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Gitmo is killing me
April 14, 2013 9:59 PM   Subscribe

Gitmo is killing me. An op-ed written by a prisoner on hunger strike in his 11th year at Guantanamo Bay.
posted by disillusioned (98 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is what we voted for, folks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:33 PM on April 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


I was watching a really interesting documentary on My Lai earlier today. When the Americans first landed in Vietnam, they were playing with the kids and handing out candy and playing games. The first impression that some villagers had was that our soldiers were very likable. After a few months in the jungle, sustaining heavy casualties from mines and snipers - they could not see the enemy - the men of Charlie Company sort of lost their minds, burning everything and killing any man, woman or child that crossed their path.

The My Lai massacre didn't go public for over a year; this shit in Gitmo has been going for over a decade. The silence from the Obama administration on this issue is deafening.

The things that this country has done from a place of pain. Perhaps there is not that much that differentiates us from the military superpowers that preceded us, but my God, the power we have. There is no country that will invade Cuba to break these prisoners free. If a solution doesn't come from within, it simply never will come. Just be grateful your predecessors gave you the right to vote and the right to a speedy and public trial, where you are informed of the accusations against you and you can call witnesses. It is really one of the few things that separates us from total insanity.
posted by phaedon at 10:43 PM on April 14, 2013 [10 favorites]


Gitmo needs to be shut down, though I suppose I'm preaching to the choir. There's no need for it. Everyone deserves the right to a fair trial, even if they're not U.S. citizens. This is sad.
posted by Malice at 10:47 PM on April 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


In 2009:
The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to cut from a war spending bill the $80 million requested by President Obama to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to bar the transfer of detainees to the United States and its territories.
Here is a breakdown of the 90 to 6 vote. The only Senators to vote for funding the closure were:
Richard J. Durbin
Tom Harkin
Patrick J. Leahy
Carl Levin
Jack Reed
Sheldon Whitehouse
I'm in no way implying that Obama is guilt-free in this. It's hard to know whether to be angrier at the people who would never do the right thing about this, or the people who might have but didn't.

I guess I'm just posting this because I can't stand seeing this sitting here with no comments. I wish dunkadunc was still around here to yell at us — it'd be better than the silence.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:48 PM on April 14, 2013 [21 favorites]


Disgusting.

I just wrote a letter to my senator (Warren, D MA), asking her to take new action to close GITMO. If you're an American, please do the same - you are complicit in this human rights abuse every day that we are holding people without affording them due process and treating them cruelly. Let's end it.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:05 PM on April 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thank you for posting this. I'll be sharing it with apologists for the U.S. government and Obama administration when they continue to spit lies about 'change' in my direction.
posted by item at 11:08 PM on April 14, 2013


So Obama has to keep them prisoner because the military can't afford the money to not lock them up? C'mon now. We're not that dumb.
posted by ryanrs at 11:08 PM on April 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, I'm pretty sure they think we are.
posted by item at 11:13 PM on April 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


because the military can't afford the money to not lock them up

Nah, that's just the reason that it's nobody's fault.
posted by pompomtom at 11:15 PM on April 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


How Guantanamo Bay's Existence Helps Al-Qaeda Recruit More Terrorists
posted by kliuless at 11:18 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


How Guantanamo Bay's Existence Helps Al-Qaeda Recruit More Terrorists

Hey wow, there's a whole article after that. Seems like overkill, once you've read the title.
posted by pompomtom at 11:23 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


What was the "work" in Afghanistan he thought he was going to do? The work that led him away from Yemen in the first place, the work he now realizes was a mistake?

Funny how nobody seems to ask questions like this.

The "just like the American movies" line slays me. A little too on the nose there, huh? It's just a PR-massaged op-ed without any context from the NY Times, the same outlet that gave us Judith Miller. Next.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:29 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not hard to find that info, which is actually on the NYT site. Here's the main subsite; the "Detainees" link at the top leads to info on each of the prisoners.
posted by taz at 11:38 PM on April 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Gitmo is killing all of us. Places like Gitmo, and the crimes against humanity that are perpetrated in those places, are abominations that will forever stain the history and heritage of the USA, and which will leave an enduring stamp of fear, hatred, pain, and corruption on our society and on the communities of every person who is imprisoned and tortured in such places -- as well as being unconscionable, horriffic, inexcusable atrocities against the fundamental decency and humanity of the individuals upon whom these horrors are directly inflicted.

This is the world we live in. The people who run this horrorshow, who make these crimes happen, come from every level of our society -- everyone from soldiers all the way up to the president and the wealthy elite whose power and influence steers the course of national and international policy in this country. It is happening all the time, it is happening right now. When you get up tomorrow it will still be happening. It makes me feel sick and ashamed.
posted by Scientist at 11:41 PM on April 14, 2013 [18 favorites]


Obama is the Chief Executive of the USA, as well as the Commander in Chief of its armed forces. He claims to be fighting a war, which means that his authority as CinC is at its absolute maximum. He's a second-term President, which means that he doesn't even have the selfish concern of winning a future election.

I don't actually believe that the CinC using his war powers couldn't close Guantanamo Bay if he thought it was a liability. But he doesn't even need to do that: he could just let the prisoners go. He could bring them into the USA and have them arrested under civilian jurisdiction. He could give them a military trial and acknowledge that many of them would be found innocent. He has lots of choices.

People have been making the same excuse for Obama ever since he was elected - I made it myself! Surely it's worn thin by now. He's a big boy. he's been making his own choices all along. Those prisoners are in Guantanamo because he wants them there, and that's the end of it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:41 PM on April 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yes, because he has a magic wand he can wave.

I'm no apologist, but come now.
posted by incessant at 11:44 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Incessant, I don't think you understand what supreme executive and military authority mean. There's very little that a USAn President can't do, especially in time of war.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:48 PM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


What was the "work" in Afghanistan he thought he was going to do? The work that led him away from Yemen in the first place, the work he now realizes was a mistake?

Funny how nobody seems to ask questions like this.


There are all sorts of people who think any suspicion, no matter how slight, is worth any amount of damage caused to the suspect, no matter how great.

It's not even guilty until proven innocent - it's guilty if there's even the slightest doubt that you're innocent.

That's a morally abhorrent position.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:48 PM on April 14, 2013 [28 favorites]


CPB: Funny how nobody seems to ask questions like this.

Yeah, it would be cool if you know like the government could ask questions like that by GIVING HIM A FUCKING TRIAL.

And I also wonder how far an executive order could go on Gitmo...
posted by kaibutsu at 11:49 PM on April 14, 2013 [21 favorites]


We can have an argument about power, politics, war, and the Presidency, or I can just leave it as: I think you're wrong, you think I'm wrong, but either way Gitmo is fucked up and Obama is one person to blame but not the only person to blame.
posted by incessant at 11:50 PM on April 14, 2013


If Mr. Obama had made any serious attempt to remedy Guantanamo Bay, you might possibly believe that he really wanted it to go away.

But his best proposal was to keep the indefinite detention without trial, and simply move the site of the prison to the United States - numerous sources linked from here. This was, quite rightly, opposed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle because no one wanted to set the precedent of indefinite detention on US soil (or in the Republican case, because the scary terrorists would call everyone).
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:56 PM on April 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


He has lots of choices.

Yeah, like being the guy who exercises his executive privilege without any real political support to release a suspected terrorist into the wild, only to have said person, after 10 years of detention, plan an attack against the United States. Or at the very least, show up on 60 Minutes talking about what it's like to be force-fed, strapped to a chair, calling for Obama's impeachment and encouraging a top-down review of America's national security measures. Thanks, Obama.

Yeah, the President has a lot of choices, very few of which don't involve political suicide. It's part of the problem, if you ask me. These prisoners are untouchables.
posted by phaedon at 12:02 AM on April 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Those prisoners are in Guantanamo because he [Barack Obama] wants them there, and that's the end of it.

I don't like GitMo, and I don't like my President's policy of not closing it, especially since he said he would.

That said, I know that saying his personal desires are the "end of it" when it comes to why GitMo is still open is incredibly simplistic and wrong. It ain't that simple - there's a lot of complex industries and forces at work that cause this shitty thing to continue. Barack Obama's personal preferences aren't the only reason.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:04 AM on April 15, 2013


Lacking a time machine, it is impossible to guarantee that anybody in the entire world will not commit an act of terrorism sometime in the future. That being said, I suspect that a hunger-striker weighing 132 pounds who has been incarcerated for a decade is probably too weak, too old, and too disconnected from any terrorist groups existing today to be much of a risk.

As for the risk of this guy turning up on 60 Minutes talking about his treatment - why is this a bad thing? For the USA I mean, not for anyone responsible for that treatment.

And as for political suicide - you do understand that Obama can no longer run for President? I suppose he could run for Congress or something, but you'd have to be very cynical indeed to think that this is a proper motive for consigning people to the oubliette.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:12 AM on April 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


Power doesn't just extend from the lever of a voting booth, Joe, and political disaster can strike down a presidency even as it's in the sunset of its last term, killing chances to accomplish other things. Presidents choose their battles, they can't do everything they want to do, they prioritize. Closing it would be a fight, and a President can only have one or two fights at a time. I have no clue if Obama does or does not want Gitmo open -- but I do know that the fact that it remains open has little to do with Obama and a whole lot to do with the US military and the American political system.
posted by incessant at 12:20 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hate Gitmo, but that 90-6 Senate bill vote is just damning. I would love Obama to do a let's-stop-this-bullshit-now executive order, but in terms of political suicide, it's not reelection, it's the midterms. And the future of the democratic party.

