Monday January 11 is the 8th anniversary of the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo. The emblematic symbol of the Bush regime’s “war on terror,” in which men were openly tortured, kept in isolation, force-fed, and for years deprived of any legal respresentation or contact with the outside world, is still open.
It’s being called “Obama’s prison” now. On January 22, 2009, the new president announced that he would close Guantanamo in a year because it’s existence was a public relations nightmare for U.S. foreign policy makers. As of this week, there’s no closing date, but a vague indication it could be closed in 2011.
I learned when reading the new book The Guantanamo Lawyers; Inside a Prison Outside the Law, edited by Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz, that the Bush regime opened it on the grounds of a former prison where Haitians and others fleeing poverty were kept in the 80′s and 90′s. The first detainees were kept in open cages, with almost no shelter from the elements. Building new structures allowed the jailers to keep some men in complete isolation.
Book TV is showing a talk by the authors twice on Sunday January 10.
Andy Worthington, in Guantánamo: The Definitive Prisoner List (Updated for 2010), called it
a prison in which the overwhelming majority of those held — at least 93 percent of the 779 men and boys imprisoned in total — were either completely innocent people, seized as a result of dubious intelligence or sold for bounty payments, or Taliban foot soldiers, recruited to fight an inter-Muslim civil war that began long before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and that had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or international terrorism.
Andy wrote this week about Attorney General Holder’s announcement that Obaidullah, an Afghan held in Guantanamo, will be tried by the Obama-style military commission for “war crimes” in Tortured Afghan Man Faces Trial by Military Commission.
Andy spoke with World Can’t Wait activists in early 2009, stating his hope, and some confidence, that the Obama administration would establish a process to release the innocent. But he ends the current column on this note
With the news that Obaidullah is to be charged again, when he is not actually accused of harming a single American, and when he may, in fact, have been tortured, through sleep deprivation and “Palestinian hanging,” to produce false confessions against himself and at least one other prisoner, leads me not only to repeat the question, but to actively call for the open mockery of Attorney General Eric Holder and the lawyers and bureaucrats in the Justice Department and the Pentagon who thought that reviving the charges against him was a good idea.
The administration is fighting in federal court on many fronts to continue the Bush detention policies, and just won a victory. According to Stephen Webster, the decision in al-Bihani v Obama “upholds the Bush administration’s broad claims of executive power to detain non-citizens. See D.C. Court of Appeals: Obama’s Detention Powers not Limited by Laws.
But we are not just complaining on this anniversary. There’s a Call to Action to Shut Down Guantanamo. I’ll be joining Witness Against Torture in protests outside the White House Monday. We will march to the National Press Club, where some of the lawyers defending detainees in Guantanamo will speak about their clients, organized by the Center for Constitutional Rights. That evening, we’ll have a public meeting at Georgetown Law School. I hope you’ll join in.
On a last note, the Obama administration has proposed the idea of relocating the detainees to an unused super-max federal prison in Thompson Illinois. World Can’t Wait is completely opposed to the indefinite detention of anyone without legal rights, no matter what the location. Prisoners are held in super-max American prisons already in complete isolation, and I can only imagine that the Guantanamo prisoners could disappear in plain sight along the Mississippi.
Margaret Kimberly, editor at the Black Agenda Report, went on a righteous rant, ending her piece called Guantanamo, Illinois with
In less than one year in office, Barack Obama has firmly established the continuation of Bush regime domestic, foreign and economic policy. While Guantanamo is unseen, Illinois is right in the middle of the United States. None of us can now claim absolution from our government sin. Obama and his supporters have made us all accomplices. The ongoing Guantanamo crime now belongs to the Nobel Peace Prize winner and to every American citizen.