Gitmo Ten Years On: Our Untreated, Open Wound:
Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of the first prisoners arriving at the detention camp at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The fact that the camp still exists to keep 171 detainees in a legal limbo is a stain on our nation. And it matters, desperately so. How can we act outraged and self-righteous about Marines allegedly pissing on Taliban fighter corpses when Gitmo exists? And the Gitmo-ization of our entire legal system continues, with the barest outrage at the militarization of local police forces. Over at Guantanamo Bay, as reported in the Washington Post today, the prisoners are still treated as imminent threats. Their written communications with their military lawyers are subject to scrutiny, in violation of attorney-client privilege, and the lawyers, who, again, are members of the military with security clearance, are outraged.
Mostly, though, the United States couldn't give a shit less about Gitmo. But it's an infection that has eaten away at us in ways that we can't even comprehend, ignoring it like a wound that is left untreated.
The Rude Pundit's Almanack includes this takedown of our detention policies (posted here with some revisions and updates):
When it comes to some principles, like those enshrined in things like the Magna Carta or the Constitution, you shouldn’t care who the hell is in the White House. Here’s a basic one: A president should not have the power to detain people without charge. On the left, we screamed like banshees who had stubbed our toes during the Bush administration over the imprisonment without charge or trial of hundreds of people at the Guantánamo Naval Base. But that noise has died down considerably since the election of Barack Obama, even though the policy has not really changed, and, in fact, Obama has embraced most of the imperial presidency powers that Bush got a prone-and-willing Congress to give him. Both presidents want you to believe that they should have such sweeping authority simply because you can trust them.
The Bush administration demonstrated, on a nearly monthly basis, why such trust is about as valuable as the information gotten from nearly every person ever kept at Gitmo:
On January 27, 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney said on ABC’s This Week with Sam Donaldson: “These are bad people. I mean, they’ve already been screened before they get to Guantánamo.”
By October 28, 2002, the first four detainees were released.
On July 17, 2003, in a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President George W. Bush claimed, “[T]he only thing I know for certain is that these are bad people.”
On July 18, 2003, twenty-seven of those bad people were sent back to their home countries.
(You can see the pattern, here, no? It pretty much continued like that, even into the second term of our Bush/Cheney nightmare.)
On June 13, 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney informed Sean Hannity on Fox "news," “The important thing here to understand is that the people that are at Guantánamo are bad people. I mean, these are terrorists for the most part. These are people that were captured in the battlefield of Afghanistan or rounded up as part of the Al Qaeda network. We’ve already screened the detainees there and released a number, sent them back to their home countries. But what’s left is hardcore.”
On July 20, 2005, eight hardcore detainees were released or sent to their home countries.
Even at the end of their years in office, they were insisting that “oh, hey, now it’s just really, really bad awful worst o’ the worstest people that ever walked the earth.”
During a December 15, 2008 interview with Jonathan Karl, Vice President Dick Cheney offered, “Guantánamo has been the repository, if you will, of hundreds of terrorists, or suspected terrorists, that we’ve captured since 9/11. They—many of them, hundreds, have been released back to their home countries. What we have left is the hardcore. Their cases are reviewed on an annual basis to see whether or not they’re still a threat, whether or not they’re still intelligence value in terms of continuing to hold them. But—and we're down now to some 200 being held at Guantánamo. But that includes the core group, the really high-value targets like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.” Despite his self-correction in the first sentence there, he also called them “200 al-Qaeda terrorists” later in the interview.
On December 16, 2008, three al-Qaeda terrorists were sent back to their home countries.
On January 13, 2009, Cheney told radio host and gambling man Bill Bennett, regarding the detainees at Gitmo, “Now what’s left, that is the hardcore.” Which, if you’re paying attention, is almost exactly what he said to Sean Hannity in 2005, which was over a hundred released detainees ago.
On January 17, 2009, six more of the hardcore were sent back to their home countries. That was just a couple of days before Barack Obama was inaugurated, so did they intentionally release criminals just to fuck with the new administration?
After 9/11, the White House fed us this line about the terrible people we held in a place where they couldn’t harm us. Anyone who questioned these actions was called an anti-American terrorist-enabler by the right. Until Hurricane Katrina blew the ski masks off the entire bunch of thugs who ran the country, the mainstream media mostly just went along with the White House line when, right in front of them, was the trickle of released detainees, which demonstrated, conclusively, that George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and others were lying. And no one of any authority, like, say, Congress or even just the Democrats, held them to account for it.
Now, not only do we still have Gitmo and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan but, in Congress, both Democrats and Republicans blocked the closing of Guantanamo by voting to deny funds for that purpose, including any funds for bringing detainees to the United States for trial. If this had been the Bush White House, that would have been seen as something akin to treason for not allowing the Commander-in-Chief to command.
By the way, on May 12, 2009, talking about Gitmo again, Dick Cheney told Fox "news" host Neil Cavuto, “The ones that are remaining, about 245, are the hardcore, the worst of the worst.” At least someone in this world is consistent until the bitter end.
Oh, on May 15, 2009, Lakhdar Boumedienne was freed.