My beef with Obama is that he could at least try to use the bully pulpit to turn around this issue in the public mind; outside of that, look, background checks almost died in the legislature after the massacre at Newtown. The U.S. has a strong contingent of just plain crazy.
posted by angrycat at 12:24 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can't help but make me think of me think of Bobby Sands. Not an endorsement of the IRA, but it kind of explains the force feeding at Gitmo, IMO.
posted by twiggy32 at 12:36 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


List of things for Obama to do after midterm elections, using executive orders, etc:

1. ∞

I mean, c'mon. There are infinity things that I'd like to see changed under his administration. Closing Gitmo would be in the top 100. But so would campaign finance reform. Universal healthcare. Getting rid of for-profit prisons and the draconian laws that keep them filled. IP reform. Getting rid of the Second Amendment. The pony requests from me and every other person who voted for him are endless. That's why I treasure every victory he does achieve, because there are so many conflicting interests battling against him on Every. Single. Issue.

Of course, if y'all would be smart enough to elect me Benevolent Despot For Life, I can guarantee that things would be a lot better for the vast majority of the country. But that just ain't gonna happen. So until it does, we're stuck with this very imperfect system.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:50 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


> And the future of the democratic party.

Honestly, what's the point of voting Democrat if the only thing they're good at is "the future of the democratic party"? Who really cares about that?

Considering the miserable record of the Democratic party on such issues as climate change, the rise of the permanently unemployed, Wall Street reform, the rule of law, the surveillance state, the endless foreign wars, the drug wars, government transparency, and all the other things that historians will remember as the chief issues of the twenty-first century, I think we can rightly say that considerations of the "future of the democratic party" trump considerations about the future of the country as a whole every time.

The idea that we have to treasure the tiny little victories that we get is pathetic. We needed a home run, we didn't even get a single.

Regardless, considering that almost no one voted for a third party in the last election, and that both parties agree more or less entirely on Guantanamo, I cannot dispute the claims above - that Americans almost universally agree that they have the absolute right to simply detain people in internment camps for the rest of their lives, some of whom are obviously innocent and none of whom have had anything like a fair trial, despite international law, despite United Nations condemnation.

So if you voted Democrat or Republican last election - this one is on you. This issue was not important enough for you to vote against it. You might have cared somewhat, but you simply did not care about this issue enough to change your vote away from either of the parties who continue to run this internment camp.

The moral responsibility for this atrocity lies on the American people. And I hope it keeps you up at night.

Really, America, why do you bother with the Democrats? America is clearly determined to destroy all the things that were good about itself - the New Deal, the Rule of Law, the Land of Opportunity Where Anyone Can Make It, fairness, justice and the American Way. The Republicans are destroying it quickly, the Democrats a little slower - and both parties have made absolutely sure that there is no way out of this, no way to relieve the pressure.

You'd probably be better off if the collapse were sooner, as you might still have some resources left. I really think you'd be better off if everyone voted Republican hard, over and over again, until it all goes down. Yes, millions will be very badly hurt, but the longer it goes on, the worse the damage will be, and even more millions will be hurt.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:02 AM on April 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


As for the risk of this guy turning up on 60 Minutes talking about his treatment - why is this a bad thing? For the USA I mean, not for anyone responsible for that treatment.

We're not talking about why this is bad thing, we're talking about why Obama isn't closing GITMO and releasing anyone.

That being said, I suspect that a hunger-striker weighing 132 pounds who has been incarcerated for a decade is probably too weak, too old, and too disconnected from any terrorist groups existing today to be much of a risk.

Good lord man, a nobody selling fruit sets himself on fire one day, and what follows is an unprecedented chain of protests and revolution that is still being felt through the entire Arab world, not the least of which is Syria.

If you're conflating "what Obama wants" with "what would constitute a major dent in the Pax Americana," then yes, I agree with you that there is no fucking way GITMO is closing. Beyond that, I cannot speculate to a particular person's motives (be that the President or anyone else), and don't really care to discuss it.
posted by phaedon at 1:06 AM on April 15, 2013


Good lord man, a nobody selling fruit sets himself on fire one day, and what follows is an unprecedented chain of protests and revolution that is still being felt through the entire Arab world, not the least of which is Syria.

Fear not: the USA has far better population control than Syria.
posted by pompomtom at 1:09 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't actually believe that the CinC using his war powers couldn't close Guantanamo Bay if he thought it was a liability.

In fact, what makes GITMO politically viable is the very fact that these people are detained indefinitely, essentially charged with nothing and have no communication with the outside world. There's no process to review. Totally black. There's no telling what would happen if that changed.

The only way GITMO would become a liability is if someone tried to close it. Outside of that, I'm not aware of any international pressures the United States currently gives a shit about.
posted by phaedon at 1:29 AM on April 15, 2013


What I'm curious about is the specific conditions that render these particular remaining 166 (of 779) detainees more of a threat (or unplaceable) than ones who have already been released, who decides that, and who specifically has the power to transfer detainees. I'm not asking this rhetorically, but practically. Is there specific information about this? For example, I have read that Yemen, for one, is a country that cannot or will not guarantee continuing monitoring of returned detainees. Yet, 22 detainees were transferred to Yemen between 2004 and 2010, and according to closeguantanamo.org, transfers to Yemen ceased because of the "underwear bomber." Can Obama himself not lift this moratorium? (again, actual sincere question.)

Since some detainees are returned, who is it, or what body is it that can actually effect these decisions? The chart on this NYT page shows only 16 "High-value detainees." An old Andy Worthington post says "Even so, it should be noted that judges do not actually have the power to order the government to release prisoners, even if, as in Ali Ahmed’s case, they have established, 'by a preponderance of the evidence,' that he should never have been detained in the first place." So, if a court does recognize that a detainee should be released, and a joint task force established for this purpose actually clears an individual (or 86 of them), yet neither body has the power to release them, who does give that order? Maybe this is obvious, but I can't figure it out.

I thought that it was the Administrative Review Board (whoever they are), but this wikipedia page says, "According to an article from the International Herald Tribune from April 22, 2006 the ARB had determined three detainees could be released and 107 detainees could be repatriated to the custody of their home country, yet they still remained in Guantanamo.[42] U.S. officials said their continued detention was due to concerns the detainees might be tortured or killed if they were returned or repatriated."

So, I guess my question is... who are these "U.S. officials" exactly?
posted by taz at 1:35 AM on April 15, 2013


At the risk of pointing out the bleeding obvious, Gitmo is just scratching the surface of the massive cognitive dissonance between a wider American public that unconciously considers itself the land of the free and the reality that democratically, legally, in its foreign policy and justice system, the US is no beacon of freedom, justice and democracy.

The conditions under which prisoners are held are influenced by the way the wider justice system has become more punitive, destructive and dehumanising in the past few decades. When the benchmark for high security prisoners and the wider prison population is set so low, it almost requires Gitmo to be worse, harsher and more dehumanising.

The political view that these men are innately and permanently dangerous is echoed again in the wider justice system, where the balance of thinking has shifted clearly from rehabilitation and release to just mopping up undesirables and locking them away. Because of the absurd way political campaigns are financed, conducted and reported it is virtually impossible for a politician - assuming they wanted to - to turn this situation back without falling prey to well-funded accusations that they were soft on crime or soft on terrorism.

The wider American public does not want to know about this man and his feeding tube. It does not want to deal with either the festering sore of Gitmo, nor the tumerous justice system that grows like a cancer in poor communities. To do so involves a level of political will, soul searching and ultimately the destruction of the modern day mythology about how_great_America_is that many Americans are unready for.

Ironically, I suspect China will prove to be the turning point. Eventually. As the UK and other European countries have had to, America will first fight and dispute that its importance and its ability to project power is diminishing. In small cuts of the knife it will be politically humiliated, disobeyed, ignored and outnumbered at various points. It will have to have the conversation about what kind of country it wants to be in an era when it is neither the sole the superpower, nor the leading superpower. It may lead to a new form of politics - and a new breed of politician - who decide that America is explicitly a not-China, where it actually distinguishes globally itself by projecting democracy, equality and freedom of ideas from within. At the same time, America will need to move closer to more progressive democracies in Europe or populist governments in South America to shore up support for its leadership on the world stage and to compete with China and India.

But until then? Closing Gitmo was an explicit policy statement of Obama's. As long as America is squarely divided between those who trend reactionary and those who trend progressive there are only so many battles domestically that he is willing to fight.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:47 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


At least in Those Who Walk Away From Omelas, all the other inhabitants lead blessed lives.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:32 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


"So Obama has to keep them prisoner because the military can't afford the money to not lock them up? C'mon now. We're not that dumb."

"I'm in no way implying that Obama is guilt-free in this."

"I don't actually believe that the CinC using his war powers couldn't close Guantanamo Bay if he thought it was a liability. But he doesn't even need to do that: he could just let the prisoners go. He could bring them into the USA and have them arrested under civilian jurisdiction. He could give them a military trial and acknowledge that many of them would be found innocent. He has lots of choices."
So this is just super basic fucking American civics. The Executive Branch of the Government of the United States, ie: the President, his Staff, and departments, have no authority to spend money that Congress does not explicitly give them. This is one of the primary checks on Executive power that the Legislative branch has, which has been exercised in this way since the Articles of Confederation. Thus, while Obama does theoretically have the discretion to order either the Defense or Justice Departments to transfer the detainees to American soil, he no longer has the authority to spend money on doing so out of the American treasury that funds both the Defense and Justice departments having had that authority explicitly stripped from him by Congress. Regan’s administration thought they were being clever with the Iran/Contra scandal using funds not exactly from the American treasury but in the end shit went down, and should have – because that’s some bullshit our executive branch should not be getting up to. Obama in practice has no more authority to transfer those detainees than the pathetically lonely six senators who share his convictions.

