Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Decade of Gitmo

A human chain will encircle The White House this Wednesday (1/11) to mark the tenth anniversary of the detention center for so-called "enemy combatants" at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay.  Amnesty International is seeking 2700 volunteers -- approximately the same number of detainees currently being held at both Gitmo and the Bagram internment facility in Afghanistan -- to join the protest. The event will also be a demonstration against the recently-signed National Defense Appropriation Act (NDAA), which provides for the indefinite detention of anyone, anywhere, without charge and without trial. 

President Obama, who made shutting down Gitmo a priority during his campaign and who actually signed the order for closure immediately upon taking office, quickly backed away from the plan. His apologists have blamed Congress for tying the hands of his administration. But guess what? The rest of the world is not enmeshed in American political bickering. The rest of the world watches with dismay as Obama obediently continues the policy of the military-industrial-terror American shadow government. According to Amnesty,  

Under international law, domestic law and politics may not be invoked to justify failure to comply with treaty obligations. It is an inadequate response for one branch of government to blame another for a country's human rights failure. International law demands that solutions be found, not excuses. The US administration is currently telling the world, in effect, "we will resolve that Guantanamo detentions when the domestic political climate is right. The USA has not been willing to accept such excuses from other governments seeking to justify their systemic human rights failures, and it should not be accepted when it is put forward by the USA.. 
AI's "Decade of Damage to Human Rights" report, published just last month, continues:
The roots of the problem lie further back, in the longstanding reluctance of the USA to apply to itself international human rights standards it so often says it expects of others. A pick and choose approach to international law by the USA long preceded the Bush Administration, but was built upon in that administration's policy responses to the attacks of 11 September 2001. This included its decision to concoct a global 'war' framework for its counter-terrorism policies under which the applicability of international human rights law was wholly denied. This global war theory -- under which the Guantanamo detentions were but one outcome, though perhaps its best-known and enduring symbol -- continues to infect the body politic in the USA, to the detriment of respect for both human rights both by the USA and more generally. 

Lakhdar Boumediene writes a harrowing account of his own long confinement in Gitmo in today's New York Times. He remained a prisoner, without charge or trial, for more than seven years. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled his confinement unconstitutional in 2008,  he still had to wait until the following year to be actually freed. He writes:
About 90 prisoners have been cleared for transfer out of Guantánamo. Some of them are from countries like Syria or China — where they would face torture if sent home — or Yemen, which the United States considers unstable. And so they sit as captives, with no end in sight — not because they are dangerous, not because they attacked America, but because the stigma of Guantánamo means they have no place to go, and America will not give a home to even one of them.
You can sign the Amnesty International petition demanding the closure of this illegal prison here.


Anne Lavoie said...

Thanks once again Karen for shining a light on the abuses of this administration and for the link to the petition. Wish I could be at the White House for the human chain!

I missed most of it, but on C-Span2's BookTV today they had the author of 'Obama On The Couch' on. From the brief part I saw, Obama was described as having a lot of repressed rage. Both the author, a psychiatrist, and the audience voiced serious concerns over who Obama has turned out to be, especially considering his background in constitutional law. They brought up targeted assassinations of Americans and probably discussed Gitmo before I tuned in. This lecture occurred in November, before Obama's singing the NDAA added to everyone's shock.

People are worried about him. Neither the author not the audience actually used the word 'dangerous man', but it was obvious that that was exactly the sentiment.

James F Traynor said...

Way to go Karen! The Myth of Japanese Failure - article by Eamonn Fingleton . It's off the subject but another prime example of the criminal failure of the U.S. ruling class.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Amnesty International has asked various governments around the world to arrest and prosecute former US president George W. Bush if he sets foot on their territory. Why? For a series of human rights violations when he was in office. Bush cancelled a planned visit to Switzerland because it looked like that government was paying attention to AI's charges.

This taken from a Canadian newspaper:

"Amnesty’s case, outlined in its 1,000-page memorandum, relies on the public record, U.S. documents obtained through access to information requests, Bush’s own memoir and a Red Cross report critical of the U.S.’s war on terror policies.

"Amnesty cites several instances of alleged torture of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay naval facility, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, by the US military.

"They include that of Zayn al Abidin Muhammed Husayn (known as Abu Zubaydah) and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, both arrested in Pakistan. The two men were waterboarded 266 times between them from 2002 to 2003, according to the CIA inspector general, cited by Amnesty."

Fortunately, recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize are not subject to such scrutiny and condemnation by human rights groups and the international community. TLOTE, indeed!

