights guaranteed by the Constitution because fear-mongering Republicans stand in his way.
Makes you wonder who's really in charge here.
I take the abomination that is Guantánamo Bay detention camp personally. I'm tired of its acceptance as a national institution and fear that Americans have forgotten that there even was a time when we did not hold detainees in a Caribbean island fortress beyond the reach of our nation's laws (even though the Supreme Court has ruled that habeas corpus rights under our Constitution do indeed reach as far as Gitmo). In case you too have forgotten, gentle reader, here's a very brief recap of how Liberty's lamp came to light the way to horror.
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.
Fear mongers in the Congress have put up numerous roadblocks preventing the release of innocent detainees and the trial of others in American courts of law instead of before substandard military commissions. But it gets worse. Even President Obama is now considering an executive order prescribing the indefinite detention for some still detained at Guantánamo Bay. In other words, an executive order to undo the one he signed on his first full day in office. How much longer will we let Liberty's lamp light the way to the loss of liberty?
On January 11 the citadel of shame will mark its ninth anniversary. Not only must Gitmo be closed, but detainees not charged with crimes must be released, the others tried in a U.S. court of law. Write or email the President and tell him you haven't forgotten his historic executive order beginning ""By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America," and mandating that, "the detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable."
Demand that he make those words stick.
From Andy Worthington's website. Worthington is a British journalist and author of The Guantánamo Files. He is presently campaigning in the U.S. for closure of Gitmo:
The 9th anniversary of the opening of the “War on Terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay is on January 11, and, in the hope of raising awareness of the need for action to close Guantánamo and to secure fair trials or release from the prison for the 174 men still held, Andy Worthington, freelance investigative journalist, author of The Guantánamo Files and co-director of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” is traveling to the US to take part in a number of events during the week of this baleful anniversary, with the support of The World Can’t Wait and Witness Against Torture. Details of events are below, and for further information, or to interview Andy or to ask him to take part in further events, please contact Debra Sweet of The World Can’t Wait or Andy himself.
Sadly, two years into Barack Obama’s Presidency, and a year after the failure of his promise to close Guantánamo within a year, the outlook for the remaining 174 prisoners in Guantánamo is bleaker than it has been at any time since June 27, 2004, the day before the Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners had habeas corpus rights.
Although 90 of the remaining 174 prisoners have been “approved for transfer” for at least a year by the Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama to review the cases of the remaining prisoners, 58 of these men are Yemenis, whose release is prevented by a moratorium on the release of any Yemeni prisoners, which was issued by the President last January, in response to hysterical overreaction to the news that the failed Christmas Day plane bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had been recruited in Yemen. In addition, Congress has now stepped in, unconstitutionally restricting the President’s powers by declaring Yemen as one of several countries that are too dangerous for prisoners to be released to.
The remaining 32 men “approved for transfer” are mostly still held because of fears that they will face torture or other ill-treatment in their home countries, and because no third countries have been found that will accept them. They should, therefore, be offered new homes in the United States, but the Obama administration, the courts and Congress have all acted to prevent the relocation of a single cleared Guantánamo prisoner to the US mainland.
Of the remaining 84 prisoners, three are imprisoned after trials by Military Commission, 33 were recommended for trials by the Task Force, and 48 others were recommended for indefinite detention without charge or trial. Congress recently passed legislation preventing the transfer of any of these men to the US mainland to face trials, and also preventing the administration from buying a US prison to rehouse them, but this is not the only stumbling block to attempts to secure justice for any of these men.
Although the adminstration has been prevented from proceeding with the planned federal court trials for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, officials have also shown little appetite for trials by Military Commission either, especially after the negative publicity that greeted the plea deal negotiated in October with the former child prisoner Omar Khadr, who was obliged to plead guilty to war crimes invented by Congress and endorsed by the administration.
In addition, it was recently announced that President Obama is set to sign an executive order formalizing the indefinite detention of the 48 men designated for indefinite detention by the Task Force. This will allow them a periodic review of their cases, but it remains an unjustifiable position for the administration to maintain (and is symptomatic of the administration’s disregard for the US courts and the prisoners’ ongoing habeas petitions), and the combination of factors in play as Guantánamo begins the 10th year of its lawless business — the executive order regarding indefinite detention, the unwillingness to proceed with any trials, and the self-imposed obstacles preventing the release of 90 men whose release was recommended by the Task Force — means that, on this particular anniversary, there is a very real possibility, without concerted effort by Americans opposed to the existence of Guantánamo and all it stands for, that almost everyone still held at Guantánamo will continue to be held indefinitely.
The horror of the denial of human and legal rights to these physically, mentally and emotionally tortured detained individuals, along with the horror of the slippery slope of "precedent" Obama is establishing for all U.S. establishment dissenters, global and domestic, for further "legalization" of the illegal, unethical and unconstitutional truly confounds!