While it might be tempting to think so, American politics is not exclusively a function of the half dozen names you recognize. Obama is really a red herring to any discussion of why Gitmo is not closed.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:42 AM on April 15, 2013 [9 favorites]


Thus, while Obama does theoretically have the discretion to order either the Defense or Justice Departments to transfer the detainees to American soil, he no longer has the authority to spend money on doing so out of the American treasury that funds both the Defense and Justice departments having had that authority explicitly stripped from him by Congress.

Maybe he should ask for donations.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:45 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Maybe he should ask for donations."

Regan tried that once to fund things that Congress didn't want him to do and aren't so popular here. Any attempt to do so, even with some kind of kickstarter bullshit, would be a massive overreach of Executive power. Even if you don't give a shit about our democracy, or the delicate balance of powers it’s based on, presumably you at least care that future Republican Presidents would then be able to do the same right?
posted by Blasdelb at 2:52 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Taz, my understanding is that the rationale and authority under which these detainees are being held has been shifting since they were first captured. This is why it's hard to find a coherent explanation.

The core of the issue is what civil rights these detainees have, particularly whether they are entitled to habeas corpus: the right to have their imprisonment challenged in court. The position of the USAn government was that the USA is not fully sovereign in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base because it is leased from Cuba. Consequently, the government argued, the civil rights assured by the USAn Constitution do not necessarily apply.

This position was rejected in Boumediene v. Bush, which held that the de facto sovereignty exercised by the USA over Guantanamo Bay is enough to grant the detainees civil rights. Since that time (2008) I think the detainees have been given access to lawyers and the ability to seek writs of habeas corpus, but the government has been as disobliging as possible while complying with the law. Also, the Federal Appeals Court has been extremely unfriendly to the detainees' challenges. So nothing much has changed since 2008 in practice, although in theory the detainees now have civil rights.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:00 AM on April 15, 2013


Obama in practice has no more authority to transfer those detainees than the pathetically lonely six senators who share his convictions.

Oh please. Save me the separation of powers thing. In America presidential politics mean everything. If the President makes a political issue of it, it cannot be ignored.

The fact would seem to be that Mr. Obama has NOT made a political issue of this - not since he promised to close Gitmo when campaigning.

"We're going to close Guantanamo. And we're going to restore habeas corpus," Obama says. "We're going to lead by example—not just by word but by deed. That's our vision for the future."

I see how the Drone Ranger has been really throwing down on "gun safety" - because that's good politics for him - but his "leadership" (for want of a better word) has been absent on the matter of Gitmo.

But let's give him a pass because well he's a Democrat and he has convictions.
posted by three blind mice at 3:10 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Blasdelb, I do in fact know about the separation of powers and the Executive's (lack of) power to levy taxes and so forth, but that's a red herring here. Obama doesn't need Congressional authority whenever he wants to do anything; he only needs it to allocate funds for specific purposes. In this case the funds for the armed forces have already been granted: he has soldiers, sailors, ships, planes, and military bases; everything he needs to bring the prisoners to the USA or repatriate them or whatever.

Obama did say that he needed $80,000,000 to close Guantanamo, but that's a pretty transparent tactic to justify their continued detention. In reality he could just tell the guards to let the detainees walk out the door and it would not involve the expenditure of a single penny.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:14 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

Y'all, this is the kind of thing that a decent person would, in a heartbeat, be willing to impale their entire political career on. Do the Democratic true believers realize how empty and circular their logic seems to someone who's not emotionally invested in the national D-R Stratego game (the stakes -- everyone's lives)? The Democrats have to hold on to their political capital so that...the Democrats can stay in power so that...the Democrats can stay in power so that...

I'm not some kind of wanton destruction fetishist who believes everything has to go to hellacious shit before anything can improve. But it's equally untenable to maintain this eternal manichean struggle where the two options are for everyone to get super-fucked or for everyone to get super-super-fucked.

Some things, matters of principle even, really are worth going all in for. If there are two games that we, collectively, get to choose between trying our hand at playing-- Hell on Earth vs. A Just World and Everyone Gets Fucked vs. Everyone Gets Fucked (Now With Eventual Marriage Equality Expansion Pack!)-- at some point we're going to have to give up on ceaselessly feeding coins into the latter game and take a stab at the big prize in the former.

It's not even remotely radical to expect Barack Obama to be ashamed, ashamed, fucking ashamed of letting someone rot for 11 years in prison without a trial when he could easily prevent such. It's something I think almost all of us in this thread would expect as a basic demonstration of humanity from anyone we know. Jesus Christ. The hegemonic understanding of what constitutes basic decency on the part of public figures has swung so deep into the anti-human that I have genuinely no idea how we'll pull it back and it's making me really despondent.
posted by threeants at 3:32 AM on April 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


"Oh please. Save me the separation of powers thing. In America presidential politics mean everything. If the President makes a political issue of it, it cannot be ignored."

No it really doesn't, and yes it really can.

Just because our presidential politics are the only thing you see, doesn't mean it’s the only thing that is real. Obama's authority to use funds allocated to him for this specific purpose has been explicitly revoked, and there is precedent going back to the beginnings of our Constitution supporting Congress' right to do so. This is not a trivial exercise, it is a Supreme Court battle he cannot and should not win.

No matter how much Obama kicks and screams he cannot do anything but make the Republican senators who prevent him from closing Gitmo look better for doing so. He also cannot change the political realities of the Democratic senators who voted against it and who cannot afford to appear to ‘support terrorism’ in their districts, not that there would be quite enough of them anyway. You can change those realities however by getting involved in your local Democratic committees and primary challenges, but before you do it might be a good idea to keep in mind how well the quest for unpopular ideological purity has worked out for Republicans recently. That is if you like the war we aren’t having with Iran, the right to choose, our civil rights to marry those we love, the idea that everyone has a right to health care, the idea that everyone has a right to support in old age, or the idea that the world’s largest economy shouldn’t keep disappearing up the asses of a few thousand rich people.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:42 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think people-- many US Americans being particular culprits-- often labor under the mistaken assumption that there's some sort of physical law dictating inexorable social progress. I'm not a history expert, but it's hard to look at what I do know and not feel that fuck no, every slim inch of progress has been hard, hard won. If we decide it's okay to toss people indefinitely into prison for [reasons], well, it's not at all apparent to me that that's something that will magically fix itself as the Progress Parade marches through. If not now, when? Seriously? Fucking when? I'd apologize for the fact that these words of King's are by now perhaps clichéd, but I can't actually bring myself to apologize for a statement laden with so much ringing truth: "This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never.' We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that 'justice too long delayed is justice denied.'"
posted by threeants at 3:50 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


The teacher who just got into all that shit for having their students write about how Nazi's are evil by projecting themselves into the role of a German propagandist, SHOULD HAVE assigned an essay on how the German People who permitted the concentration camps are comparable to the American People who permit Gitmo.
posted by mikelieman at 3:51 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Remember, we're the good guys."

I can ignore this story if I put a little magnet on my SUV, right?
posted by DigDoug at 4:13 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Call me naive, but our entire constitutional system is of no value if it cannot stop abominations like this. Congress revoked the President's authority to do something he is obligated to do by the Constitution, not to mention by binding treaty obligations and by damned human decency. So which one wins? The procedural brakes or the moral power underpinning the damned enterprise to begin with?

Other countries are not willing to clean up the mess we made, but there are creative ways of dealing with the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay that do not involve spending $80 million. Surely ships and airplanes move in and out of there on a regular basis anyway, and those vessels have excess capacity? Surely arrangements for release or transfer for trial could be negotiated with the host country? It may be "political suicide" to do these things, but if the right to due process isn't worth that cost for a guy who's already a damned millionaire and who doesn't have any better jobs to chase after finishing this one out then who's going to do it?
posted by 1adam12 at 4:33 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Obama did say that he needed $80,000,000 to close Guantanamo, but that's a pretty transparent tactic to justify their continued detention.

I think this is fairly outrageous statement. By the way, if Congress felt compelled to do so, they could have given him 10 times that amount to close Guantanamo. The President submits budget recommendations. For example, Congress recently alloted $100mil more to NASA than Obama asked for. Also, the idea that $80mil is a deal-breaker-tactic-esque sum of money for the government is ridiculous. So what you're suggesting is laughable.

I think people took Obama's preternatural rise to the Presidency as some kind of sign that a new chapter in American politics was about to open up; one in which, as stated above, certain decisions would be made on principle alone, political costs be damned. Tough but necessary decisions, a better America, I'm the fucking President, etc.

I think that has led people to the false conclusion that if GITMO is open, it must be because Obama, at his core, deeply wants it to be so. I personally don't think that's the case. Either way, I don't think it matters. He's either a maniacal liar, his political acumen is low, or his head is so far up the ass of the special interest groups that helped him get elected that he basically has no choice to risk everything on GITMO, for the sake of making progress in other areas. I mean, if you really think Obama has the power to do whatever he wants, you really don't have to look very hard for clusterfuck situations where that has not been the case. *cough bailout*
posted by phaedon at 4:45 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


That is if you like the war we aren’t having with Iran, the right to choose, our civil rights to marry those we love, the idea that everyone has a right to health care, the idea that everyone has a right to support in old age, or the idea that the world’s largest economy shouldn’t keep disappearing up the asses of a few thousand rich people.

The longer Guantanamo Bay exists, the more people don't believe that US institutions care about any of this. Further to that: the longer Guantanamo Bay exists, the more people don't believe that the US people care about any of this.

