Posts Tagged Guantanamo
President Obama will give a major speech Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington, reportedly about drones and Guantanamo. The Washington Post reports that
“Obama was prepared to deliver the speech earlier this month, but it was put off amid mounting concerns over a prisoner hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay and more recently the Justice Department leaks investigation — both of which the revised speech may address.”
The Post also reports that an anonymous White House official says the President
“…will discuss the policy and legal framework under which we take action against terrorist threats, including the use of drones. And he will review our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.”
World Can’t Wait has been pondering hard on what more we can do to create a political situation where Obama has to back down, release at least some of the men at Guantanamo, and be forced into closing the prison. The use of indefinite detention and targeted killing is an affront to generally recognized precepts of international law. Usually, the administration answers, as Eric Holder did last year, makes a claim that “we can do whatever we want,” essentially, when “national security” is at stake.
Obama promised to close Guantanamo more than four years ago. We have been led to expect, over the last four years, that it’s really not that important to him to do so.
But along comes the prisoners’ hunger strike — a dynamic factor neither Obama’s people, nor the millions of us outraged at Guantanamo’s continued existence expected. Their action could bring a possible change in the administration’s plans to maintain indefinite detention, at least for some of the men in Guantanamo.
A major missing ingredient in this moment, though, has been the collective voices of artists, intellectuals, politicians, religious and cultural figures who are respected and beloved for being voices of conscience, speaking as one to demand that the torture of Guantanamo be ended. It’s time and past time, as more than 100 days of the prisoners’ hunger strike have passed, that we provide a way for them to speak out together, and for that message to be seen.
Dennis Loo of Cal Poly Pomona drafted a message which will run this week as a full page ad in The New York Times this week which could serve as such a vehicle. Demanding “Close Guantanamo,” it has been signed by 1100, including John Cusack, Alice Walker, Wallace Shawn, Junot Diaz, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Eve Ensler, Kara Walker, Dave Eggers, Glenn Greenwald, Paul Haggis, Bianca Jagger, Ariel Dorfman, Erica Jong, Michael Moore, Ron Kovic, Tom Morello, Mark Ruffalo, Coco Fusco, Peter Selz, James Schamus, Carl Dix, Oliver Stone, Cindy Sheehan, and Cornel West, joined by attorneys for the Guantanamo prisoners, law professors, clergy and academics.
The message powerfully challenges us to look at Guantanamo as “part of larger, alarming developments” including the NDAA, targeted killing by executive order, and the prosecution of whistle-blowers, “most flagrantly in the torture, slander and draconian legal charges against Bradley Manning.”
It says, “It is up to people to stand up for principle and morality when their institutions and public officials refuse to do so. The fates of those who are maimed or killed by our government’s policies are inextricably intertwined with our own: we must listen and respond to their cry for justice. We demand the release of the cleared Guantanamo prisoners now, and an end to indefinite detention without charge for the others, before they lose their lives.”
While promoting the message to Close Guantanamo that we are raising funds to publish in The New York Times, we have been hearing, especially in the Twitterverse, that people think, because Obama promised to close Guantanamo, and says that Congress is not allowing him to do that, the main problem is with Congress.
It is quite true that the U.S. Congress, both when the Republicans led it under Bush, and since the Democrats took over leadership in 2006, has a shameful record in advancing all sorts of repression. Memorably, they’ve made speeches and passed resolutions — and tried to pass laws — saying Guantanamo, specificially, can’t be closed, nor can the prisoners ever by tried here or released in the U.S.
So appealing to the right-wing Congress is going to continue to be a very hopeless road, absent the kind of mass political movement from the people needed, on all issues of justice, from authorizing un-ending wars, targeted killing, violation of borders for other countries, while further militarizing this country’s borders and infrastructure.
Obama, however, as people rightly point out, has promised to close Guantanamo. For his own reasons, whatever they may be, he repeats what most of the world thinks, that the continued existence of the illegal prison in Guantanamo, set up to avoid U.S. law by the Bush regime, doesn’t serve the U.S. public image as the land of freedom and democracy.
