FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Inside Guantanamo

by JOHN LAFORGE

Four more innocents were released from America’s Robben Island this month. Our offshore penal colony at Guantanamo Bay still holds 158 prisoners, 84 of whom have been cleared for release. The men sent home were never charged with a crime and were cleared four years ago.

The releases may give other prisoners a reason for hope if they heard the news. During hunger strikes last spring, some of which lasted over 80 days, the military raided the prison and put 100 strikers in solitary. No one knows how or what information passes to them.

At the time, when 100 of 166 prisoners were refusing food, the ACLU, the Center for Victims of Torture, Human Rights Watch and 17 other civic groups wrote to Pentagon boss Chuck Hagel that force feeding detainees was “cruel, inhuman and degrading” — the treaty definition of torture — and called for its immediate and permanent cessation. Hagel also got a letter from Jeremy Lazarus, the president of the American Medical Association, who charged that doctors helping force-feed prisoners against their will violated “core ethical values of the medical profession.”

From February to June, the White House presided over the torturous force-feeding of at least 21 bound prisoners, a choking and gagging experience in which plastic tubes are shoved through the nostrils and down the throat while one is cinched to a restraint chair.

Cooler Heads Pronounce, but Don’t Yet Prevail

In the midst of the hunger strike, a diverse group of legal scholars, constitutional lawyers and former high ranking government and military officials published a major report that said Guantánamo demonstrates “… the willingness of the United States to detain significant numbers of innocent people … and subject them to serious and prolonged privation and mistreatment, even torture.”

The nonpartisan Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment’s (CPTF) self-titled “most important” finding — made “without reservation” — was that “[I]t is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture,” and that “[I]t occurred in many instances and across a wide range of theaters.”

The 600-page study, two years in the making, explained “[T]his conclusion is grounded in a thorough and detailed examination of what constitutes torture in many contexts, notably historical and legal. The CPTF examined court cases…in which the United States has leveled the charge of torture against other governments. The United States may not declare a nation guilty of engaging in torture and then exempt itself from being so labeled for similar if not identical conduct.”

The CPTF declared that by authorizing torture, the government “…set aside many of the nation’s venerable values and legal principles.” I wouldn’t use such niceties as “set aside.” Government employees disobeyed, defied, denigrated and mocked the law, particularly the US Torture Statute, the US War Crimes Act and both the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture which are US law under the Constitution. Obama himself said on April 30 that Guantanamo was “a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.” On Sept. 24, 2009, he said, “International law is not an empty promise, and treaties must be enforced.”

Constitutional Review Finds High-Level Culpability

The CPTF’s second major conclusion was that the “highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing — and contributing to the spread of — torture.” This bombshell puts the perpetrators in legal jeopardy considering US treaties governing torture. They hold that if an accused government — in this case the United States — fails to investigate and prosecute the credibly accused, other states or the International Criminal Court may be obligated to do so.

The CPTF noted that during a February 2012 visit to Guantanamo by its staff, the prison commander at the time, Rear Adm. David Woods, “was quick to point out the facility’s motto: ‘Safe, Humane, Legal, Transparent.’” And I am Marie of Romania.

Karen Greenberg, founder of the Center on National Security at Fordham University’s law school, has said of Guantanamo’s hunger strikers, “They can’t tolerate it any more. It is despair…” Ten years of indefinite imprisonment without charges, and often without mail, phone calls or access to attorneys, is so psychologically devastating that the beleaguered inmates would rather have died than drift in oblivion. In May, prisoner Al Madhwani wrote to a federal court “…Obama must be unaware of the unbelievably inhumane conditions at the Guantanamo Bay prison, for otherwise he would surely do something to stop this torture.”

Obama has ignored torture allegations made against Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales and George Bush — who did prosecutors the favor of publishing an autobiographical confession. When asked if his administration would investigate, Obama said it would be unproductive to “look backwards.” It would also be self-incriminating, since Obama himself has authorized cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment at Guantanamo.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, edits its quarterly newsletter, and writes for PeaceVoice.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
Uri Avnery
Palestine’s Nelson Mandela
Fred Nagel
It’s “Deep State” Time Again
John Feffer
The Hunger President
Stephen Cooper
Nothing is Fair About Alabama’s “Fair Justice Act”
Jack Swallow
Why Science Should Be Political
Chuck Collins
Congrats, Graduates! Here’s Your Diploma and Debt
Aidan O'Brien
While God Blesses America, Prometheus Protects Syria, Russia and North Korea 
Patrick Hiller
Get Real About Preventing War
David Rosen
Fiction, Fake News and Trump’s Sexual Politics
Evan Jones
Macron of France: Chauncey Gardiner for President!
David Macaray
Adventures in Labor Contract Language
Ron Jacobs
The Music Never Stopped
Kim Scipes
Black Subjugation in America
Sean Stinson
MOAB: More Obama and Bush
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail