Politics and Whatnot

Just another liberal political blog

Happy 10th Birthday, Gitmo

It turns out that the passing of the NDAA which was completed last week, which represents a resounding defeat for those of us who wanted to eliminate the military detention system at Gitmo rather than expand it, was especially timely.  January 11, 2012 is 10 years since the first detainees arrived at Gitmo.

For the detainees, it’s a reminder that they have spent 10 years in prison, partly while being tortured, without any criminal charges against them. A list of the known detainees can be found here – that’s right, after 10 years, we still don’t even know exactly who is being held at Gitmo.  We’re just supposed to trust the military that names are being withheld for good reason, presumably the well-established military doctrine that we can’t handle the truth.  But even with the names that are there, it’s easy to notice some extremely disturbing facts that the media simply hasn’t reported:

Owning this watch can be very, very harmful to your freedom.

  1. Many, if not most detainees lacked a remotely sufficient reason for detention:  The reasons for detention are often comically silly, such as wearing a Casio digital watch (which might be used as a detonator, were it not already being used as a watch).   That detainee is far from alone.  Kafka would never have dared to write about such a ridiculous bureaucratic nightmare as being detained and tortured in a distant foreign prison because of wearing a watch.  Another detainee hung himself after being force fed via a tube to end a hunger strike, but a government investigation found “no credible information” that linked him to terrorism or Al Qaeda. This is just what I’m finding in a few minutes of reading the list.  It’s much easier to find horror stories like these than known terrorists at the secret prison.  Most of those with concrete links to terrorism simply attended an Al Qaeda training camp or were low-level Taliban foot soldiers engaging in ordinary combat.  Only a very select few are even accused of having been associated with terror attacks against civilians.
  2. There are many people held at Gitmo who were detained when they were children (again, these are only the known child detainees), the youngest being a 12-13 year old named Muhammad Ismail Agha (freed over a year later after being tortured) who was accused of being a “Taliban sympathizer.”  For three months after he was disappeared, his father believed him dead, finally hearing where he was from the Red Cross.  I have never heard a single media outlet report on this, I’m just finding it on Wikipedia.  But after searching I was able to find a few major media reports – including one Fox News, which uses him as an example in its “Too Many Inmates Freed” article in 2005, citing an unspecified memo said he was later arrested with a letter supposedly “confirming his status as a member of the Taliban in good standing.”  It also points out that he was educated at Gitmo (implying that we actually did good for him).  It does not mention his specific age (calling him a “teenager” – which is debatable because he may have been 12 when arrested) or the acknowledged fact that he was also tortured with stress positions.  Fair and balanced?
  3. Prisoner abuse probably has occurred/is occurring on a large scale:  Former detainees describe and “Initial Reaction Force” which beats and abuses detainees on a regular basis.  Detainees claim that they even gave one prisoner severe brain damage, requiring permanent hospitalization – although the military claims it was due to a suicide attempt.  Given the military’s secrecy and incentive to deny that it resulting from beating, I think the detainees are no less credible.  Other difficult to verify claims allege worse abuse reminiscent of Abu Gharaib.

It just goes to show what happens when people are put under the control of others in place that is unseen.  We as Americans should never settle for a black hole justice system like that which exists at Gitmo.  Unfortunately, most Americans either aren’t aware of it or just don’t care.  So we now have the NDAA, which would make it easier, and in some cases almost mandatory, for terrorism suspects to be put into the military detention process.  If there is another terrorist attack any time in the near future, Gitmo will likely see a massive increase in the number of detainees and a corresponding boost in the ridiculousness of the reasons for detention.

Forget the fact that the war on terror seems to be less and less relevant every day.  Gitmo was never really about the war on terror.  It’s about doing away with the expensive “inefficiencies” of the justice system, like a trial and having the right to know what you’re accused of.  The Republican party and some collaborators among the Democrats have decided that the military system that led to the results above is superior to the justice system advocated in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers.   After all, the civilian justice system sometimes lets the powerless go free and finds the powerful guilty – what’s the point of that?  Those anti-due process politicians currently hold a strong majority in government, and no one seems to want to vote them out. Since they’re here to stay and their numbers are swelling, there isn’t much to do but sit back and watch our freedoms erode.

Happy 10th birthday, Gitmo.

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