Obama repeated, in remarks at a press conference last month, that it is Congress who refuses to let him release prisoners who have been cleared for release. 86 prisoners were cleared, some back to 2006, by the Bush administration, and then again by a task force of Obama’s own creation in 2009, after what he’s called a very “thorough review.”
There are 3 main reasons the ball is in Obama’s court on Guantanamo:
1. Obama put in place the ban on transferring the 56 Yemeni prisoners, out of the 86 who have been cleared for release. Says Andy Worthington in Eloquent But Unconvincing: President Obama’s Response to the Guantánamo Hunger Strike
it was the President “who issued a ban on the release of Yemenis from Guantánamo after a failed bomb plot on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009, undertaken by a Nigerian man who was recruited in Yemen.”
Not Congress, though they’ve done many other reactionary things. It was also Obama who in January 2013 closed the office in the Executive Branch run by Donald Fried, which was tasked with resettling the prisoners.
2. It’s the Obama administration which has made life for prisoners worse at Guantanamo after some improvements at the end of the Bush administration. Glenn Greenwald wrote in July 2012,
“Last week, the Obama administration imposed new arbitrary rules for Guantanamo detainees who have lost their first habeas corpus challenge. Those new rules eliminate the right of lawyers to visit their clients at the detention facility; the old rules establishing that right were in place since 2004, and were bolstered by the Supreme Court’s 2008 Boumediene ruling that detainees were entitled to a “meaningful” opportunity to contest the legality of their detention. The DOJ recently informed a lawyer for a Yemeni detainee, Yasein Khasem Mohammad Esmail, that he would be barred from visiting his client unless he agreed to a new regime of restrictive rules, including acknowledging that such visits are within the sole discretion of the camp’s military commander.”
Obama’s credentials as a protector of the prisoners are non-existent, making his claims to fear for their deaths hollow. Yet, he should be held to follow through on his promise. You can read more on that in the text of our message.
3. Obama can use the clause written into the National Defense Authorization Act allowing the executive to release prisoners.
Senator Levin wrote to Obama on May 9, reminding him, “I successfully fought for a national security waiver that provides a clear route for the transfer of detainees to third countries in appropriate cases, i.e., to make sure the certification requirements do not constitute an effective prohibition.”
President Obama seems quite ready to use executive authority when it comes to targeted kill lists. He doesn’t wait for Congress, or even acknowledge Congressional authority in matters of war and national boundaries for drone war or special operations. So why is he allowed to hide behind “Congress won’t let me” now?
I would urge people who take Barack Obama at his word that he wants to close Guantanamo, to investigate more deeply what Obama’s policies have amounted to by reading Greenwald’s piece from 2012: The Obama GTMO Myth.
“Every time the issue of ongoing injustices at Guantanamo is raised, one hears the same apologia from the President’s defenders: the President wanted and tried to end all of this, but Congress — including even liberals such as Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders — overwhelming voted to deny him the funds to close Guantanamo. While those claims, standing alone, are true, they omit crucial facts and thus paint a wildly misleading picture about what Obama actually did and did not seek to do.”
Andy Worthington writes in the wake of Obama’s latest statements,
“The best that can be said of President Obama’s performance on Tuesday is that the words he uttered can be used to hammer home to him the ongoing injustice of the prison, if he tries, as he has before, to lose interest in it. Mostly, though, what is needed is action — action to persuade Congress to drop its restriction on the release of prisoners, and action and honesty by President Obama himself: on his Yemeni ban, on the need to appoint someone to deal with the closure of Guantanamo on a full-time basis, and, if necessary, on releasing prisoners through the waiver in the NDAA.
He also, as an urgent matter, needs to initiate review boards for 46 other prisoners who he consigned to indefinite detention without charge or trial in an executive order in March 2011, on the basis that they are regarded as too dangerous to release, even though insufficient evidence exists to put them on trial. That is, and was an unacceptable decision to take, but the only proviso that tempered it ever so slightly was the President’s promise to initiate periodic reviews of the men’s cases, which, over two years later, have not taken place.
