Lying Time for Obama/Media, Dying Time for Gitmo Detainees
One of my favorite though admittedly depressing quotes of wisdom:
“Hope was the last temptation of Christ.”
This being Easter it seems relevant.
It is also the 54th day of a mass hunger strike of Gitmo detainees hoping -- and actually risking their lives -- to have their BASIC human rights finally respected by this not so bastion of human rights -- this United States.
To have their BASIC human rights FINALLY respected by the present, politically scaredy-cat to appear soft on terror, surreally peace prize winning and shamelessly prevaricating President Barack Obama along with so many craven Congresspeople willing to politically grandstand their own anti-terror toughness on the “faux-worst-of-the-worst.” Still milking that lie to a gullible or indifferent majority of American citizenry, enabled by an amoral and/or stupid corporate media.
Then there is a Pentagon/CIA network that doesn’t seem to regard foreign peoples as precious human life forms. As statistics to be celebrated as conquest? How about bugsplats or pawns to be discarded or maimed or shoved around in a vast addictive geopolitical bloodbath and ruthless game of chicken chess?
Jesus Christ preached, “What you do to the least of us, you do unto me.”
Christ was about reality and empathy.
Christ didn’t operate from a patriarchal power and control, amorally competitive, ends justifies the means anti-spiritual spirit -- FOR GOD’S SAKE!!!! Christ operated within the humanist paradigm of COOPERATION, PARTNERSHIP AND EMPATHY!
Obama, like Bush and Cheney, is all about impression management and manipulations of political will. Again, the soul-less political gamesmanship which requires profound lying and secrecy to an irrelevant U.S. population as well as the even more harshly treated irrelevant victims having their basic human rights assaulted over and over and over for eleven long years going most likely to the end of their ruined lives!
These say-anything power brokers, Bush, Cheney, Obama, et al. presumed or presume to spin their own surreality, declaring it “real” to so many bobble-headed, jingoistic Americans via a naive, stupid and/or cronyistic and craven corporate media.
Even if, say, the reality of the anti-human rights actions and innocence of the men at Gitmo do manage to reach some of our population in spite of our monopolizing, propagandizing corporate media, will an indifferent majority citizenry react with: “Well, it could be worse. It could be happening to me! What can you do? Meh.”
Look at this Iraq War tenth year anniversary month with all the lies being highlighted and exposed, even by the nearly-statute-of-limitations-running-out superstars of prevarication themselves. They are minimizing their own roles or in-your-face bragging about the outrageous lies that ensured the endorsement of an illegitimate and grossly incompetent war to be waged and which kept on brutalizing and killing (even when its illegitimate launching had been revealed) for an entire decade. Duh, America? It was, after all, about stealing OIL. Blood for oil! “American interests” are bottom line sociopathic, don’t you know?
The garden path to the Iraq War was strewn with lies. Such similar garden paths we are being led down now and WITH EVEN LESS AWARENESS AND PROTEST THIS TIME AROUND! WTF?
These liars, whose lies have killed and/or keep killing or brought or keep bringing profound suffering to hundreds of thousand of people, are walking about unchallenged and unprosecuted. UNIMPEACHED!
Meanwhile, in the nightmare of Gitmo, innocent men stay locked up because of, one more time (with feeling?), POLITICAL SOUL-LESS GAMESMANSHIP. Or, in a word, LIES!!!!
How many Americans seriously care that innocent men are starving themselves right now to the point of death to have the nightmare injustice they have been caged in for 11 long years with no release in sight heeded or, at worst, finally escaped?
Of course, it has been confirmed by a secretive and minimizing military that the official number of hunger strikers as of this day is 31 at Guantanamo Bay.
Lawyers for the detainees speculate the number may be as high as 100 out of the 166.
Who are you going to believe? The folks that brought you the Iraq War? The folks that ask no accountability from the aforesaid war criminals, but instead are willing to cage innocent men for over a decade because … because … because … YOU TRY TO FILL IN THE BLANK! Maybe full throttle zero tolerant raging Islamaphobia, or the posturing of it, will make them popular among the morally comatose? One more time, personality over principle????
Many of these men at Gitmo could die soon, even though some are enduring the rape-like violence of force-feeding from guards to stop their protest. Apparently a new crew of super-macho guards has helped trigger the defiance. Guards who seriously and immediately want to show ‘em who's really boss. After 11 years of surreal injustice? WTF I ask again?
