America, land of the free, home of the brave, promoter of torture. Guantánamo bay detention centre was all over the media a few years back, but it has slowly slipped back under the media radar. The media can’t be entirely blamed, there’s so many horrible things happening all over the world, all of the time, that not all of it can be covered. And we can take some blame ourselves: if punters are easily bored, why would the media keep harping on about the same old subject.
I wasn’t going to write much initially, but I started reading about Guantánamo in more depth and thought I should play my teeny, tiny part in bringing this political abortion back to life again. It’s recently come back into the news with the controversial trade of American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners at the camp a couple of months back.
Guantánamo was opened in January 2002 in Cuba to hold people connected with Bush’s opponents in his shonky Global War on Terror. It held almost exclusively people from Afghanistan, Iraq, the horn of Africa and South East Asia. It’s been running for more than a decade and apparently costs just $1 million per prisoner per year. Bargain.
The US of A’s Office of Legal Council and Department of Justice ruled that the camp was outside of US legal jurisdiction. This basically handed a carte blanche to the camp’s operators, and assured no come back for Bush and his administration of sadists. A few years on and the Supreme Court gave prisoners some minimal protections, but nothing much to speak of.
In 2006 the UN called for it to be closed due to reports of abuse and torture, but the attempt failed. America are so powerful that they don’t have to listen anymore. Bush himself appointed Susan J Crawford to review practices within the complex and even she said, in an interview, that Mohammed al-Qahtani was tortured. So there is no doubt that this goes on. Whatever the US government says, it is irrefutable and barbaric.
One of Obama’s pledges before coming to power was that he would shut it down, he has made moves to try to hurry it’s decline. All have failed. Congress won’t budge.
As of March 2013 there were 166 detainees, and in total 779 men have spent some time there. Sefton Hall University Law School reviewed Department of Defence (DoD) data in 2005 for 517 of the prisoners. What they found was shocking, as if we weren’t shocked enough already: 86% of prisoners weren’t even captured by the US, they were handed over by Pakistanis and Afghans for a bounty. The US military widely distributed flyers offering $5,000 for terrorist infidels. There’s a lot of people I know that I would happily send to jail for five grand. This does not seem like any kind of meaningful method for rounding up elite terrorists and locking them up without trial. The leaflets had promises like this written on them:
You can receive millions of dollars for helping the anti-Taliban force catch al-Qaeda and Taliban murderers. This is enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life — pay for livestock and doctors and school books and housing for all your people.
Reports of torture, neglect and coercion are rife. A report by the Red Cross mentions “humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions” among other shady operations. The US government sweepingly rejected the Red Cross’ findings. A leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross also mentioned exposure to loud noise or music, prolonged extreme temperatures and beatings.
In a New York Times interview, an FBI agent was quoted as saying…
On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times, they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more.
Many released prisoners have complained of enduring beatings, sleep deprivation, prolonged constraint in uncomfortable positions, prolonged hooding, sexual and cultural humiliation, forced injections, and other physical and psychological mistreatment during their detention.
It is important to remind ourselves at this point that these people are mostly not terrorists, many, if not the majority are blameless and have no knowledge of terrorism at all. The New York Times reported that of the hundreds of detainees, no more than 24 were closely linked to al-Qaeda, and that only very limited information could have been received from questioning, however harsh.
I always like to give both sides to a story though, so here’s a quote from Dick Cheney in 2005:
There isn’t any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we’re treating these people. They’re living in the tropics. They’re well fed. They’ve got everything they could possibly want.
He has such a well suited forename doesn’t he?
The “Tipton Three” – you may remember from the news, three UK citizens who were locked in Guantánamo for a couple of years after no trial. They were eventually repatriated to the UK and released without charge the next day. They claim that they were repeatedly punched, kicked, slapped, forcibly injected with drugs, deprived of sleep, hooded, photographed naked, and subjected to full cavity searches, and religious and sexual humiliations.
These guys are holding people prisoner for no reason, with no trial and torturing them, and we’re all letting it happen.
I’ll end with a quote from living legend, Noam Chomsky:
If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.