Political speeches and posturing are one thing. Reality is another. Greenwald reminded us after Adnan Latif died in Guantanamo earlier this year, “more detainees have died at the camp (nine) than have been convicted of wrongdoing by its military commissions (six).”
Obama needs to release the cleared prisoners, whatever work that takes; charge or release those being held indefinitely without charges, and close the prison. You can donate to help publish the ad. And sign it, along with the above writers, and myself.
My friend Stephen Phelps, Senior Minister at The Riverside Church, signed The New York Times ad on closing Guantanamo we plan to publish next week, and sent a note saying he would “begin to send the hope around to some others.” This hit me strongly. For the last four+ years, since Obama promised to close it, nothing hopeful has come out of Guantanamo.
It’s only the courageous, and desperate, actions of the prisoners which provide hope now, and which are enlivening the rest of the world with the idea that now Obama must, as Lynn Feinerman put it in Tikkun Daily, “Close Guantánamo. Repatriate and rehabilitate those destroyed by it.”
25 former Guantanamo prisoners just wrote Obama demanding he close the prison. They say that force-feeding (for which even more “medical” personnel have been brought in recently) “demonstrates the absence of any morals and principles the US administration may claim to have regarding these men,” and cite:
- The abuse of the prisoners’ religious rights, such as the desecration of the Qur’an
- The use of chemical sprays and rubber bullets to “quell unrest”
- Regular and humiliating strip searches
- Extremely long periods in total isolation
- Interference in privileged client/attorney relationships
- Lack of meaningful communication with relatives
- Arbitrary imprisonment without charge or trial
Ahmed Rachidi, a former prisoner released to Morocco, said recently:
The Obama Administration claims they are on a hunger strike because they want better treatment or better food. But that is not true. They are on a hunger strike because they want justice. They want freedom. They want to go home to their families. And this time they will not quit.
I hope we don’t fail to see how horrific a hunger strike is. Rachidi goes on:
This will be the last hunger strike. To stop eating is the only way prisoners can exert any control when they are powerless. But this time Shaker and the other prisoners don’t have the same strength, the same energy they used to have. Mentally and physically they are very weak. I am worried that something can go wrong, that someone will lose his life… Guantanamo is a concern to every human being who believes in democracy, who believes in human rights, who believes in the rule of law. We don’t have a lot of time. We need to come together to force President Obama to restore the rule of law and put an end to this disgrace.
In the thirty-six hours since we debuted the ad text, and began asking people to sign on, circulate it, and donate for its publication, I’ve been very heartened by the comments and donations, from $5 to $1,000. The lawyers who represent prisoners are a group with every reason to have given up in defeat, since they are barely allowed to get to Guantanamo, and now their clients are visibly weakened, some unable to converse. They are signing on, and helping raise funds.
Activists, artists, academics, lawyers, elected officials: this is an urgent call to you. Unite your voices together to support justice for the prisoners in the “newspaper of record” on the 100th day of the hunger strike.
Publishing this ad will resonate in a way other actions don’t, and could help create a situation where the Obama administration is forced to respond. Let’s get into the streets around the world on May 17-19 as part of taking hold of the moment where how a society is measured comes down to closing Guantanamo, and gives hope that the war crimes this country has perpetrated can be addressed.
Saturday was the first time it felt like spring in NYC, and crowds of people filled Union Square Park watching jugglers and musicians, and just hanging out. It was so heartbreakingly pleasant, one felt bad bearing the news to tourists that out of many things wrong in this class-divided world, we were about to challenge them to take notice of one very important thing.
Ten of us put on orange jumpsuits to mark the 51st day of the potentially deadly hunger strike by men imprisoned by the U.S. at Guantanamo. Witness Against Torture activists have been fasting for a week in solidarity; this was a public way and place to end the fast, and have visual impact. Often I am doing public relations at events like this. Today I wanted to experience the time under the hood, and be able to listen for peoples’ comments.
90% of those seeing us walked on by. Hundreds took flyers. Many took photos, though oddly, most didn’t really stop to find out much. Several said “thank you” to those of us in jumpsuits. Comments ran from “they should burn that place down with everyone in it,” to “they should free all those guys, and then burn it down!” A few people ranted that “they” were all terrorists. One said, “the prisoners are lucky; they could of all just been shot.” Some people were just confused, saying Obama had closed down the prison. Memorably, one hipster told another, “I think they’re monks, protesting Easter.”
