Thursday, May 2, 2013

Is America Guantanamo?



Obama this week called again for shutting down Guantanamo. Andrew Sullivan names its horror - and what the American Congress - cowardly torturers and sycophants\those who have no moral fiber, who "politely disagree" and thus acquiesce in torture - has become.

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Torture is against the law and against the rule of law. No decent system of government, since the Magna Carta, denies habeas corpus (every person deserves a day in court and not to be tortured). But W., the President who ordered the torture - one of the leading war criminals in the world as well as the leader of a state which has, though Obama has occasionally eroded this (but his forced feeding of the hunger strikers is today torture - see here and here), become the leading rogue state in the world, was just feted by the other Presidents.

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The W library for war crimes...

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Were the crimes not so great, "the Presidents" would have been a comedy routine...

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It is possible to stop Guantanamo, to let, for instance, the innocent Yemenis held there for 10 or 11 years, go home. Sign and share the viral petition sent around sent around by Jeremy Varon, Witness against Torture, below.

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Andrew Sullivan
The Deepening, Disgusting Stain Of Gitmo
APR 30 2013

Charlie Savage has created a tumblr of detainee reading material. Dan Colman notes:

"According to news reports, the library currently has 3,500 volumes on pre-approved topics. Prisoners have to order books in advance. (They can’t just wander through the stacks.) And the most popular books include Agatha Christie mysteries, the self-help manual Don’t Be Sad; The Lord of the Rings; and, of course, Harry Potter."

I’m relieved the president reiterated his support this morning for closing one of the most potent recruiters for Jihad against the US on the planet. I await his executive decision to release the innocent Yemeni prisoners to their country of origin. Or is this more bullshit/impotence? But Gitmo’s awful impact on American soft power is nothing compared to its potency as a toxin against the Constitution. Read Joe Nocera [below] on a man captured at the age of 20, with no proof of his involvement in Jihad, and now destined to live a life sentence, if the US Congress has its way. Life-long detention without ever having committed any actual crime? That’s now the meaning of America, as represented by the Congress? Yes, it is. This is America, as recorded in a must-read diary from GTMO. In August of 2003, after days of “interrogation”, a prisoner was seized from his cell and taken out on a boat in the Caribbean:

"My first thought was, they mistook me for somebody else. My second thought was to try to look around, but one of the guards was squeezing my face against the floor. I saw the dog fighting to get loose. I saw [-------] standing up, looking helpless at the guards working on me. “Blindfold the motherfucker! He’s trying to look—” One of them hit me hard across the face and quickly put goggles on my eyes, earmuffs on my ears, and a small bag over my head. They tightened the chains around my ankles and my wrists; afterward I started to bleed. All I could hear was [-------] cursing, “F-ing this and F-ing that.” I thought they were going to execute me.

The other guard dragged me out with my toes tracing the way, and threw me in a truck, which immediately took off. The beating party would last for the next three to four hours, before they turned me over to another team that would use different torture techniques. “Stop praying, motherfucker. You’re killing people,” [-------] said, and punched me hard on my mouth. My mouth and nose started to bleed, and my lips grew so big that I technically could not speak anymore. The colleague of [-------] turned out to be one of my guards; [-------] and [-------] each took one of my sides and started to punch me and smash me against the metal of the truck. One of the guys hit me so that my breath stopped and I was choking. I felt like I was breathing through my ribs. …

Inside the boat, [-------] made me drink salt water, I believe it was direct from the ocean. It was so nasty I threw it up. They put an object in my mouth and shouted, “Swallow, motherfucker!” I decided inside not to swallow the organ-damaging salt water, which choked me as they kept pouring the water in my mouth. “Swallow, you idiot!” I contemplated quickly, and decided for the nasty, damaging water rather than death.

[-------] and [-------] had been escorting me for about three hours in the high-speed boat. The goal of such trip was, first, to torture the detainee and claim that the “detainee hurt himself during transport,” and second to make the detainee believe he is being transferred to some far faraway secret prison. We detainees knew all about this; we had detainees who reported flying four hours and finding themselves in the same jail where they started."

If I had read this in my teens, I would have assumed this was a description of a Soviet Gulag or a South American fascist dictatorship. But this is America – and it tells you everything you need to know about the profound corruption in the ship of state that the man who authorized all of this was just feted by all living former presidents. As for accountability, here’s who has been held accountable: [--------].

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And one could write a thousand pages on the criminality of the American Presidents and their minions like my onetime student Condi Rice and not touch the horror of this.

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Who has been held accountable?

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Jeremy Varon of Witness against Torture calls for signing a petition for closing Guantanamo. One former GITMO prosecutor has signed it, revealing that the possibility of changing and becoming again a human being is true, as Gandhi and King say, of all of us:

"Alan,

If you could sign and push this on your blog - that would be great. My generic email to friends and allies below:

Dear Friend (and forgive the generic salutation),

The dire hunger strike at Guantanamo has forced again the issue of the prison's existence, and just today Obama promised (again) to take action. At this crucial moment, with the lives of 130 hunger strikers in the balance, we need to apply all the pressure we can to turn that promise into a plan and that plan into action.