Also: I think the existence of hunger striking detainees, with forced feedings and beatings, is pretty much contrary to the idea that 'everyone has a right to health care'.

BTW: from an international perspective, the whole: "Well, if you don't like this, how about we start another fucking stupid war?" is weird. I can't think of a better word. It's just weird as fuck. Really: if the US could afford finance a war with Iran, wouldn't it've started by now.
posted by pompomtom at 4:45 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Obama's authority to use funds allocated to him for this specific purpose has been explicitly revoked, and there is precedent going back to the beginnings of our Constitution supporting Congress' right to do so. This is not a trivial exercise

So, on the one hand, the president has the power to order the death of any citizen anywhere without judicial review as part of his war powers in the "War on Terror" (though he prefers to employ some sort of internal pseudo-judicial review) but on the other hand he can't release military prisoners held on foreign soil? (I mean, the idea that Congress can interfere in essential judicial procedure through the power of purse tramples on both the judicial and executive branches vis a vis separation of powers...)

Does anyone really believe that? Can I sell you a bridge, or maybe another war in the middle east?

Now, he might not be authorized to construct a new Gitmo Lite on the mainland but that just exposes the lie at the heart of the Obama issue: he was going to close Gitmo as a symbolic act but still maintain the facilties for extraordinary rendition and detention.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:49 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


"The only reason I am still here is that President Obama refuses to send any detainees back to Yemen. This makes no sense."

...and it's not true, either!

Point of fact: Congress has repeatedly interfered with the Obama administration's efforts to release detainees to other nations. And, sadly, the people running interference are oftentimes fairly bipartisan, because being "tough on terrorism" is a safe bet.

Several members of the GOP even took the step of jamming legislation into the Defense Authorization Bills to make repatriations more difficult... and the Democrats in the House and Senate did little to stop it from happening. Indeed, some helped them do so. At least the POTUS grumbled about it and his people threatened a veto... which everyone knew wasn't going to happen, because -- let's face it -- you can't veto the Defense Authorization Bill during wartime in the run-up to an election.

And the thing is, the Obama administration is actually in the closing process of releasing Yemen's detainees, despite considerable opposition in Congress.

" I spoke with the US Justice Secretary during my visit to the United States. We have agreed that they would hand us over every Yemeni national detained at Guantanamo Bay. We have made arrangements, and we are now moving toward a transfer of detainees under those conditions. I hope we will have this accomplished in the nearest future."
- Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, 4/4/2013

These deals can take a little while to sort out, especially when you've got Congress breathing down your neck, wanting clear reassurances that the conditions of the turning over of prisoners doesn't lead to them going straight to their nearest Al Qaeda recruiting station, as happened previously. That American citizen we killed in Yemen? He was deeply involved in doing exactly that... recruiting former detainees into Al Qaeda. In truth, his death helped make the turning over of Yemen's Guantanamo prisoners politically feasible.

It also doesn't help that Yemen's former President REFUSED TO TAKE THEIR CITIZENS BACK without the US paying what was, essentially, a very large bribe. They also refused to allow them to be turned over to a third party, given the difficult internal security issues and prevalence of Al Qaeda at the time.

"Yemen's President Abdrabu Mansour Hadi has discussed with US officials the cases of the Yemeni detainees, dropping conditions set by the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh for their sending them back to Yemen, media sources had reported. "Saleh demanded $200 million in return for receiving the Yemeni detainees, but the US offered him only $20 million. The two sides could not reach an agreement to release the detainees by then."
So really, blaming everything on Obama makes no sense, especially when he's had to deal with both Yemen and Congress blocking the deal.

The Yemeni president wants to rail against the US publicly, because it plays well with his people... but at the same time, he is likely more concerned about Al Qaeda in Yemen than we are, which is why they've authorized drone strikes against their own citizens.

In truth, the Yemen Government likes using US drones firing guided 5 1/2 lb. rockets on pre-planned sortees using US intel to get rid of potential troublemakers in parts of their country they don't really control on the ground. They like it far more than using their old Russian Su-17s to drop 250 kg (551 lb.) bombs. Much smaller explosions. Fewer civilian casualties. Less crap planes falling out of the sky. Lots of plausible deniability, too.

In short, Obama isn't killing you. He's preventing you from killing yourself until you get shipped off to Yemen, which will probably happen within a month or two. Expect the GOP to fearmonger and fundraise on this issue, which is a political loser for the POTUS, but the right thing to do nonetheless. Once back in Yemen, chances are good that you might find yourself either detained or otherwise under something approaching house arrest / "reintegration training", until the Yemenis are sure that you're not going to be a threat to anyone. Because no politician, U.S. or Yemeni, wants to risk losing their job just for your sake.

Now be a good boy and eat your nose gruel.
posted by markkraft at 4:52 AM on April 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


"BTW: from an international perspective, the whole: "Well, if you don't like this, how about we start another fucking stupid war?" is weird. I can't think of a better word. It's just weird as fuck. Really: if the US could afford finance a war with Iran, wouldn't it've started by now."

If y'all honestly haven't figured this out yet, now might be a good time. NEVER understimate the magnitude of wilful lack of critical thinking our consevatives are capable of. Bless their hearts.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:00 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, wrt the trials in Guantanamo "proceeding in a transparent manner, with the same basic protections we have in our justice system:"
The head of the defense lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners facing military commissions has ordered all uniformed and civilian defense lawyers to halt their use of government computers for sensitive information.

Air Force Col. Karen Mayberry, the chief defense counsel, issued the order Wednesday, according to one attorney in the office.

Navy Commander Walter Ruiz said in an email to journalists Thursday that Mayberry ordered all the defense attorneys to stop "using our e-mail communications to transmit any matters that are confidential or privileged [and] not to save any files that contain privileged materials onto our personal or common drives."

"This essentially cripples our ability to operate," Ruiz said. "This measure was taken as the CDC has determined that the integrity of these systems is not sufficient to ensure that we safeguard confidential and privileged materials, as it is our ethical duty to do."
Guantanamo itself was always a red-herring. The issue was the creation of an extra-judicial system of rendition, detention, or execution which is both contrary to the the ideals of liberty we like to think of as our "brand" and a really dumb idea.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:02 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, on the one hand, the president has the power to order the death of any citizen anywhere without judicial review as part of his war powers..."

Yeah... no. That's a serious load of paranoid delusion you're spewing there, because there are very strict, defined legal arguments that restrict him from killing just anyone... *especially* in the U.S. or if they are an American citizen. That broad legal authorization really isn't as broad as you seem to think it is... especially when it comes to Guantanamo, the biggest legal Gordian knot I or anyone else has probably ever seen.

(You do understand that there's this law thing, right?! Lawyers get involved. It's messy. And no POTUS wants to be on the wrong side of the law, if they can possibly avoid it. (Which about 70% of them can't.) Especially former constitutional law professors who might be on the job market in a few years, and who might want to do something more productive than poodle painting.)

"though he prefers to employ some sort of internal pseudo-judicial review"

Yeah. It's called the law. That torty-worty gobbledygook you're so blissfully dismissive of.

"but on the other hand he can't release military prisoners held on foreign soil? Des anyone really believe that?"

Yes. Under certain circumstances, he can't do it without defying Congress. However, I also believe that under certain circumstances, he *can* do it. And those are the ones that he is currently working towards.

" Can I sell you a bridge, or maybe another war in the middle east?"

No. But can you sell *anyone* on the idea that the POTUS can kill anyone in the world, and get away with it?

he was going to close Gitmo as a symbolic act but still maintain the facilties for extraordinary rendition and detention."

Pop quiz!
How many prisoners at Guantanamo has the POTUS tried to remove from there.
Answer: All of them.

How many new extraordinary renditions and detentions has POTUS done during his 4+ years in office?
Answer: none.

Your point being?!
posted by markkraft at 5:33 AM on April 15, 2013


[This discussion will go better if people forgo the sarcasm and personal attacks, and just try to communicate like adults. Thanks.]
posted by taz at 5:47 AM on April 15, 2013


It's not hard to find that info, which is actually on the NYT site. Here's the main subsite; the "Detainees" link at the top leads to info on each of the prisoners.

This link from taz is worth a read, if you're interested in the US government's claims about the detainee.

Here's an excerpt:
7. (U) Detainee Threat:

a. (S) Assessment: Detainee is assessed to be a HIGH risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies.

b. (S//NF) Reasons for Continued Detention: Detainee is a member of al-Qaida. Detainee served as a security guard for UBL and is listed on al-Qaida affiliated documents. Detainee is assessed to have participated in hostilities against US and Coalition forces in Tora Bora and was a fighter in UBL's 55th Arab Brigade. Detainee was captured with a group referred to as the Dirty 30, which included known UBL bodyguards. Detainee received basic and advanced militant training at the al-Qaida al-Faruq Training Camp, and was an al-Qaida guesthouse staff member. Detainee was recruited by known al-Qaida recruiter Marwan Jawan, who also facilitated detainee's travel to Afghanistan.
o (S//NF) Detainee is a member of al-Qaida and a former UBL security guard. Detainee's name and alias were found on al-Qaida affiliated documents.

o (S//NF) Senior al-Qaida facilitator Sharqawi Abdu Ali al-Hajj, aka ("Riyadh the Facilitator"), ISN PK9YM-001457DP (YM-1457), identified detainee as an individual who became a security guard for UBL in approximately August 2001. YM-1457 stated, "I know all of the security staff members because I assisted them." (Analyst Note: Assignment as a security guard or personal bodyguard was a prestigious position, and these personnel had closer contact with UBL than other support personnel.)

(S//NF) Detainee's name and alias are included on lists of al-Qaida members and their trust accounts found during raids against al-Qaida associated safe houses in Pakistan. The documents identified the contents of detainee's trust account as a Yemeni passport and ID card.
posted by BobbyVan at 5:50 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


How many new extraordinary renditions and detentions has POTUS done during his 4+ years in office?
Answer: none.


...that you've heard about.

How many extrajudicial killings has your man done during his 4+ years in office?

Answer: You're not authorised to know that, but all the bodies were definitely those of militants.
posted by pompomtom at 6:12 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even if you don't give a shit about our democracy, or the delicate balance of powers it’s based on, presumably you at least care that future Republican Presidents would then be able to do the same right?

For things our Democracy has absolutely granted them the authority to do but only can't because of the funding? That seems fine with me.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:23 AM on April 15, 2013


You do understand that there's this law thing, right?! Lawyers get involved.

Oh, I did not realize that. What did al-Awlaki's lawyers say at his trial?
posted by Drinky Die at 6:28 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


My father tells me the story that after World War II was over, some German prisoners kept in the states didn't want to go back to Germany. I wonder how many of these prisoners would want to stay if given the chance to go home?

So Yemeni and other countries don't want to take them back. They're our responsibility. Put them on trial and ask for American volunteers to take the innocents like this editorial author to rehabilitate them back into society. Maybe we can make up for the 11 years of trial-less detention and show them all Americans aren't the types who shove feeding tubes down your gullet in order to mute your protest. I volunteer right now.
posted by pashdown at 6:32 AM on April 15, 2013


For things our Democracy has absolutely granted them the authority to do but only can't because of the funding?

Could we set up a kickstarter?

I think you need to be in the US, so I'll need a proxy, but this could be great for Americans.

For $5 you can rub your hands, muttering "Out, damned spot!"
For $20 you can insist that the Russians were worse.
For $50 you can insist that the Chinese are worse.
For $200 you can declare the 'wars' 'over' (or deny them being over, depending upon your electoral timetable)

I reckon we're almost there already...
posted by pompomtom at 6:33 AM on April 15, 2013


Yeah... no. That's a serious load of paranoid delusion you're spewing there, because there are very strict, defined legal arguments that restrict him from killing just anyone... *especially* in the U.S. or if they are an American citizen. That broad legal authorization really isn't as broad as you seem to think it is... especially when it comes to Guantanamo, the biggest legal Gordian knot I or anyone else has probably ever seen.

Your honor, allow me to retract the use of the word 'any" in regards to 'any citizen.' The presidency reserves the authority to kill some citizens as part of his part of his war powers related to the 'War on Terror. ' But, since the "battlefield" in the "War on Terror" is where the executive branch says it is, it's not clear where and why this could occur. But my point is that the president certainly can release military prisoners as commander-in-chief. As illegal combatants they aren't really even part of the formal military judicial system. I imagine you could make serious arguments that the president, as C-in-C, could have them all summarily executed...

Yeah. It's called the law. That torty-worty gobbledygook you're so blissfully dismissive of.

It's not 'THE LAW.' it's a bunch of memos written by the president's lawyers and released to make people feel better about the fact that we have given the president the means to kill individuals he deems to be a threat, on a global scale. The next president could get a new bunch of lawyers to state their opinion about a new policy. In fact, they have worked hard to not expose any of it to judicial review based on separation of powers and the presidents inherent ability to wage war. Again, from the perspective of the presidency, these are illegal combatants detained on a battlefield and therefore have little legal protection at all.. even by the "laws of war."

Pop quiz!
How many prisoners at Guantanamo has the POTUS tried to remove from there.
Answer: All of them.

How many new extraordinary renditions and detentions has POTUS done during his 4+ years in office?
Answer: none.


How would you know?
On Aug. 24, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies had finished its review. The United States would continue to send individuals to other countries, the panel decided, but the United States would seek "assurances from the receiving country" that the suspect would not be tortured. But the specific recommendations themselves were -- and remain -- classified.

To gauge the progress on implementing these principles, we interviewed human rights and legal experts. There was broad consensus among these experts that if extraordinary rendition is happening at all, it's happening less frequently than it did under Bush. But there was also agreement that we can't really be certain what is going on.

There are two reasons for the uncertainty. One is that rendition activities are performed by top secret intelligence agencies, so in the normal course of affairs, the public is unlikely to know many details of what goes on. The second is that it's extremely difficult to "prove a negative” -- that is, to demonstrate with any certainty that something is not happening.

"I see no evidence that they have engaged in this practice,” said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor. "They have not abandoned non-extraordinary rendition, at least in theory, which means the capture of an individual to take him to another country, but they would claim that they will not do so for purposes of torture.”
Let me repeat that: "They have not abandoned non-extraordinary rendition, at least in theory...”

But you are lawyering. Yes, he wanted to remove all of the prisoners from Gitmo, but he wanted to move them to a facility in Indiana without actually taking them out of military custody. Essentially, the presidential-constitutional-lawyer-in-chief was saying that the fact they were being held on foreign soil was immaterial to the inherent powers of the presidency. Except for a quickly aborted "trial balloon" that some prisoners might get trials in NYC, he wasn't willing to broadly bring the whole sorry business into our justice system and so we are faced with a situation where people are being held indefinitely and a system of extra-judicial trials with ad-hoc rules is degenerating into something which resembles a good old-fashioned show trial because... in the end, what if a terrorist was set free? What if?

This discussion will go better if people forgo the sarcasm..

After 12 years of this, what do we have left?
posted by ennui.bz at 6:58 AM on April 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's an important connection between two separate human rights issues here, and it is only beginning to be more widely known. And that's Guantanamo and the increased use of drones to kill people, where the George W. Bush White House used to capture them. Lately all kinds of policy experts have been coming out and acknowledging that, yes, it was too complicated to deal with all that Amnesty International stuff at Gitmo, so now we just drone people like this guy.

As someone who grew up with the idealistic vision from the movie "Air Force One" of capturing suspects and bringing them to justice, this is obviously distressing and seems like a kind of morality more suited to Paul Verhoeven movies where human life is worthless. So while everyone has been claiming their president has his hands tied, he's actually been quite proactive in dealing with the Guantanamo issue--by arranging for thousands of overseas people to be blown up.

It is the duty of good people to pressure their government not to do these things, not to justify them as unavoidable. The trouble with having a nation of Daily Kos party members playing armchair James Carville and smartly trying to decide what is politically possible--"oh yes, threatening to cut Social Security is a brilliant maneuver"--is that it reduces the pressure on their guy to do the right thing. It spreads cynicism and cruelty. I knocked on doors for this president and expect better things than his going on the Daily Show hamming it up while innocent people are mistreated.
posted by steinsaltz at 8:57 AM on April 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Glenn Greenwald weighs in on this issue, with his usual relentless logic and dedicated footnoting - and apparent refutations to many of the argument already expressed in this thread...

Well worth a read.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:03 AM on April 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


And I also wonder how far an executive order could go on Gitmo...

There was already an Executive Order to close Gitmo within a year. It went nowhere because no one else in Washington honored it. Executive Orders don't have any kind of enforcement mechanism.

How is it so many people who care so passionately about this issue don't seem to know that?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:07 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ahmed Errachidi: 'We shared one thing in Guantánamo Bay – pain'. The chef turned author on the five years he spent in Guantánamo Bay – and why his nickname is the General
posted by homunculus at 10:17 AM on April 15, 2013


The whole reason for using an executive order is precisely because it's unenforceable - because it looks as if you're doing something when you're not.

Gitmo is run by the US military. As has been hammered into us time and again, the AUMF gives the President essentially wartime powers. As such, he can order the military to close Gitmo, they must comply, and no one else gets a look-in.

The budget issue is also a smokescreen. Yes, Vietnam was closed down because they defunded the entire war - Nixon could have kept ordering the war to continue but at some point the whole thing would have run out of money.

The whole cost of closing Guantanamo Bay is well within variation in the Pentagon's operating budget - "household money" in other words. If Mr. Obama had simply ordered the closing, there would have been much more than enough money to execute it just in "petty cash". If later that year there were a budget shortfall, this happens all the time - the extra money is always authorized because no one wants to shut down the Defense Department.

The United States constitutionally has an extremely strong executive, and since Bush those powers have only been extended. It baffles me that people believe that the President has almost infinite powers to do bad things like create Guantanamo Bay, assassinate US citizens, make lethal attacks on countries that the US is not at war with and the like, but when it comes to stopping these bad things, the President is suddenly a powerless figurehead.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:16 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


markkrat denies the accuracy of the prisoner Hasan Moqbel's statement that "President Obama refuses to send any detainees back to Yemen." But the statement is, in fact, true. In January 2010 Obama issued an executive order barring the return of any prisoners to Yemen. This was a full year before Congress passed legislation restricting the transfer of prisoners to other countries. The order remains in place. The order even applies to the scores of Yemeni prisoners who had been previously cleared for transfer by the Obama administration itself. And the Obama administration has vigorously fought the efforts of several of the cleared prisoners to win release in the federal courts. See, for example, the case of Adnan Latif, who died in Guantanamo last September.
posted by Jamie Mayerfeld at 11:38 AM on April 15, 2013


Executive Orders are the only rule-making power presidents have, though. I appreciate your point of view on this, but what specific step would you suggest the president take if his most powerful tool, the Executive Order, isn't enough?

Do you think another speech or two would do it? Do you think stopping everything and threatening to veto the entire defense spending bill would do it? Do you think just ordering the military to unlock all the doors and walk away from Gitmo would do it? How would he issue that last order if not using an Executive Order ordering the base be closed within some set time frame?