One of the people flyering commented that all the Black people who stopped for a flyer “got it,” recognized what the problem is, and expressed compassion. A people who has suffered oppression is maybe most able to empathize, notwithstanding that the current President and Attorney General are responsible for no prisoners leaving Guantanamo in the last 18 months alive.
At this point, so far into the fast, we hear men are suffering terribly, possibly being deprived of water they see as safe to drink, some force-fed and some hospitalized. Clive Stafford-Smith, attorney for Shaker Amer, tweeted “90mins on phone with Shaker Aamer today; 130 detainees on hunger strike; situation in
#Gitmo as dire as General ‘Miller Time’” referencing Geoffrey Miller, who ran Guantanamo in 2004, and then went to Abu Ghraib, running torture at both.
How do we close Guantanamo and save the lives of the prisoners? Without the men taking this action, the White House would not have been finally forced to acknowledge the hunger strike, and major media would not be now covering Guantanamo. Their action is decisive, and desperate, as their attorneys report. There is no way out of Guantanamo now, absent a mass demand that it be finally closed and the prisoners charged and tried, or released, as most of them have been already cleared for.
But our action is decisive also. Find out what you can do where you are.
Support World Can’t Wait’s work to make Guantanamo visible in the U.S. Materials (flyers, signs); websites, travel cost $$. Our work is 100% supported by direct donations from individuals. Donate now.
Ten years ago today, lawyers for the Bush Regime sent memos up the chain of command which quickly reached the military and the CIA. The August 1, 2002 “torture memos” authored by attorneys in the Office of Legal Council at the White House gave the green light to torture, calling it “harsh interrogation” and completely legal.
Prisoners in Guantanamo were immediately water-boarded, “walled,” put in isolation, deprived of sleep. A few were men the US thought were part of al Qaeda; most of them were just guys sold to the US by someone in Afghanistan for bounty. Almost none of them, it’s now admitted, were involved in criminal activity, or even military struggle, against the US. But, they were still “the worst of the worst.”
The clock is ticking. August 1st marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of professor John Yoo’s “Torture Memos,” which sanctioned mental and physical torment and coercion practiced by the state. It’s been 9 years since those same documents were found legally defective and withdrawn. The Bush Gang left the stage, Barack Obama took the helm, and 168 prisoners remain at Guantanamo. These men must not be forgotten, or their stories conveniently swept under the rug for the remainder of this election season.
Amy Davidson, a senior editor at The New Yorker, interviewed Jose Rodriquez, who for 30 years was head of the Counterterrorism Center during his 30 years at the CIA and who recently published a book defending everything done to prisoners, Hard Measures: How Aggressive C.I.A. Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives. Rodriguez neatly recounted where the Torture Memos fit:
Over the summer of 2002, when we knew we had to do something different to get information out of Abu Zubaydah, who had been captured a few months earlier, we worked with our lawyers to make sure that we came up with techniques that were within the law. These techniques were vetted with the Department of Justice and the White House—with the policy people and the leadership people at the White House. Then, on August 1, 2002, we received a binding legal opinion in writing from the Justice Department that said waterboarding and nine other techniques we wanted to implement were not torture. We then went to the White House and asked the N.S.C. to give us policy approval to proceed, and for the President to direct us to proceed. And they did. A month later, when the Congress came back to town, we briefed the leadership of the House and Senate committees on intelligence, both Democrats and Republicans. They had no objection.
Which is the point, exactly. Everyone was in on it; “everyone” now in government has no objections to what happened. John Yoo teaches constitutional law at one of the most highly regarded law schools, Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley, protected, and actually defended by an administration that uses its liberal credentials as a shield against justice. Jay Bybee got a gig as a federal judge, nominated by G.W. Bush and approved by the same Congress which was OK with torture methods as long as they were named harsh interrogation.”
And none of the torture team partners has suffered indictment, or even deeply serious investigation by the Obama administration.
