The Watering Hole, Monday, April 8th, 2013: Close GTMO Now!

Until Chris Hayes spoke so strongly and eloquently about the ongoing hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, I was completely unaware that it was happening.

“…of the 166 detainees left at Guantanamo over half of them have already been cleared for release, meaning that the government does not have a case against them and does not think they pose a threat to the United States. And yet they languish at the prison at Guantanamo…The dozens of men who have been cleared by the United States government for release should be released immediately, should be paid restitution, and offered legal residence in the United States.

If that sounds radical or outside the boundaries of political feasibility, I would say that shoving tubes up the noses of men a few times a day to force them to stay alive in our prisons, even though we readily admit we have to no reason to continue to keep them, is pretty damn radical, too.

According to a Miami Herald article from March 3rd,

“Under that procedure[force-feeding], military medical staff strap a captive into a feeding chair and pump a can of Ensure nutritional supplement into each man’s stomach through his nose twice a day.

President Obama issued an executive order to close the Guantanamo detention facility back in 2009, and has stated:

“It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it. I want to be very clear that our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for the remaining Guantanamo detainees that cannot be transferred.”

It is abundantly clear that the political grandstanding and fear-mongering are blocking such a goal. However, since 2009, President Obama seems to have put the detainee issue on the back burner. And despite the undeniable fact that 86 of the 166 remaining detainees have been cleared for release, and the majority of the other detainees have not even been officially charged with anything, there are plenty of idiots (mostly Republican) who still believe that these prisoners are the “worst of the worst” terrorists. These idiots also seem to suffer under the delusion that if Guantanamo is closed down, the prisoners will be let loose into the streets of America, even though there have been offers from States with empty prisons to take in any or all of them if necessary. However, continued incarceration of most or all of the prisoners is unthinkable to any sane and humane person.

The detainee hunger strike has been going on since about February 6th. RT news has a timeline from that date through April 6th (in reverse chronological order.)

Groups such as Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, are all calling for the detention center to be shut down. From John Knefel at Rolling Stone, Pillay says:

“The continuing indefinite incarceration of many of the detainees amounts to arbitrary detention.” “The United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold.”

In the meantime, according to the Huffington Post, the press is being blocked from access to the prison base; worse, due to the sequester cuts, even some of the detainees’ lawyers are unable to see their clients, with military flights to Guantanamo being cut back in frequency. Yet, prior to the sequester, the DoD had requested approximate $250,000,000 in funding to upgrade the facility and additional building – why?

The United States of America gave up its moral high ground when we went to war in Iraq based on a lie. We cannot continue this treatment of, if it weren’t for the thrice-damned PATRIOT Act, “prisoners of war.” The detainees who have been cleared for release MUST be released, and the others either charged and tried in civilian courts or released as well. This blackest stain on our country must be cleansed.

If/when the hunger strikes start to gain real national attention, perhaps that simmering pot on the back burner will start to boil over.

This is an Open Thread. What’s on your mind today?

“Torture Works” vs. “I Make Up Stories”

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Dick Cheney has been trying to tell us that torture works (okay, he still refuses to use the word “torture”, but in the interests of accuracy and clarity, I will substitute the word “torture” for any other euphemism they may utilize), that we gained valuable intelligence from its use, and that “it saved lives.” Did it, Dick? Did it really save lives? Or did it cost lives? American lives? Americans in uniform? Did your insistence on the use, and staunch defense, of a series of illegally-authorized interrogation techniques, which were based on methods known to elicit false confessions, actually end up getting one or more of our soldiers killed?

Thanks to the ACLU, we now know that Dick Cheney was lying through his gritting teeth when he said we received valuable intelligence through the use of torture, particularly in the case of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (also, and more conveniently, known as “KSM”.) He claimed that intel “saved lives.” Given Dick’s well-documented history of spreading falsehoods, I have every reason in the world to believe that not only was this statement a lie, it was actually the opposite of the truth. I have reason to believe that people died because of the information we gained through torture. And the reason is a very simple one. KSM himself said, in his statement at his “Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing” (Pg 15):

I ah cannot remember now…I be under questioning so-many statement which been some them l make up stories just location UBL. Continue reading

Ari Melber: Rove & Cheney Betting On Another Attack

Ari Melber states, “What you have here is Bush’s aides attacking Barack Obama and Joe Biden on Security, and it is really disgusting.”  “What they have been doing is betting on another attack.” And “you have a Red Cross Report out this week saying that the Bush Administration tortured at Guantanamo.”

CNN Sanchez: Amy Goodman on Barack Obama

Amy Goodman speaks on the first African-American president-elect Barack Obama visiting the White House which was built by slaves. President Bush’s use of well over 1,000 signing statements and President Obama signing an executive order to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It’s Not Torture…Oh Yes It Is!

Christopher Hitchens (of Salon and Vanity Fair) decided that he needed to see what this whole waterboarding thing is all about. So he signed on to get himself waterboarded.

From the Vanity Fair article, here are some snips of what he wrote:

…I was very gently yet firmly grabbed from behind, pulled to my feet, pinioned by my wrists (which were then cuffed to a belt), and cut off from the sunlight by having a black hood pulled over my face.

The outside world seemed very suddenly very distant indeed.

Arms already lost to me, I wasn’t able to flail as I was pushed onto a sloping board and positioned with my head lower than my heart. (That’s the main point: the angle can be slight or steep.)

You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure.

Now, imagine, if you will, this same experience knowing that you are not in friendly hands, that they will not stop when you say so, that you have no idea when they will stop and once they do, they will throw you into a cell, possibly naked, freezing, with music blaring at unnerving levels. You may or may not have a black hood over your head for days at a time. You may or may not be handcuffed to the bars of your cell, or to some railing. You may or may not have something shoved up your ass. And you have no idea if or when it will ever stop.

What did Hitchens think about his experience?

I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.

If only Hitchens might have tried this some time ago. I can’t say I love this guy, he did his fair share of supporting this criminal regime. Better late than never, I suppose.

UPDATE 7/3: AlterNet has a great take on Hitchens experience. Read it here.

Are you proud of what your government is doing in your name. No? Contact your elected officials. Tell them what you think.

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Two Rights Making a Wrong

From CBS News:

(AP) Attorneys for at least 40 Guantanamo Bay prisoners have been barred from visiting or writing their clients because of a judge’s order dismissing legal challenges to the men’s confinement, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.

A Justice Department lawyer informed the attorneys of the new restrictions in an e-mail that cited Thursday’s dismissal of their cases by District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina in Washington.

Challenges are still pending for dozens of other detainees with the Supreme Court set to consider whether Congress had the right to strip the prisoners of the right to contest their confinement with petitions of habeas corpus.  [emphasis added]

Let’s see, who do we have on the Supreme Court these days?  Roberts? Alito? Scalia? Thomas?

I keep imagining how much money this country would save if we simply did away with habeas corpus altogether.  No more need for these expensively stupid trials to actually determine if a person is guilty or innocent!

[Photo courtesy of kleinmatt.  Used by permission.]