Obama and Congress and the Pentagon are still counting on low information Americans to believe their bullshit about the detainees being “the worst of the worst” or faking the starvation protest. Or they are counting on passivity of the U.S. population no matter how some of its citizens may feel sympathy. Citizen passivity has been a sure thing thus far.
Our "powers that be" are bottom-line shameless, gutless and murderous. Yet, still seemingly so popularly enabled!
As the world watches. As the international media reports the reality of the Gitmo spiritual/physical death camp, our own President and media are silent for the most part.
When pressed? When word finally gets out on, say, the 54th G-D day of the hunger strike like today (think of what condition you would be in), then the establishment folks choose to LIE. BIG TIME!!!!
Let’s start out with some statistics of Wikipedia re the breakdown of the detainees in terms of criminality and release. (Again, keep in mind the “worst of the worst” bullshit still being loudspeakered by the chickenhawk GWOT grand standers!):
Since January 2002, 779 men have been brought to Guantanamo.
Nearly 200 were released by mid-2004.
Although the Bush administration said most of the men had been captured in fighting in Afghanistan, a 2006 report prepared by the Center for Policy and Research, Seton Hall University Law School reviewed DOD data for the remaining 517 men in 2005 and "established that over 80% of the prisoners were captured not by Americans on the battlefield but by Pakistanis and Afghans, often in exchange for bounty payments." The US offered $5,000 per prisoner and distributed leaflets widely in the region.
… a 2003 memo by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, "We need to stop populating Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) with low-level enemy combatants ...
The Center for Policy and Research's 2006 report based on DOD released data, found that most detainees were low-level people who were not affiliated with organizations on US terrorist lists.
Eight men have died in the prison camp; DOD has said that six were suicides.
An estimated 17 to 22 minors under the age of 18 were detained at Guantánamo Bay, in apparent contravention of international law.
In July 2005, 242 detainees were moved out of Guantanamo, including 173 who were released without charge.
Sixty-nine were transferred to the custody of governments of other countries, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
By May 2011, 600 detainees had been released. Most of the men have been released without charges or transferred to facilities in their home countries.
As of June 2012, 169 prisoners remained at Guantanamo. According to former US president Jimmy Carter, about half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom.
Actually there are 166 there now, not 169. Wikipedia hasn’t quite caught up with the present.
This from Glenn Greenwald by way of an update on the real number of detainees remaining as well as the real situation there under our supposedly lesser evil Obama:
Whatever is true about the camp, the vast majority of those detainees have been kept in a cage for years - some more than a decade - without so much as having been charged with anything. They haven't seen their families in years. Ten prisoners have died at the camp, the latest one just four months ago under very suspicious circumstances (the military claims that resort guest, despite all his luxurious amenities, committed suicide). At least half a dozen other resort guests have killed themselves, the latest being (if not the November, 2012 death) in mid-2011. …
Moreover, while many conditions have improved, there have been numerous instances of vindictive treatment under the current president. In July of last year, the administration implemented what the New York Times called a "spiteful" new policy of severely restricting lawyer access to detainees (that policy was quickly struck down by a federal court as "an illegitimate exercise of executive power").
The Obama DOJ has continually appealed the habeas corpus victories of detainees - where courts ruled there was no credible evidence to justify their detention - and ultimately succeeded in imposing a virtually impossible-to-overcome standard for detainees to meet to win their release, all but rendering habeas corpus review a total illusion (the same habeas review which, after the Supreme Court in 2008 mandated it, candidate Obama hailed as "an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law").
Just last week, detainee lawyers were infuriated when camp officials canceled all commercial flights to Guantánamo, thus severely restricting their access to their clients at exactly the time that grievances over worsening treatment led to the strike.
Not only have most of those detainees never been charged, but dozens of them have been cleared for release by the US government, yet continue to languish in cages with no release possible. That inexcusable injustice is due in part to a moratorium imposed by Obama - that's imposed by Obama, not Congress - on the release of all Yemeni detainees, who compose the bulk of the remaining detainees (that includes Adnan Latif, who died at the age of 32 in the camp last November after having attempted suicide on multiple occasions, after having had his judicial victory ordering his release overturned on appeal).
As former Gitmo guard Brandon Neely pointed out last September, after the death of a former hunger striker, more detainees have died at the camp (ten) than have been convicted of wrongdoing in what he called its "kangaroo courts", meaning its military commissions (six).
So there are officially 166 on this last day of March. For these prisoners their only escape seems through death or a miracle! A United States national community that is capable of empathy. Of responsibility and accountability.