I have to add a thanks to Women Against Military Madness in Minneapolis, who are outside the Federal Building in Minneapolis today in an action called Tackling Torture at the Top.
And from Curt Wechsler:
My donation to World Can’t Wait today will help send an orange-jumpsuited contingent to the Democratic National Convention to represent the victims of brutal prison policy, and all of us who say NO to torture.
Drones and Guantanamo, owned and operated in a bi-partisan fashion. But it’s the Democrat War party who got people at accept them as “normal” and even legitimate.
Read the original memos, courtesy torturingdemocracy.org:
Memo from Jay Bybee to Alberto Gonzales
DATE: August 1, 2002
SUBJECT: “Standards for Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. 2340 – 2340A”
AUTHOR: Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel In what has become notorious as the “torture memo,” Jay Bybee signs off on an opinion authored by John Yoo. The memorandum systematically dismisses numerous U.S. federal laws, treaties and international law prohibiting the use of torture, essentially defining the term out of existence.
Letter from John Yoo to Alberto Gonzales
DATE: August 1, 2002
AUTHOR: John Yoo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel John Yoo writes to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales warning of potential threats of international prosecution regarding the administration’s interrogation policies. Yoo notes that “Interrogations of al Qaeda members … cannot constitute a war crime” because of the Presidential determination that Geneva’s protections do not apply.
Memo from Jay Bybee to the CIA
DATE: August 1, 2002
SUBJECT: Memorandum for [REDACTED] Interrogation of [REDACTED]
AUTHOR: Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel Written by the Office of Legal Counsel’s Jay Bybee and sent to the Central Intelligence Agency, this heavily redacted document was released to the ACLU in 2008. It details “advising the CIA regarding interrogation methods it may use against al Qaeda members,” and in one un-redacted portion, argues that “to violate the statute, an individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering. Based on the information you have provided us, we believe those carrying out these procedures would not have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering.”
Update May 8: “On Tuesday, city officials notified National Nurses United that they were ordering nurses to accept new, less visible, locations for the protest, under threat of cancelling a long approved permit for the public event – even though the G-8 leaders will now be 700 miles away from Chicago on that date in the backwoods of Camp David, Md.” At a press conference Wednesday, “NNU will outline a legal challenge to the city’s demand and discuss other plans responding to the city’s move” (from a press release from National Nurses United regarding the suppression of their planned May 18 protest in Chicago against the NATO Summit).
The NATO International Security Force, which we all know is actually led by the U.S. military, killed a woman and her 5 children in an airstrike in southwestern Afghanistan Sunday, and then yesterday expressed “regret” for what they call their “mistake.”
Military tribunals, the crowning achievement of a US system of indefinite detention and torture aided by and including NATO member countries, and which defense attorneys assert are rigged by the U.S. to assure the execution of 5 men in Guantánamo, have begun, in the process of continuing the unending U.S. war on terror.
U.S. drone strikes, halted briefly because of protest from the government of Pakistan (presumably a sovereign country) began again last week, killing 4 people in a school. Of course these victims were called insurgents; everyone killed by U.S. drones is a militant, by definition. NATO is now a major purchaser of U.S. drones, and has a vast role in aiding the covert U.S. strikes.
The most heavily armed empire in world history occupies and has destroyed whole countries, has a system of indefinite detention and torture in place, and is expanding secret military operations across the region.
But according to this empire, the biggest danger to peace is some hundreds or thousands of people protesting the Chicago meeting of the NATO military alliance next week? According to the purveyors of war crimes, the people decrying the destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are the ones to fear and lock up, while the war-makers and torturers are given even more power to war critics into criminals?
Public opinion is being prepared for this criminalization. The Chicago press has featured reports on plans to evacuate Chicago because of “unrest;” on the deployment of National Guard troops to quell protests; on plans to reopen a closed prison in Joliet to house arrested protesters; on heavily armed federal teams sweeping through the central city; on closing down the public transport system in the city; and more.