Please please consider signing a Close Gtmo petition at Change.org, signed by Mo Davis (a former GTMO prosecutor) and drafted with the help of activists, including Witness Against Torture. It had 700 signature at 3 pm, 20,000 by 6pm, and is at 55,00 as of midnight.

It is at: http://www.change.org/petitions/president-obama-close-detention-facility-at-guantanamo-bay

It takes 1 minute. And there's a nifty feature where you can, by responding to an email from change.org, invite all your fb friends to sign, invite by twitter, etc. By this means, it can skyrocket. We'd love to get a million signatures, which is not inconceivable.

I'm generally no great fan of petitions, which can feel passive. But this one -- NOW -- is so crucial. Folks are near death at GTMO. The president has spoken but can quickly cower before the largely manufactured "difficulty" of closing GTMO; he and Congress can again claim public indifference as their out. But oodles of signatures is one quick way to blow away the myth of public indifference. My group, Witness Against Torture, has been hard core on this issue since 2005. We are very much getting behind the petition, in concert with other kinds of advocacy and action. The petition lays out a sensible, pragmatic plan.

Please sign, talk it up with friends, have this go big, so many of the folks at GTMO can go home.

Jeremy Varon"

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New York Times
The Detainees’ Dilemma
By JOE NOCERA
Published: April 29, 2013

Fadhel Hussein Saleh Hentif is one of about 100 detainees on a hunger strike in the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He was captured in 2001 by Pakistanis after crossing the border from Afghanistan, and, by 2002, he was in the American naval detention facility. He was 20 years old. He has been there since.

Although the Americans contend that Hentif left his home in Yemen to become an Al Qaeda jihadist, he has always insisted that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. A devout Muslim, he says he went to Afghanistan to do charitable work to honor the memory of his father — and that he then left Afghanistan for Pakistan because, as one of his lawyers, Robert Palmer, put it to me recently, “the place was a mess.”

Like most Guantánamo detainees, Hentif spent years in solitary confinement. He was subjected to “alternative interrogation techniques” as it was euphemistically called. He watched the Bush administration release more than 500 of the 779 detainees who have passed through Guantánamo. He learned about lawyers arguing in court that the detainees had the legal right to a habeas corpus hearing — that is, to try to prove that they were not enemy combatants and had been detained illegally.

And, in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that they did have that right. That same year, a presidential candidate headed toward the White House, Barack Obama, promised to close Guantánamo. That never happened, though President Obama continued the Bush policy of releasing detainees who were not deemed a threat to the United States.

Hentif, in fact, was among those set to be released. In late 2009, he was hours away from flying home to Yemen when a man on a flight to Detroit tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear. Because the man had purportedly been trained by an Al Qaeda affiliate with bases in Yemen, Congress demanded that the administration stop releasing all Yemen detainees. Obama complied.

And so it went: Hentif had a habeas corpus hearing in 2010, but, by then, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had made a mockery of the Supreme Court’s ruling, establishing evidentiary presumptions that made it impossible for a detainee to win a habeas ruling. (The Supreme Court has declined to hear further cases.) Sure enough, the judge ruled against him in 2012, despite concluding, among other things, that Hentif had never been to an Al Qaeda training camp, as the government alleged.

Meanwhile, along with 55 other Yemen detainees, he has been placed on a “cleared” list compiled by a commission composed of national security officials, meaning he could be transferred out of Guantánamo. But Congress, led by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both Republicans, quickly passed laws that put impossible conditions on their release. Shamefully, President Obama signed those bills.

Is there any wonder that Hentif — and the other detainees — are on a hunger strike? “It is a total expression of despair and hopelessness,” said Brent Rushforth, who also represents him.

It is impossible to know for sure what triggered the hunger strike. Lawyers for the detainees say that the military, after years of loosening the reins — including eliminating solitary confinement for many prisoners — was tightening the screws again for no reason. The military insists that its procedures did not change but that the detainees had begun breaking and covering cameras and refusing demands that they stop doing so.

On April 13, with the hunger strike spreading, the military raided the prison and put the detainees back in solitary. It says it has done so because the detainees are more likely to eat if they are not surrounded by other hunger strikers. If so, it isn’t working; there are more detainees refusing food today than before the April 13 raid. To force food into them, the military now shoves a tube down their nose, in an extremely painful procedure it called “enteral feeding.”

Are there terrorists at Guantánamo? Yes. The government knows who they are and keeps them away from the other detainees. But the hunger strike is a vivid reminder that Guantánamo remains exactly what it has always been: a stain on our country.

On April 13, Hentif was returning from morning prayers when the raid began. He was pushed up against a fence and shot with rubber bullets at such close range that five of them penetrated the skin. He was handcuffed and taken to the clinic. Now back in solitary confinement, he is worried that one of his wounds is becoming infected. Given their concerns about hunger strikers, the military medical staff haven’t been able to pay him much attention.

Thus it was that one more time, Fadhel Hussein Saleh Hentif was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

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