Again, 86 of the 166 are officially cleared for release. But Obama is unresponsive and unmoved about making this happen. As is assuredly the majority of our Congress. As is assuredly the majority of our population. WTF?????
Let’s take a bit of a ride on the surreal cognitive dissonant (or more like obscene “make up the biggest lie you can think of and don’t let any non-victims close enough with REAL access to dispel your whoppers”) rollercoaster hurtling between Obama/Pentagon/corporate media propaganda, the human beings hovering near death and those with conscience trying to SAVE them and spread the word about their plight.
Greenwald in all his sarcastic glory recently went after Robert Johnson, Military and Defense Editor of Business Insider, who under the guise of a news article took a junket to Gitmo for a day to eagerly and obligingly report “a near vacation paradise” there. Greenwald:
... Robert Johnson. He recently took a trip to Guantánamo - approved and arranged by the US military. He saw parts of the camp - the parts the US military showed him and wanted him to see. He spoke with camp officials and guards, but not any detainees.
If you're looking for a fun activity-filled resort to take your family for a summer vacation, you simply cannot do better than Club GTMO, … Scrumptious meals. Video games galore for the kids. Outdoor sports. Newspapers from your hometown delivered by smiling bellhops to the front door of your villa. Picturesque Caribbean vistas. All that and more can be yours - provided that you're "compliant". What more could vacationers - or prisoners kept in a cage for more than a decade with no charges thousands of miles away from their family - possibly want? They are, proclaims Johnson, treated "absurdly well". Not just well: absurdly well. They are, he actually writes, lavished with "resort treatment".
Tasty. Two weeks ago, he also posted a pictoral tour of the camp's "surprises", including stunning tropical skies, funny iguanas, and colorful floor stains from the camp's art classes.
Manipulating gullible, vapid, subservient "journalists" to spout Potemkin Village propaganda like this, with military-arranged visits, is nothing new. It's been going on almost since the camp opened. During the Bush years, right-wing outlets such as the Weekly Standard and National Review were repeatedly taken on fun day trips to the resort, and they then produced agitprop mocking the camp as "Club GITMO". …
Greenwald then has this to say about what the Gitmo detainees’ lawyers are reporting as reality:
… Lawyers for the detainees say the hunger strike was triggered "as a protest of the men's indefinite confinement without charge and because of what they said was a return to harsh treatment from past years, including more intrusive searches and confiscation of personal items such as mail from their families." That includes, the lawyers say, a lack of sanitary drinking water which has "already caused some prisoners kidney, urinary and stomach problems". Detainees also complain about the recent manhandling of Korans. One lawyer for 11 detainees, Carlos Warner, identifying himself as a "liberal" supporter of Obama, told CNN that the detainees are now deprived of some privileges they had all the way back in 2006 and said the situation there was "dire".
Greenwald goes on:
The kind of mindless servitude to government and military claims on display from Business Insider's Robert Johnson is one of the country's most serious problems. Nobody doubts that conditions at the camp have improved in many ways from its darkest days of 2002 through 2005. But it is reckless in the extreme to resolve conflicting claims about detainee treatment in favor of the military, and to proclaim detainee grievances baseless, all from a highly selective visit managed by camp officials and by treating official claims as truth. And it's nothing short of demented to talk about Guantánamo as anything other than a shameful travesty, let alone glorify it as a luxury ocean "resort".
Whenever the issue of Guantánamo is raised, there are instantly deceitful efforts to relieve President Obama of any responsibility for the ongoing disgrace that is the camp. That is accomplished with the claim that Congress blocked him from closing the camp, a claim that is true but extremely misleading: as I've documented many times before, and as the ACLU has often noted, Obama's plan was not to "close" the camp but rather to re-locate it and its core, defining injustice - indefinite detention - to Illinois (what the ACLU called "GITMO North"). Indefinite detention - being kept in a cage with no charges and with no end in sight - is one of the prime grievances driving this hunger strike, and Obama - completely independent of Congress - fully intended to preserve that system.
Kristine Huskey, a lawyer with Physicians for Human Rights, was appalled. “The hopelessness and despair caused by indefinite detention is causing an extremely pressing and pervasive health crisis at Guantánamo,” she told IPS. “A person held in indefinite detention is a person deprived of information about their own fate. They are in custody without knowing when, if ever, they will be released. Additionally, they do not know if they will be charged with crimes, receive a trial, or ever see their families again. If they have been abused or mistreated, they also do not know if this will happen again.”
Kelley B. Vlahos, as Greenwald, writes of the colossally craven propaganda from members of the US “establishment” about conditions at the base.
From Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas:
“A swanky high-dollar soccer field for criminal terrorist detainees at Gitmo. And of course, Americans are picking up the $750,000 tab for the recreation facilities for these criminals,” he said. “These radicals should be doing hard time, not soccer time. Our government has no business building this tropical Caribbean recreation facility for terrorists. It is disrespectful and insulting to all who are victims of these killers. What’s next at this terrorist playground? A tiki hut and bar on the beach?” Poe said.
But Hotel Gitmo is a shopworn canard. It’s more like Hotel California and we all know it. This is all a distraction of course – a simple rhetorical gambit to convince the domestic audience that we shouldn’t care that individuals are being held indefinitely without charge because after all, they are provided creature comforts that "most Americans are accustomed to (we’re also accustomed to the Rule of Law here, too, by the way)." …
It all seems pretty perverse now that reports are coming in describing the weight loss among the inmates as "alarming." A Friday Associated Press report directly mentions Wingard’s client, al-Kandari, who appeared to a lawyer visiting Gitmo as having lost 25 pounds and barely able to stand. "Several other attorneys have reported similar accounts after meeting or speaking with prisoners in recent days," said the AP.
Officially, we know that at least eight of them have been chained to chairs and hooked up to feeding tubes that force liquid sustenance through their noses. Two more have been hospitalized and are being force-fed, too. We know because the military has admitted this much to reporters.
While there has always been at a half dozen or so who have refused to eat, prisoners and their attorneys have openly blamed what they say has been a "crackdown" on attorney-client privilege, prisoner privacy, and general conditions at the camp for the tensions that led to a surge in strikers.
While reports from defense lawyers pinpoint the "last straw" being changes in detainee search policies instituted in February by a new commander of camp operations, Army Col. John Bogdan, this writer has been following the shift in conditions over the last year, speaking with several defense attorneys in early 2012 about their own restrictions and fears they could not represent their clients effectively in a legal environment that appeared completely stacked against them. Turns out the government (prosecution) has nearly unfettered access to their emails and electronic files, and has been tapping their phone lines too. Prison guards began intercepting and searching legal mail sent to detainees last year, and even attorney visits to clients have been more restricted since the Obama Administration took over in 2009.
Despite the tightly controlled talking points the hunger strike has allowed Wingard and scores of other human rights activists and outside defense attorneys new opportunities to shed light on the fact these guys are in purgatory, and the administration has apparently stopped trying to find homes for the 86 who are cleared. In fact, in January, the administration closed the office that was supposed to be pursuing that mission.
THE ADMINISTRATION CLOSED THE OFFICE THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE PURSUING THAT MISSION!
Duh, you don’t think that might have had anything to do with the hunger strike?
In a rare, candid moment last week, Marine Corps General John Kelly, commander of Southern Command, which overseas Guantanamo Bay, admitted to the House Armed Services Committee that this and other disheartening news has added to the despondency of the camp population.
“They had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed. They were devastated apparently … when the president backed off, at least (that’s) their perception, of closing the facility,” Kelly testified.
And there is even more outrageous callousness:
On March 14, an impressive group of human rights lawyers advocating for and representing the detainees, signed a letter to new defense secretary Chuck Hagel. They said they feared for the lives of strikers who, some of them witnessed personally, had already lost upwards of 30 pounds. They implored Hagel to address the hunger strike, and requested an opportunity to work with him "more broadly to help your office and this Administration fulfill its important commitment to closing the prison."
So far, they have had no response. Meanwhile, Wingard points out that shortly after the letter went to the secretary of defense, the Navy canceled commercial flights to Cuba, the only way most of the advocates and defense lawyers can get to Guantanamo. Officials say the decision was based on an old regulation that had been "overlooked," but the fact remains, the only other flights there are on a weekly defense department shuttle for which there is limited room and passengers must be cleared by the DoD.
This indicates, said Wingard, that "there are movements afoot to make the men incommunicado … once you cut them off from the rest of the world it makes things like hunger strikes harder to communicate."
So, Obama and the military operatives will lessen or remove access to the struggling and dying Gitmo victims from their proactive representatives with conscience, and let a lying media along with grandstanding or platitudinous hypocritical politicians bullshit the rest of us with an Orwellianly extreme opposite version of what is actually happening there.
I’ve got two words for you, Barack. "COVER UP!"
Okay, ONE more. "RESPONSIBILITY" a/k/a “the ability to respond.”
On this Easter, as far as I am concerned, Obama resembles more the other “J” historical figure.
[cross-posted on open salon]