I'm not unsympathetic to the idea that Obama hasn't done enough since his initial push to close Gitmo, but I'm still struggling to see what exactly he still has at his disposal to do. He doesn't control the budget for the camp, that's congress. He can't issue any kind of decree that has any more force of law than an Executive Order, so what's left? Specifically? You say this:

As such, he can order the military to close Gitmo, they must comply, and no one else gets a look-in.

It's not that simple. One of the things congress did to thwart the closing was to pass new legislation prohibiting the repatriation of Gitmo captives to their home countries or allowing them to enter the US--basically, congress issued laws forcing them all to become stateless non-entities in the event Obama immediately ordered Gitmo closed as you suggest. There is no scenario where the president can act unilaterally here when the rest of the Washington establishment is so strongly opposed.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:51 AM on April 15, 2013


In January 2010 Obama issued an executive order barring the return of any prisoners to Yemen.

Maybe so, but at the time there was a lot of concern about terrorist related activity centered in Yemen.

It's not that unreasonable not to want to take the chance of releasing very understandably angry people to a country that seems to have been tacitly (if not overtly) supporting terrorist activity against the US is it? Even if the inmates weren't actually terrorists before, they'd be prime candidates for recruitment now, wouldn't they?

It was congress that made it impossible to move the prisoners anywhere in the world, and in fact, barred all funding for moving them at all.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:54 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute--do you have a cite for that claim about the executive order prohibiting the transfer of detainees to Yemen? I can't find any source for that, and on second thought, I'd rather not just take someone's word.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:56 AM on April 15, 2013


I just don't think the whole the-Executive-Order-was-just-a-smokescreen line of thinking passes muster. Why would any sitting president deliberately seek to so publicly undermine the power and authority of one of the most powerful tools of his office? It just doesn't make any sense.

No one ever accused Bush of only issuing Executive Orders because they were so toothless back when he was passing them left and right. No one accused Nixon of the same when he issued an Executive Order that took the nation off the Gold standard and put a temporary freeze on the prices of all goods in the US.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:02 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jan/06/world/la-fg-obama-guantanamo6-2010jan06 ("We will not be transferring additional detainees back to Yemen at this time," Obama told reporters at the White House.)

See also

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/01/11/82081/obamas-guantanamo-policy-puts.html

http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/01/07/guantanamo-and-yemen-obama-capitulates-to-critics-and-suspends-prisoner-transfers/

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/guant-namo-his-second-term-obama-must-correct-human-rights-failure-2013-01-08

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/15/obama-guantanamo-hunger-strike-moqbel
posted by Jamie Mayerfeld at 12:17 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


None of those links support the claim that Obama issued an Executive Order to prohibit transfer of former detainees to Yemen. And indeed, it was on his orders that the detainees were being repatriated to Yemen in the first place. The fact that the administration decided it might not be smart to send more of the former detainees back to Yemen right after a foiled attack from Yemen isn't that surprising is it? And your second link pretty much makes it clear where the political pressure to stop the transfer of further detainees to Yemen was coming from:
For the last 12 days, since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab slipped through every security net going, and tried and failed to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit, Republican critics of Barack Obama have tried every trick in the book to undermine the President’s authority, with former Vice President Dick Cheney claiming that the incident demonstrated that Obama’s “low key response” to the failed attack “makes us less safe,” and numerous lawmakers and pundits — joined by a few easily frightened Democrats — stating that no more Yemeni prisoners should be released from Guantánamo, following the transfer to Yemeni custody of six men the weekend before the failed attack.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:37 PM on April 15, 2013


If not a formal executive order, then a clear policy directive.
posted by Jamie Mayerfeld at 1:06 PM on April 15, 2013


WIRED: It’s Forced Feeding vs. Scotch-Tape Batons as Gitmo Detainees Continue Hunger Strike
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:17 PM on April 15, 2013


None of those links support the claim that Obama issued an Executive Order to prohibit transfer of former detainees to Yemen.
That's some pretty impressive willful blindness.
Following the so-called Christmas Day airliner bombing attempt in December 2009 by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who had trained in Yemen, the administration imposed a moratorium on transfers to Yemen
Perhaps not a formal 'executive order' but clearly administration policy, not congress.

___
In 2009: The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to cut from a war spending bill the $80 million requested by President Obama to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to bar the transfer of detainees to the United States and its territories. -- benito.strauss
The president can't veto bills now? Or it just the bills that would cause you too much cognitive dissonance. And by the way, 2009 bill only applies to 2009 spending. You need to show the language was in the 2010, 2011, 2012 appropriations as well.

And by the way, the democrats had control of the house and senate in 2009. Even if you want to claim "Obama" is not responsible, the Democratic party absolutely is.
What was the "work" in Afghanistan he thought he was going to do? The work that led him away from Yemen in the first place, the work he now realizes was a mistake?

Funny how nobody seems to ask questions like this.
-- Cool Papa Bell
It's not funny if you understand how the law works, which is you have to have evidence that someone is breaking the law in order to charge them with a crime. Or do you think everyone of Arab decent who happened to be in Afghanistan in 2001 should be locked up indefinitely?
Yes, because he has a magic wand he can wave. -- incessant
He's the Commander in chief of the U.S. Millitary . Gitmo is operated by the Millitary. The idea that he can't close it, or at least release the innocent prisoners like this guy is willful delusion.
Yeah, like being the guy who exercises his executive privilege without any real political support to release a suspected terrorist into the wild, only to have said person, after 10 years of detention, plan an attack against the United States. -- phaedon
It seems reasonable to imagine that an innocent person kept in prison for 11 years might decide to become a terrorist and get revenge. Does that mean, that in your mind, it's a good idea to keep innocent people in prison forever if they've been put there by mistake?
political suicide. -- phaedon
You do realize obama can't even run for office again.
But thanks for admitting it's all about politics, apparently in your mind it's completely reasonable to keep innocent people in prison forever in order to win elections. Completely disgusting.

Also, hundreds of people have been released from gitmo over the years. Some have joined terror groups, but not a single one has done any actual harm. The way you prevent these people from committing terrorist acts is the same way you keep all people from committing terrorist acts, you maintain an effective intelligence operation to keep tabs on people who you think might pose a risk, and stop attacks before they happen. There are probably millions of people who would like to be anti-US terrorists, increasing the number by a hundred or so isn't going to actually make a difference.
Closing Gitmo would be in the top 100. But so would campaign finance reform. Universal healthcare. Getting rid of for-profit prisons and the draconian laws that keep them filled. -- Purposeful Grimace


The difference is that Obama could close gitmo tomorrow, or at least release the innocent prisoners, Financial reform and Universal Healthcare need to be done by the house and senate, and there are major lobbying efforts to prevent that. The prison situation in the US isn't even a federal issue, for the most part - the vast majority of people in prison are in state prisons on state charges.
Just because our presidential politics are the only thing you see, doesn't mean it’s the only thing that is real. Obama's authority to use funds allocated to him for this specific purpose has been explicitly revoked, and there is precedent going back to the beginnings of our Constitution supporting Congress' right to do so. This is not a trivial exercise, it is a Supreme Court battle he cannot and should not win.
The congress did not ban the use of funds to release innocent prisoners and in fact, innocent prisoners have been released over time. It's interesting how some people seem to be unable to separate those two concepts. There's nothing in the law that says he can't just keep gitmo "open" with zero prisoners. But even excluding that there is absolutely nothing in the law that requires him to keep innocent people in jail.

It's interesting that some people in this thread seem unable to separate those two concepts.

And seriously, suppose he releases the prisoner, then, 4 or 5 years later the next administration loses a supreme court case. So what? If anything, there is a good chance that the law could be overturned due to it's violation of the constitution anyway. People are guaranteed due process. Presumably that would preclude a law that prevents the government from spending money on due process for specific people.

If Obama actually cared, he could have sued to get the law overturned, he could also have vetoed it. Let's not forget that the president is an active participant in passing laws. He has to sign them. He's not completely at congresses mercy, unless they re-pass the law with a 2/3rds majority.
I think that has led people to the false conclusion that if GITMO is open, it must be because Obama, at his core, deeply wants it to be so. -- phaedon
No one is making that claim, the claim is that on this issue he's a fucking pathetic coward with zero principles. Who cares what's "in his heart"?
Do you think another speech or two would do it? Do you think stopping everything and threatening to veto the entire defense spending bill would do it? Do you think just ordering the military to unlock all the doors and walk away from Gitmo would do it? How would he issue that last order if not using an Executive Order ordering the base be closed within some set time frame? -- saulgoodman

Once again, the authorization does not prevent him from releasing innocent prisoners.
posted by delmoi at 3:00 PM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also the people who think this is "political suicide" or even something that would be a political issue are such cowards it's ridiculous. This site was full of people who said if Obama endorsed same-sex marriage before the end of his first term, he would lose.

Then he reverted to his original position and came out in favor of gay marriage and it didn't even make a blip, and in fact may have helped him.

How often do you see people talk about fear of terrorists in polls. Politically it's a non-issue. Hardly anyone is going to change their vote over it, far fewer then with Gay Marriage. The economy is what people cared about in 2012, and it's what they'll care about next year and probably in 2016. 9/11 will be a distant memory, a decade and a half passed.

