Guantanamo Bay: The American GULAG

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[Speaking Truth To Power]

Recently, former President George W. Bush was toasted by dignitaries, including President Barack Obama and several former presidents, during the opening of a presidential library in his name even though  disasters brought on by his policies continue to cause worldwide concern and consternation.

Consider the ongoing hunger strike now occurring at the Guantanamo Bay Gulag—Will Washington finally do the right thing by closing down this symbol of American injustice and torture?

This past weekend, the activist group Code Pink protested outside of the White House to commemorate the 100 day of a hunger strike now occurring at the Guantanamo Bay Camp Delta 1 detention facility in Cuba.

“It’s the American people that have to push Obama to start releasing these prisoners, especially the 86 that have already been cleared for release,” said Code Pink co-founder Diane Wilson who is also engaged in an open-ended hunger strike. Code Pink says hundreds of people have signed the petition in recent days.

President Obama has come under fire by some who think he has reneged on a campaign promise to close Guantanamo which he made when he first ran for the White House. But the president has pointed an accusing finger at Republicans, like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who have objected to incarcerating terror suspects in American prisons. Mr. Graham has said these untried suspects don’t deserve to be allowed on American soil because “they” are “hell-bent on our destruction and destroying our way of life."

The Obama Administration is currently using feeding tube to keep the hunger strikers alive—a practice the United Nations Human Rights office recently called a violation of international law. "If it's perceived as torture or inhuman treatment – and it's the case, it's painful – then it is prohibited by international law," said Rupert Coville, a spokesman for the UN high commissioner on human rights. The watchdog group World Medical Association has stated that force feeding is “never ethically acceptable" even if intended to preserve life. Reportedly, this sentiment is shared by the American Medical Association.

Besides Code Pink’s petition an online petition at www.change.org has been launched by a former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay—who is also calling for the detention camp to be closed. Col. Morris Davis who resigned in 2007 over the use of tactics like waterboarding has initiated a petition that has received over 64,000 signatures. Col. Davis was involved in the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay from 2006 to 2007 before resigning after the promotion of senior officials who supported the use of evidence achieved through waterboarding.

The Guantanamo Bay base has come under fire ever since the early days after President Bush launched war in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban swiftly followed by war in Iraq. The Guantanamo base became synonymous with the torture of those ensnared in the Bush Administration’s "War on Terror," like those at Abu Ghraib, in Iraq, at Bagram, in Afghanistan, and those who weren’t sent to CIA detention centers and other “Black Site” countries—where suspects were tortured, presumably to provide evidence and intelligence against Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

For 11 years now outrageous stories of water-boarding, electric shock, sleep deprivation have revolved around Guantanamo Bay.

Some 166 detainees seized during the Bush Administration’s “war on terror” are engaged in the hunger strike meant to dramatize their plight. Many of the detainees have not been proven to be guilty of any crime. In fact, some 86 of them have been cleared for release but Washington gridlock and political posturing has created a state of legal limbo that has led to a state of indefinite detention for these men. One hundred of the 166 detainees are involved in the current hunger strike.

Guantanamo Bay is yet another example of the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush and makes a mockery of the vainglorious spectacle we witnessed with the opening of a library in his honor. One wonders if “My Pet Goat”—the book President Bush was reading upside down to schoolchildren in Florida, while the 9-11 attacks were in progress—will be among the books on display.

This would be funny if it wasn’t so serious, for, President Bush and his cronies are guilty not only of human rights abuses with respect to Guantanamo Bay—but these people are actual war criminals that should be rotting in jail. We were told of how Mr. Bush is a good guy whose heart is in the right place. Perhaps, they should tell that to all of those who lost love ones—here in America and Iraq—because of the oily war-for-profit agenda of Mr. Bush and Mr. Chaney who used cooked up evidence to take us to war.

This week, Republicans continue to launch their misguided “investigation” into what happened in the Benghazi, Libya bombing. But while President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice deserve some measure of serious scrutiny for their hypocritical decision to back the armed terrorist “rebels” from Benghazi who now control much of Libya, this grandstanding exercise by Republicans is just more chess-game politics as usual.

We should ask Senator Graham and Congressman Issa, where were the investigations into the fabrications of the Bush White House that plunged us into war? Haven’t their lies killed far more than the Benghazi attack? Several right-wing clowns are now hinting that President Obama should be impeached.

But these same silent enablers and phonies protected President Bush, even though his deceptions led America into a war, based on lies killing thousands of Americans in the process—and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as well. Moreover, where was the righteous outrage when CIA agent Valerie Plame-Wilson was being willfully exposed by those in Vice-President Dick Cheney’s office because he husband Ambassador Joe Wilson exposed their fake Niger yellowcake uranium fables? Didn’t their actions deserve serious investigations since it endangered the lives of American agents and such?

At any rate, there is another seriously curious thing to consider now: why are these Guantanamo detainees slated for release still locked up? A major reason given for this is the fear these men will return to their home countries and join up with terror groups once released.

This reasoning is bewilderingly bizarre. How do American officials know this? Is this an admission that their horrible treatment of these detainees has done more to radicalize these suspects than Al-Qaeda, or Osama Bin Laden ever could’ve hoped to achieve? But more importantly, does the United States government have the right to indefinitely detain uncharged and untried “suspects” because of what they may hypothetically do in the future?

Imagine what would happen if some foreign country held Americans incommunicado for a decade and justified that action with this kind of head-scratching logic. In American law, especially with respect to the “speedy trial” concept, if a suspect isn’t charged or tried—regardless, of whether authorities are convinced said suspect is guilty—that suspect must be released.

The existence of Guantanamo Bay is a shameful reminder that American politicians often preach what they hardly practice. American politicians are always lecturing the world about the moral uprightness of Washington.  How can they talk about respect for international law and human rights with what they have—and are no doubt still doing—at Guantanamo Bay? 

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