Despite the measures which Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s former White House enforcer, wanted in place against protest, a well-publicized battle was successful in getting a permit for the march on Sunday May 20 at Grant Park. With the removal of a long-held permit to march on Friday May 18 by National Nurses United, the City is trying to force protest further away from city center, supposedly because rocker Tom Morello will be performing at their rally.
No matter how they parse the words of the First Amendment, what the federal authorities (who are the ones running the show in Chicago) are doing is criminalizing protest in advance. As they did at the Republican Convention in St. Paul in 2008; at the G-20 in Pittsburgh in 2009; in response to the Occupy movement, they are putting measures in place that will sweep up people who are assembling and speaking based on the content of our protest message. The message to the general public is that protest should be feared, not a system that perpetrates war crimes and mass denial of civil liberties.
We state clearly and publicly, in advance: It’s right to protest the crimes being carried out in our name, in public space, near the NATO meeting. We protesters are not the endangering the people; the danger to humanity is a system which uses police-state measures to back up war crimes. The following measures are in place, or have been proposed:
* Sending arrested protesters to an old prison in Joliet.
The idea was then ditched, as the place is falling apart (To Joliet jail for NATO offenders? Sun-Times, Apr 28, 2012).
“Another contingent of guard troops will conduct a large-scale domestic response drill outside Cook County during the summit weekend, ready to provide support in the event of any problems in Chicago, said Maj. Troy Scott, deputy director of domestic operations for the Illinois National Guard.”
“CBS News has obtained a copy of a Red Cross e-mail sent to volunteers in the Milwaukee area. It said the NATO summit “may create unrest or another national security incident. The American Red Cross in southeastern Wisconsin has been asked to place a number of shelters on standby in the event of evacuation of Chicago.”
According to a chapter spokesperson, the evacuation plan is not theirs alone. “Our direction has come from the City of Chicago and the Secret Service,” she said (accompanied by picture of demonstrators amidst flames, who knows where…).
* Vague Speculation about “Unrest” Concerns about NATO Summit Violence Leave Chicago Guessing CBS News reported on April 29:
“There also are reports that a heavily armed security team will start making a very public appearance around federal buildings in the Loop this week. Officials with the Chicago NATO host committee were completely in the dark. They had no reports of any such plans. A source told CBS 2 that security forces in full battle gear would not be seen this week.”
“The FAA says private planes may be shot down if they fly within ten nautical miles of downtown Chicago during the summit. The only planes allowed will be commercial passenger and cargo carriers, and police and military aircraft.”
* Surgical strikes against anyone in protests who “crosses the line” beyond First Amendment activity… as defined by the Secret Service?
“Police will embrace “First Amendment activity,” she told the building managers, and will surgically deal with those who cross the line into vandalism. She was asked how many demonstrators could arrive in Chicago who aren’t now part of a permitted group.
“If I had that crystal ball, I’d be solid,” she said.
Many building managers said that overall they were relatively satisfied with the level of information they are getting and are willing to trust the police and federal authorities to keep things under control.
“I understand they haven’t got everything figured out yet,” said Wes Stoginski, assistant engineer at a building on 13th Street near the Illinois Central rail line. But Stoginski also said he knows where the variables are.
“You can’t legislate against lunatics,” he said.”
(This is the only somewhat oblique reference I could find to the CPD extraction technique of arresting the people they see as leaders, which they did at the mass March 20, 2003 arrests. The civil suit by NLG based on those arrests was just settled for $6.2 million to demonstrators. In the pre-trial discovery, that technique was documented.)
“In a memo titled Operation Red Zone, the protective service said the increased security will be extended throughout the South Loop area often referred to as the federal complex. It includes the Kluczynski Federal Building, the U.S. Dirksen Courthouse and the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Several buildings just east on State Street are also in the so-called red zone.
“The memo notes there have been no specific or credible threats at federal facilities ‘related to terrorism by international terrorist organizations’ but that the area around the complex will be ‘directly and indirectly’ affected by protests in the days before and after the summit.”
Candace represents prisoners still held in Guantanamo, 2.5 years after the Obama administration said it would have been closed. She has just returned from a visit there, and will give us not only the latest news, but her perspective on her years-long efforts to get her clients released.