Keeping gitmo open is insider bullshit, keeping people like Lindsey Graham happy.
posted by delmoi at 3:08 PM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also the people who think this is "political suicide" or even something that would be a political issue

Keeping gitmo open is insider bullshit, keeping people like Lindsey Graham happy

So.. we agree to agree then!
posted by phaedon at 3:44 PM on April 15, 2013


So.. we agree to agree then!
I might agree if I had any idea what you were trying to say. It seems like you think "Angering Lindsay Graham" is the same thing as "Political Suicide", which makes no sense, there isn't anything he could do that he isn't already doing.
posted by delmoi at 4:35 PM on April 15, 2013


Guantánamo hunger-strike inmates forced to drink dirty water, court hears: Judge declines plea in emergency motion asserting guards are displaying 'deliberate indifference' to medical needs of strikers
posted by homunculus at 5:21 PM on April 15, 2013


Once again, the authorization does not prevent him from releasing innocent prisoners.

Releasing them to where? Transporting them how? All of that is under congress' control. He can't just say, "Let 'em go, boys." I wish someone could, but the world is a damn sticky place.

(On second thought, I'm so agitated about what's going on in Boston, I'm probably misreading you delmoi, and at any rate, I really don't have the heart for this now after all.)
posted by saulgoodman at 7:05 PM on April 15, 2013


So in that Zero Dark Thirty movie, where all the black site prisoners are withholding actionable intelligence and the interrogators are just professionals doing their jobs, that was all just bullshit?
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:27 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


You could say that.
posted by homunculus at 8:10 PM on April 15, 2013


There doesn't appear to be a current petition on petitions.whitehouse.gov (and the website doesn't seem to provide a way to find out what happened to the older attempts---did they get signatures and a response?)

I'd like to see one simply asking Obama to make a statement.
posted by spbmp at 8:30 PM on April 15, 2013


Releasing them to where? Transporting them how? All of that is under congress' control.
"All of that is under congress' control." - a completely baseless assertion.

What law do you think prevents Obama from releasing prisoners that have been cleared for release?

What's interesting is how Obama's die-hard defenders seem to have this view of presidential power where he can do everything politically helpful, for example it's not unconstitutional for the president to completely ignore immigration law and not deport people who came to the US as children, despite the fact that doing so clearly violates ignores what congress did.

On the other hand, when it's something politically unhelpful, suddenly it's totally out of his hands and he has no control at all.

I don't even understand how you think government works. How can congress control Gitmo? Do you think they have some congressional committee that issues orders to the commanders in Gitmo? Congress writes laws, and it's up to the president and the administration to interpret those laws and enforce them. Congress doesn't actually 'control' anything at all, except the money.

As far as I can tell, the law does prevent the prisoners from being taken to the US. It doesn't prevent them from being taken to, for example, Yemen or some other third-party country.

If you think that is the case, can you point the actual law that prevents it?
posted by delmoi at 10:01 PM on April 15, 2013


Obama’s Gitmo Disgrace
posted by homunculus at 11:18 AM on April 16, 2013


"markkrat denies the accuracy of the prisoner Hasan Moqbel's statement that "President Obama refuses to send any detainees back to Yemen."

Yes, indeed. I still do. Especially since he's apparently made a deal with the Yemeni government to send all their detainees back to Yemen. It's not a factually correct statement.

Yes, the POTUS also held off further transfers of prisoners to Yemen, but as we have seen, a *BIG* part of that was due to the political fallout of the attempted suicide bomb attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 by a former Guantanamo detainee from Yemen. He made this decision after the House and Senate basically threatened to make it for him.

It was Christmas Day, 2009 on a flight to Detroit with 290 people -- mostly Americans -- on board, heading home for the holidays. The bomber, a former detainee on the no-fly list, sat in the window seat 19A, over the wings, above the fuel tanks. He feigned illness, covered his lap with a blanket, and then successfully injected liquid acid from a syringe directly into the explosive material, which caused a chemical reaction, lit the wall of the plane on fire, and caused a considerable amount of smoke, but failed to detonate explosively, as designed. Had it done so, it would've killed, injured, and deafened many, and likely would've depressurized the cabin, threatening the safety of the flght. At high altitude, it would've been particularly dangerous. A successful Christmas terrorist attack would've been particularly traumatic, with a major impact upon our nation, its economy, its politics, and our nation's sense of security.

So not only did the POTUS have to address this huge security failure, he also had to deal with the former President of Yemen, who didn't want to take the detainees back, in part because several of those they had taken back were criminals. (Yemen convicted four prisoners repatriated in 2006, for example, for having fraudulent papers -- a common situation for terrorists and those intent on travel to other countries to engage in jihad.) Yemen also didn't want them turned over to another country, and wanted a huge bribe in exchange for even the possibility of taking them back. Likewise, there were reports that the Yemeni government weren't willing to provide the US with the kind of guarantees Congress would want in order to make sure that anyone accused of significant crimes would face trial consistent with the standards of the Geneva Convention, and would be safely detained.

It apparently has taken a change of Yemen's presidents and the continued dismantlement of Al Qaeda in that country - including the death of American Yemeni Anwar al-Awlaki, who was a recruiter and spiritual leader to the bomber, and who was tracked down and killed shortly after requesting bomb-making equipment from a longtime friend / Danish double agent who had previously renounced Islam - in order to make repatriation a practical possibility.

That's not to say that the POTUS was in the business of stubbornly refusing to have those detainees leave Guantanamo for the entirety of his first four years -- and most certainly not at the time this article was written -- because both are clearly not the case. Obama is reasonable... but cautious. And for good reason.

Also in reply to Andrew Sullivan's "Guantanamo's Gitmo Disgrace".... he says "we also know that 86 human beings there have not been found guilty of anything and are eligible for transfer - but must remain in prison limbo for the rest of their lives"

We know no such thing. In fact, we *know* that this is not the least bit likely, unless the new Yemeni president is lying about a deal already being in place.

Likewise, we do not know that any of these 86 human beings shouldn't be charged with crimes and possibly locked up... which is part of what makes this whole issue with Yemen so difficult. Our government wants to turn these people over to Yemen, but several of them are likely to face trials and imprisonment there.

"innocent prisoners..."

These are not people who are known to be innocent. Rather, they are people who haven't been tried, largely because of Hamdan v. Rumsfield, which effectively stopped all trials at Guantanamo until the military tribunal system was completely revamped. And while trials can theoretically proceed again, it makes sense for President Obama to try to have them take place after extradition to Yemen, because that's what he'll need to eventually close Guantanamo.

And as much as I do not like the US using drones to kill US citizens overseas, this was a guy who tried to claim he was just a religious leader, but who admitted to personally recruiting known terrorists, who routinely hung out at terrorist training facilities, armed with packs of men with AK-47s, and who's last wish list included bomb making equipment. I'm very glad that President Obama made the personal call to have this guy killed, because he was an imminent threat, and entirely too good at recruiting smart, dangerous, highly motivated jihadists, while thwarting U.S. security measures. Not every terrorist needs killing... but some surely do.

"There's an important connection between two separate human rights issues here. . . and that's Guantanamo and the increased use of drones to kill people, where the George W. Bush White House used to capture them."

That statement partially misses the mark, in large part because drone strikes have decreased sharply since 2010. We're currently on track to have under 30 drone strikes for this year, which is less than in 2008, under Bush. Not to say that there wasn't a move away from extradition/detention towards using drones, but realistically?! The drone war was already ramping up sharply during Bush's last year or so, and it's hard to say exactly to what degree President Obama was responsible for it increasing even further.

What is clear, however, is that several major targets were killed, and that somewhere around January 2010, President Obama, alarmed at the sharp increase in civilian drone fatalities, tightened up on the rules of engagement for the drones, in some cases requiring direct POTUS approval to authorize drone strikes, especially in the event of a significant risk of civilian fatalities.

This, unfortunately, has been misinterpreted in some circles as the POTUS ghoulishly ramping up the drone war, as opposed to sharply reducing civilian fatalities, while decreasing drone strikes significantly. Civilian deaths from drone strikes last year were reportedly less than in 2006, according to the Bureau for Investigative Journalism.

Also, there are signs that drone technology has matured significantly over the past few years. In particular, the technology for advanced planning and computerized simulation of drone strikes is considerably more advanced, while the size of the drones themselves and their ordinance has shrunk. This could also contribute to the decrease in civilian fatalities and in total drone strikes.

Lastly, Wikileaks released State Department memos a few years back which showed that both the Government of Pakistan and Yemen were complicit in secretly authorizing drone strikes against Al Qaeda and other militants in those parts of their country which they didn't control with their security forces. I suspect they made a pretty rational determination at the time that drones were the least worst choice to go after terrorists and insurgents threatening their country's security, but over the past year or so, politics in both countries may have required them to rescind their tacit approval, under most circumstances. In fact, the US recently seemed to suggest that they basically don't do drone strikes in Pakistan anymore.

"They were not ours," one official told The New York Times. "We haven't had any kinetic activity since January." - March 7, 2013

This would suggest that Pakistan is back to doing their own strikes, either using the Pakistani air force, or possibly using drones that we have supplied to their nation. They are apparently denying involvement for the same reason they did this kind of thing before... it makes political sense.

The overall effect is that the public is outraged about drone strikes more than ever, like it's 2010... but it's not anymore. By all accounts, the drone war isn't ramping up, as the media sometimes likes to claim. It's winding down sharply, much like Afghanistan itself. Why the public doesn't focus more on where we are right now, I simply do not know, because it says a helluva lot more about where we are going. Perhaps the intel that reporters rely upon is just really, really old? Alternately, perhaps some people have ideological axes to grind, that make them not the best choices for balanced reportage.