Zee said...

@Anne Lavoie--

Just a brief note to mention that I posted an apology to you on the preceding thread.

Unlike over at RC OTS--which, I have learned to my great sadness, is closing up shop--threads seem to run indefinitely here at Sardonicky.

I don't know who among you keep looking back over the more recent threads to catch up on late comments, so I just wanted to be sure that you are aware of it.

Anne Lavoie said...

No problem, Zee. Apology accepted. I usually look back at the last 2-3 posts for new comments, but when they approach close to 40, I figure it's time to move on.

Denis Neville said...

“Sovereign is he who controls the exception.”

“The danger we face in a culture built on precedent is that the changes wrought by George W. Bush will become entrenched and will apply to an ever-broader array of presidential enemies. If so, it would prove Carl Schmitt’s most famous saying: “Sovereign is he who controls the exception.” By providing an exception to the application of the rule of law, our nation may have unleashed a radical new constitutional order.” – Scott Horton, State of exception: Bush's war on the rule of law

“The most important German legal theorist of the period between the world wars was Carl Schmitt. A conservative who longed for the restoration of the authoritarian style of late Wilhelmine Germany, Schmitt was a convinced enemy of the liberal democratic principles embodied in the Weimar Constitution that was adopted after the close of World War I. For Schmitt, the notion of dispassionate and independent administration of justice was a dangerous liberal illusion. He sought to restructure the legal profession—ensuring that judges were not independent but essentially extensions of the executive, that prosecutors were fully politically subordinated, and that defense counsel were, in general, silenced...

“Carl Schmitt also laid the foundations for a new attitude toward warfare and the role of law in the conduct of war…Schmitt derided the weakness of liberalism and its efforts at consensus building and instead embraced the legitimacy of a process of extreme demonization of political adversaries. Guaranteeing legal rights to an enemy was thus senseless and counterproductive…Schmitt ridiculed the law of armed conflict, saying it reflected ideological principles rooted in nineteenth-century English liberalism…

“Schmitt’s thinking and analysis—the weakness of liberalism, the utility of “law-free” zones, the demonization of adversaries, the subordination of justice to politics—align almost perfectly with the Bush Administration’s concept of lawfare, and with many other legal tactics the administration has adopted in the war on terror and elsewhere…its Schmittian concept of lawfare represents an all-out assault on the rule of law."

Obama followed in Bush’s footsteps…detainees are still unlawfully held by the US government at Guantanamo and Bagram under indefinite detention.

One of the most contentious issues for the international Nazi war crime tribunals at the end of the WWII was whether the defendants would be represented by counsel of their choosing and have the right to present a vigorous defense. Justice Robert H. Jackson, who was to act as chief prosecutor, carried the day by establishing that it was vital to the Allies not only that the tribunals do justice but that they be perceived as doing justice.

“Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration, and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Jay - Ottawa said...


Sounds like Bush and Obama bought that Schmitt.

James F Traynor said...

The Eamonn Fingleton article is in the op-ed section of the NYT.

Karen Garcia said...

My New York Times comment on David Carr's Keith Olbermann piece

The disconnect between Olbermann's championing of the Occupy movement and his reputed one percent-ish behavior is indeed strange. I for one could care less about the optics and glitziness (or lack thereof) of his production. What I appreciated over the past several months were his guests: night after night we were introduced to the ordinary people of Occupy. Most memorable was his lengthy interview with the elderly woman from Occupy Seattle, who recounted her pepper-spraying at the hands of the militarized police. Olbermann, unlike so many of his peers, knows when to shut up and listen to true eloquence.

This is a bad year for cable TV news. Everything is being covered through the prism of the presidential horserace, which has little relation to the lives of ordinary people. The public interest is not being served.

Olbermann would go down in public advocacy journalistic history if he took a pay cut and invested some of his millions in his own station. Or, he could retire. His choice.

The Doktor said...

I'm glad to see that there are Progressives not afraid to call out President Obama on (what I see as) his worst failures; Human rights in general and Guantanamo in particular.
What example can a child (or any thinking adult for that matter) take away when a courageous young man like Bradley Manning sits in solitary confinement in the basement of a concrete prison -unsentenced and untried- while a disgusting pedophile like jerry sandusky walks around free at sporting events lusting after young boys.
It wasn't until the polls started showing Liberals moving away from President Obama that he started moving back towards the center (he's still miles away from the left if you ask me) so hopefully this demonstration at The White House will get some real attention and the President will take some action for those of us who are truly most vulnerable.