Anyone concerned about the “rule of law” and the National Defense Authorization Act should join in this60 minute conversation.
Read Candace at GTMOblog.
Write for details to join the call.
An irony acutely felt this week:
Tens of thousands of people in the U.S., taking the lead from millions in the Middle East, are “occupying” public spaces, seeking change in the the world as it is, standing up to authority, power, and blowing the ceiling off expectations that the vast disparity in global income “has to” be as it is. We’ve got to spread these occupations!
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military, support staff and private contractors are “occupying” two countries in the Middle East, in a mission to enforce, with a vengeance, U.S. domination over the region, employing night raids, torture, and terror towards the civilian population. We’ve got to end those occupations!
We marked the 10th anniversary of the Bush regime’s bombing and invasion of Afghanistan last week, with protests across the U.S. which were in many cases intermingled with the Occupy Wall Street protests, and in all cases influenced by the outpouring of public anger at the system.
Significantly, a protest in Kabul by Afghans demanded the occupiers leave.
paints a devastating picture of abuse, citing evidence of “systematic torture” during interrogations by Afghan intelligence and police officials even as American and other Western backers provide training and pay for nearly the entire budget of the Afghan ministries running the detention centers.
Detainees — and we’ve known this since November 2001, when the U.S. first set up operations at an old Afghan prison in Bagram — are hung by their hands and beaten with cables, their genitals twisted until they lose consciousness. Because of the Obama administration’s successful argument that the prisoners are not entitled to habeas corpus rights, they have no way out.
This is in no way a departure from all the rest of the Bush war crimes begun 10 years ago. The NY Times, which editorially opposes torture, while supporting the wars in which the U.S. uses it, said today
such widespread use of torture in a detention system supported by American mentors and money raises serious questions about potential complicity of American officials and whether they benefited from information obtained from suspects who had been tortured….There have been a number of instances that raise similar questions in other places, including Uzbekistan, Pakistan and El Salvador, according to a RAND Corporation report in 2006.
This systematic abuse must be working for the United States government. According to Glenn Greenwald, the Obama administration
unveiled plans for “the construction of Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP), Bagram, Afghanistan” which includes “detainee housing capability for approximately 2000 detainees.” It will also feature “guard towers, administrative facility and Vehicle/Personnel Access Control Gates, security surveillance and restricted access systems.” The announcement provided: ”the estimated cost of the project is between $25,000,000 to $100,000,000.”
This occupation won’t be ended by Obama, or any presidents to follow him, unless people in this country demand it.
Raise your voice! January 11, 2012, we’ll be back in Washington on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. prison in Guantanamo, marking it with a protest/human chain of 2,200 people. We’ll stand for the 171 prisoners in Guantanamo, with no way out, and the 2,000 some at Bagram, with no legal standing. Join in!
In a series of video interviews entitled [Beyond 9/11] Portraits of Resistance, TIME magazine includes the expected 9/11 survivors, first responders, family members of those who were killed. They include those you’d have to classify as war criminals in the wake of 9/11, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, “Dick” Cheney and General Petraeus; other government and U.S. military personnel.
I found, out of the 40 people interviewed, 3 who are surprising, including two I consider friends and heroes. They are:
Cindy Sheehan recounts her reaction to George Bush’s announcement that 12 Marines who died in Iraq in August 2005 had died “for a noble cause.” She didn’t believe her son Casey, a reluctant soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004, had been sacrificed for anything good. Cindy’s actions in camping out in front of Bush’s ranch were such that millions cheered her on.
You can find her at Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox.
James was an Army Captain who became a chaplain for Muslim soldiers in early 2001. When Rumsfeld opened Guantanamo to house men from dozens of countries as part of the “global war on terror,” James was assigned to be prison chaplain. The prisoners’ conditions, he says, were “not fit for animals.”
Soon, because he spoke up, he was disappeared into a brig in South Carolina, threatened with execution for speaking up against the conditions. He fought his imprisonment, and eventually won an honorable discharge from the military. James Yee is now the Executive Director of the New Jersey Chapter of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations.
Ali was asleep on an Iraqi farm when bombs were dropped on his home by the American military in 2004.
