Sunday, April 23, 2006

Editorial: Remember Guantanamo

Will we nuke Iran? Will Rumsfeld be forced out? Is Scotty crying in some niche bar in Austin over his firing?

So many questions, such a whirlwind of news. Tel Aviv knocked events in Iraq off the front page last week.

Guantanamo? It wasn't even news to The New York Times that two prisoners (Abu Bakker Qassim and A'del Abdu Al-Hakim), cleared by the US but still held, couldn't get a hearing in front of the Supreme Court.

Haider Rizvi's "Rumsfeld Linked to Guantanamo Torture:"

NEW YORK -- A leading international human rights group is calling for the Bush administration to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the alleged involvement of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior Pentagon officials in the torture of a prisoner at Guanatanamo Bay some three years ago.
Rumsfeld could be criminally liable under federal or military law for the abuse and torture of detainee Mohammad al-Qahtani in late 2002 and early 2003, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said this week as some Democratic lawmakers demanded that Rumsfeld step down as Pentagon chief.

[. . .]
Last week, a military report obtained by included a statement by Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt that raises serious questions about the conduct of the Pentagon chief and other officials concerning al-Qahtani's interrogation. In the report, Gen. Schmidt says Rumsfeld was "talking weekly" with Gen. Geoffrey Miller, a senior commander at Guantanamo in early 2003, about the al-Qahtani interrogation, and that he was "personally involved in the interrogation of (this) one person."
Schmidt's statement also signals that Rumsfeld maintained a high level of knowledge of and supervision over al-Qahtani's treatment, although he did not specifically order more abusive methods used in the interrogation.

Austria's foreign minister, Ursula Plassnik, has joined the ranks of those calling for the closure of Guantanamo.

And Reuters notes the following:

Nearly 30 percent of the Guantanamo detainees have been cleared to leave the prison but remain jailed because the U.S. government has been unable to arrange for their return to their home countries, the Pentagon said on Friday.
The Pentagon refused to identify these 141 men despite having released on Wednesday its first comprehensive list of detainees held at the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Are you getting disgusted yet? The prison was set up with rules that are contrary to way the American justice system is supposed to work. People have been held for years. If that wasn't enough to disgust you, what about the fact that 30 percent should be gone but aren't?

We call them "prisoners," not "detainees." Detainees shouldn't be held for months, let alone years. We also don't think it's a "prison" or "detention center." We agree with Amnesty's call, it's a gulag.

But in the news cycle, with a new revelation or scandal on the administration every 24 hours (Condi Rice leaked classified information to former AIPAC lobbyist Steven Rosen, maintains Rosen's attorney), Guantanamo often can't get traction. It's too bad because we'd guess that among the many shameful actions of the current administration, when history is written, Guantanamo will rank near the top. (Our guess is the illegal war will rank number one, then Guantanamo, then Bully Boy's warrentless spying on Americans.)

We also think this will be the hardest to explain to future generations: how year after year, the gulag continued -- despite the beliefs America is supposed to work under. Yet in real time, it's the first story the mainstream press loses interest in. And Guantanamo isn't even the worst gulag the US government is operating. As Amnesty noted:

As the most visible part of this iceberg (although still operated behind a veil of secrecy), Guantánamo is also serving as a diversion. Its continued existence is distracting public attention and diverting legal resources from the greater mass of detentions elsewhere. Perhaps this fits the US administration’s ends for those other detentions, which it wishes also to keep unscrutinized. Indeed, just as the courts are beginning to reassert a degree of scrutiny over the Guantánamo detainees, the executive may be looking to transfer large numbers of detainees to other locations for continued detention there. The US government must not be allowed to outsource its unlawful detention practices to other governments or to other agencies in order to bypass judicial scrutiny in its own courts. The rule of law must be reestablished.
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