Valerie said...

"About 90 prisoners have been cleared for transfer out of Guantánamo. Some of them are from countries like Syria or China — where they would face torture if sent home — or Yemen, which the United States considers unstable. And so they sit as captives, with no end in sight — NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE DANGEROUS, NOT BECAUSE THEY ATTACKED AMERICA (my caps) but because the stigma of Guantánamo means they have no place to go, and America will not give a home to even one of them."

That quote should make every American cringe with shame! We have kidnapped innocent people, put them in hell and now we are leaving them there in order to hide our mistakes.

I was just at the University of Sydney, an old and highly respected institution in Australia, and out of curiosity checked out the American Studies department. It is very small - they don't even offer a degree, just a handful of classes. That is how little interest there is in America which is already seen as an empire of the past, not the future. I noticed in one of the class descriptors, the main topic was “the decline of America.” I wish all those glory-seeking, "light shining on a hill" Republicans and those blindly adoring Obamabots would understand, Bush and Obama have dragged this country down into the dust and the whole world sees America for what it is: a manipulative bully, full-of self-interest for its one percent that is willing to exploit or step on anyone or any country in order to serve itself. Those who run this country can brainwash Americans because they control the media here, but other countries have medias that expose America for the shallow "democracy" it has become - thanks to both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Denis Neville said...

@ The Doktor - Obama declared Manning guilty before his trial. How can military officers judge him impartially and contradict their Commander-in-Chief?

They can’t and won’t.

Obama’s national security state versus Bradley Manning

Scott Horton writes that “the WikiLeaks documents are a test for America’s voracious national-security state. Its response to them gives us a sense of how it intends to fight perceived threats to secrecy…Focal to the response will be a harsh and heavy-handed prosecution or court-martial of the leaker. The message to other would-be whistleblowers must be clear. Cross us, and we will destroy you. You have no law or rights to hide behind. We can and will turn you into the enemy. At this point, attention is focused on Private Bradley Manning.”

“Few functions are so fundamental to a democracy as the decision about when and how to wage a war. That decision means an investment of treasure and blood that can affect the lives of hundreds of millions in America and elsewhere. In this process, fair presentation and discussion of the facts is essential to a correct result. If information can be routinely suppressed because it is embarrassing to political leaders or would undermine the arguments they make to the nation, then our democracy is faltering. In the wake of these disclosures, Americans should carefully judge the conduct of those who claim that suppressing the leaks is in the interests of national security. Are they upholding national security, or are they betraying American democracy?”

Human rights in general and Guantanamo in particular…

“Now I don't know why he's denying them habeas corpus. I can only assume the guys they got detained over there did something really unforgivable. Like remind Obama he was once a professor of Constitutional Law.” - Stephen Colbert

Denis Neville said...

“The enduring scandal at Guantanamo” by Chris Bertram @ Crooked Timber

“The long-term detention, mistreatment and probable torture of people who have never been convicted of anything, ought to be a matter uniting people across the political spectrum who care about human rights. Unfortunately, outside of a small coterie of activists, the best you get is indifference or even active hostility. Indeed, those who campaign on behalf of the inmates have themselves been villified (by conservatives or the “decent left”) for such “crimes” as comparing the Guantanamo regime to past totalitarian governments (as if such comparison is more offensive than the acual treatment of the detainees). Depressing.”

And given that “the scolds” are now circling the Democratic wagons there won’t be much outrage at this scandal and Obama’s unfulfilled promise to close Gitmo any time soon. Why aren’t they questioning the operations of his national security state?

Chris Bertram deplores “the tendency that Americans have, 1-year-in-4, to make every issue about your wretched general election. Shaker Aamer’s (never been charged with anything; “cleared for release” under the Bush administration; is in failing health; and, for protesting about his own treatment and that of others, is confined to the punishment block) continued imprisonment is bad and unjust and he ought to be released now, quite independently of how that plays in Des Moines.”

Denis Neville said...

@ Valerie - how little interest there is in America

Pax Americana - “They create a wasteland and they call it peace.” - Tacitus

“Every day I ask myself the same question: How can this be happening in America? How can people like these be in charge of our country? If I didn’t see it with my own eyes, I’d think I was having a hallucination.” – Philip Roth, The Plot Against America

Those blindly adoring Obamabots…

We are NOT useful idiots despite what Obama partisan enforcers claim!

The Doktor said...

I just saw this article on the decade of disgrace that is Gitmo... at least some body in the MSM is calling it (or at least allowing somebody to call it ) what it is...