It's very difficult to deal with such emotionally laden, ideological issues such as these. I was against both going into Afghanistan and Iraq, and helped break the news on the use of white phosphorus against the people of Fallujah, causing large fires throughout a major city where civilians had nowhere to run and where many were turned away from evacuating. But I'm not naive enough to think that a bunch of not-yet-convicted terrorist / insurgent suspects aren't a potential threat, or were all detained for no good reason, especially when their own government fears taking them back.

I've learned some lessons as a result of what I've gone through in the last decade, and do my best to pay close attention to the meaning of words and stick to the literal, verifiable truth, especially in the face of the kind of hyperbole that Andrew Sullivan routinely engages in.

"Glenn Greenwald weighs in on this issue, with his usual relentless logic..."

...but a complete lack of mention /curiosity regarding details of an already existing plan to move the detainees to Yemen. Read breathlessly as he describes a prison with a large rec room, 25 cable TV channels, classes, and an array of electronic gadgetry and entertainment, such as Nintendo DS consoles and Playstation 3 access with a library full of games, along with new, relatively spacious indoor air conditioned cells with beds, a seating area, and a full library as "cages", as if detainees were still in their 2002 temporary digs, as he trots out "shame", "travesty", "tyranny", and "horrible conditions" once-a-paragraph... as if he had ever visited Guantanamo.

Hear him talk about how "guards shot rubber bullets at some of the detainees", without mentioning that the prisoners had taken to vandalizing and covering security cameras and windows, prompting MPs to go into the common recreation area, at which point they met with resistance from several dozen prisoners, forcing MPs to respond with a mere 4 rubber bullets, at which point prisoners were ordered to return to their cells. Two guards were struck in the head, while five prisoners received minor injuries -- primarily minor bruising -- including one prisoner who was hit by a rubber shotgun pellet, at which point prisoners were required to go back to their cells and were placed on lockdown... as you would expect in pretty much any U.S. prison.

Likewise, when the Guardian says "Guantánamo hunger-strike inmates forced to drink dirty water", what they really mean is not that they are being denied reasonable amounts of potable water. Rather, it means that they are being denied unlimited amounts of bottled water, which they presumably want to use as a way of alleviating their hunger, reversing the effects of feeding tubes, etc. Presumably, some of the prisoners have drunk non-potable water from their in-cell sink as a way around such restrictions, but that is not the same as "forced to drink dirty water". The US Military, which basically owns their ass and has the responsibility to the Government of Yemen to try to keep their citizens alive, are doing what they can to deny the prisoners the opportunity to starve themselves.

Really, is it too much to ask that journalists report these stories like journalists, as opposed to op-ed writers with an axe to grind and ad copy to sell? I hate to say it, but they are hurting the public's ability to view these matters in a reasoned manner and to judge for themselves. Of course, the defense lawyers -- and now the apparently Al Qaeda-affiliated prisoners themselves -- are going to mangle and misrepresent the basic facts, but that doesn't mean the press should help them, much less flat out ignore the incident reports, the firsthand accounts of the MPs, etc. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, at best... but we aren't even getting both sides of the story anymore.

I still believe that all the evidence points to President Obama closing Guantanamo during this term in office, much in the same way he got rid of DADT... cautiously, meticulously, systematically, and deliberatively, in a way that won't rock the boat much. In many ways, though, this is far superior to relying on executive orders, as it creates policy change that is far more likely to stick. He clearly wants to accomplish Guantanamo's closure, as opposed to having the continuation of it be his lasting legacy... but pillorying him after he's apparently made a deal to accomplish most of the rather herculean task is pretty damn shortsighted and unfair.
posted by markkraft at 5:51 AM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also worth noting:
"Lawyers for the detainees say there are more participants than the 31 the government has acknowledged. Personnel on base, however, suggest that there could be even fewer.

Some detainees, we were told, decline meals at the cafeteria so that they count among the strikers, and then walk over to medical and ask for a can of Ensure liquid meal to drink. There is also a lot of food that comes into group cells and gets distributed without oversight, enabling a "striker" to eat."

posted by markkraft at 6:00 AM on April 18, 2013


Victims of U.S. Torture Respond to the New Terror-Detainee Report
Omar Deghayes was blinded in one eye by a guard at Guantanamo. What does he think of the Constitution Project's conclusions about detainee treatment?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:13 PM on April 18, 2013


It's horrible how Omar Deghayes was treated, but I also think it's important to remember that his abuse happened in the early days of the Bush administration, in many cases under the same people, such as retired Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who were later sent to Abu Ghraib, and ordered to GTMO-ize the interrogation there. Well, reading through what Deghayes has to say about his experiences, now we have a visceral idea what that meant, and, to a significant degree, of the kind of treatment US soldiers were ordered to mete out.

Around the time of the Abu Ghraib revelations, I had built up a lot of online contacts with soldiers serving in Iraq. I was against the war, but wanted to find out what the firsthand experiences were for soldiers. During all this, I got to know one person who was given one of the worst assignments available... they were an MP assigned to Abu Ghraib to take over for the unit that had been there during the scandal, while another was a professional interrogator.

I can't begin to express the anger and general revulsion that these two had to those who had come before him, especially towards those who enacted the policies in question. The interrogator, in particular, was adamant about the need to basically befriend detainees, and how the policies and pressure put upon MPs and interrogators wouldn't illicit actionable intelligence. (i.e. Torture and abuse someone and they'll say anything to stop the torture and abuse. They'll especially be likely to tell you things they think you'll like to hear.)

Above all, though, they *HATED* at how they were treated, not only by civilians, but by their fellow soldiers... tainted by association, even though they were the experts, brought in to clean up the mess, caused by a bunch of civilian chickenhawks who wanted to be tough on terrorists to get intel, but who knew nothing of the intricacies of the work involved. And the people who were ordered to carry out most of the abuses? Primarily poor, undertrained reservist schmucks at the bottom of the totem pole who didn't know enough to say no to a sadistic version of Milgram's experiment.

The truth about today's Guantanamo is that it looks a lot like many other U.S. high security prisons. That's not by accident. That's by design. It's one part of how the Obama administration has hoped to resolve Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in order to be able to move forward with trials that most Americans would find very familiar.

And, like many U.S. prisons, Guantanamo has had to deal with things like hunger strikes... in some cases affecting not 30 or 40 prisoners, but thousands.

So, when we hear about how awful force feeding can be from the standpoint of someone who wants to make it seem like the worst thing in the world, it's perhaps worth reflecting on the fact that force feeding of federal prisoners on hunger strike has been viewed as constitutional for decades, and has been done on a fairly routine basis when a prisoner's life is deemed to be at risk.

What some of us are so aghast at here isn't the GTMOizing of GTMO. It's the Americanizing of GTMO. We're running GTMO in a manner akin to how U.S. prisons are run, and we're discovering that we don't like them very much.

So, I guess that's why I have a bit of a problem with journalists suddenly coming out of the woodwork and focusing on the crimes and sins of nearly a decade ago as a way of attacking Guantanamo today, while our soldiers who are stuck in those shit details, trying to do a tough job in a professional manner, get smeared by association... as opposed to actually doing something useful with that old information, such as building damning cases and momentum for criminal trials against the people who were actually, absolutely responsible for those crimes, and who helped cover up many other atrocities. The ones still making their living based on their "expertise" in foreign policy, just a stone's throw away from prominent positions in the White House, in the event that a forgetful public ever forgets.
posted by markkraft at 6:59 PM on April 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guantanamo Hunger Strike Will Lead To Multiple Deaths, Says Military's Muslim Adviser
posted by homunculus at 6:48 PM on April 19, 2013


the men of Charlie Company sort of lost their minds, burning everything and killing any man, woman or child that crossed their path.

Kill Anything That Moves
posted by homunculus at 12:06 PM on April 20, 2013


Nearly half of Guantánamo prisoners now on hunger strike
posted by homunculus at 12:06 PM on April 20, 2013


McClatchy: White House Says Moratorium Remains On Sending Gitmo Detainees To Yemen
Foreign Policy: How To Close Guantanamo
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:02 AM on May 2, 2013


Have You Ever Tried to Force-Feed a Captured Human?U.S. Naval medics are forcing tubes down the noses of detainees at Guantánamo Bay in order to feed them against their will. The U.N. has said this violates international law. When does "suicide prevention" become torture?
posted by homunculus at 8:07 PM on May 4, 2013


U.S. Injected Gitmo Detainees With ‘Mind Altering’ Drugs
That’s according to a recently declassified report (.pdf) from the Pentagon’s inspector general, obtained by Truthout‘s Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold after a Freedom of Information Act Request. In it, the inspector general concludes that “certain detainees, diagnosed as having serious mental health conditions being treated with psychoactive medications on a continuing basis, were interrogated.” The report does not conclude, though, that anti-psychotic drugs were used specifically for interrogation purposes.

The only drug explicitly named in the report was Haldol, first marketed in the 1960s and still used today as a relatively cheap — and hard-boiled — anti-psychotic sedative in psychiatric hospitals (more commonly in emergency rooms). Haldol has declined since the widespread introduction of newer anti-psychiatric drugs in the 1990s.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:29 AM on May 12, 2013


Common Dreams: Guantánamo Is Not an Anomaly — Prisoners in the US Are Force-Fed Every Day
But William Coleman is not at Guantánamo. He’s in Connecticut. The prison medical staff force-feeding him are on contract from the University of Connecticut, not the U.S. Navy. Guantánamo is not an anomaly. Prisoners — who are on U.S. soil and not an inaccessible island military base — are routinely and systematically force-fed every day.

The accounts of force-feeding coming out of Guantánamo, including Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel’s “Gitmo is Killing Me” in The New York Times two weeks ago, are consistent with how Coleman has described the process to me — and to the Supreme Court of Connecticut.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:37 PM on May 12, 2013


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