“I lost my arms and my body is burned, and also my family is dead. We were all asleep, 12 o’clock at night, and we heard the big noise. The fire was all over us, I heard my family screaming. I couldn’t see anything, but I could feel everything…I lost my father, mother and my brother, and 13 members of my family.”
Ali Abbas was resettled with a friend in England.
All of them are victims of the Bush regime’s “global war on terror” who have stood heroically against the abuses of illegitimate, immoral, unjust U.S. occupations. I am glad they are recognized.
On Tuesday January 25, at the same moment Congress gathered for the State of the Union address from Barack Obama, almost a hundred people gathered to discuss “Torture, Guantanamo and Accountability” at DePaul University Law School in Chicago. It’s been difficult over the last 2+ years to fill a room for such a discussion, so we were heartened by the participation of 40 law students and attorneys. Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, a distinguished research professor emeritus at the law school, and founder of the International Human Rights Law Institute; and Candace Gorman, who represents two men imprisoned at Guantanamo, spoke with me on the panel.
Dr. Bassiouni described the “chasm” between the promises made by Obama while campaigning and the actions of Obama as president, regarding the rule of law as represented by the United States. Candace told the story of one of her clients, still in Guantanamo. He is apparently one of the 48 who will be detained indefinitely, bringing some of the students to tears of frustration. We’ll have more on the program soon. Listen to Dr. Bassiouni and Ms. Gorman in an excellent hour-long discussion on Chicago public radio WBEZ.
Our colleague Andy Worthington, about to tour Poland with former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, took the time to describe the Obama’s administration’s plans for those imprisoned at Guantanamo in Obama’s Collapse: The Return of the Military Commissions:
This year the President’s bitter surprise for the prisoners (which has encouraged a widespread peaceful protest at the prison, as reported here) was two-fold. The first was his failure to veto a military spending bill passed by Congress, which contained cynical and unconstitutional provisions preventing the transfer of any prisoner to the US mainland, in which lawmakers also demanded the power to prevent the release of prisoners to countries regarded as dangerous…
The second bitter surprise for the prisoners was the announcement last week, first mentioned by the New York Times, that, although federal court trials have effectively been suspended, specifically derailing the administration’s stated intention to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in federal court, the administration is preparing to push ahead instead with trials by Military Commission for at least some of the 33 men recommended for trials by Obama’s Task Force.
No, none of those plans were part of the State of the Union address. Those of you listening for “real change” in Obama’s direction on the wars Tuesday night were disappointed. Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, and an opponent of torture, spoke on Democracy Now January 26 about the speech:
He didn’t mention human rights at a time when he has assassination lists for the first time in our nation’s history, that include U.S. citizens. No due process—we don’t just have indefinite detention anymore; we just go out, put their name on a list, and kill them. The invocation of state secrets, it’s absolutely obliterated any notion of checks and balances. Our courts have been removed from that equation, by and large, when it comes to torture, when it comes to warrantless wiretapping by our government. No discussion about that, of course. And we’re seeing, really, an institutionalization by this president of some of the worst abuses and what we, a lot of us, thought were just aberrations during the Bush years.
I’d like to note what Obama did say:
…because we’ve begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored. Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high. (Applause.) American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end. (Applause.)
…We’ve also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.
Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home. (Applause.)
Last I heard, the Defense Department is balking at even a 2014 pull out date of Afghanistan. The unjust, immoral, illegitimate occupations continue, and with them, the “war on terror” against civilians across the region. It’s up to us to bring out that reality to people.
I saw John Boehner pinch up his face when Obama obliquely mentioned the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” As much as the reactionaries howled against letting gays be out in the military, I have to say that any gay person who actually decides now to enlist has lost their mind. Just because one can now serve openly does not mean the whole enterprise of occupying countries and killing civilians should involve you! I say, “don’t ask, don’t tell….no — DON’T GO!” It’s a bad thing, as several professors have written me, that because DODT is being repealed, colleges are now planning to open the doors once again to military recruiters.
I’ll see you in Washington D.C. on March 17-19 as we step up the visible protest on the anniversary of the Iraq war.