Tag Archives: Guantanamo

The Legacy of George W. Bush and His Torturers, by Andrew Napolitano

It’s hard to find anything George W. Bush did that was a positive contribution that left a positive legacy. It goes the other way. From Andrew Napolitano at lewrockwell.com:

In the days and months following the attacks of 9/11, the government laid the blame for orchestrating the attacks on Osama bin Ladin. Then, after bin Ladin was murdered in his home in Pakistan in 2011, the government decided that the true mastermind of 9/11 was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

By the time of bin Ladin’s death, Mohammed had already been tortured by CIA agents for two years in Pakistan and charged with conspiracy to commit mass murder, to be tried before an American military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Throughout the entire existence of the U.S. military detention camp at Gitmo, no one has been tried for causing or carrying out the crimes of 9/11. The government only tried one person for crimes related to 9/11. That was Zacharias Moussaoui who pleaded guilty in federal court in Virginia to being the 20th hijacker and then was tried in a penalty phase trial where the issue was life in prison or death. The government spent millions in its death penalty case, which it lost. A civilian jury sentenced Moussaoui, who never harmed a hair on the head of anyone, to life in prison.

Mohammed, meanwhile, and four other alleged conspirators, have been awaiting trial since their arrivals at Gitmo in 2006. Since then, numerous government military and civilian prosecutors, as well as numerous military judges, have rotated into and out of the case.

The concept of military tribunals was born in the administration of President George W. Bush, who argued that 9/11, though conducted by civilians, was an attack of military magnitude and thus warranted a military response. This pathetic knee-jerk argument, of course, not only brought us the fruitless and destructive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; it also brought a host of legal problems unforeseen by Bush and his revenge-over-justice thirsty colleagues.

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The U.S. Has Held Me For 19 Years Without A Charge. I Have Just One Chance To Be Freed. by Ahmed Rabbani

It is a grave injustice to hold a man for 19 years without charge, no matter what the circumstances. From Ahmed Rabbani at sg.news.yahoo.com:

A photo of the author taken before he was detained by the U.S. government. (Photo: Courtesy of Reprieve)
A photo of the author taken before he was detained by the U.S. government. (Photo: Courtesy of Reprieve)

Next month will mark my 19th year of detention by the United States government, even though I have never been charged with a crime, let alone put on trial.

Earlier this month was the closest I have come to my “day in court,” when my lawyers presented my case to the Periodic Review Board. If the Board recommends my release from Guantanamo, even though this would be a recommendation from the U.S.’s national security agencies, whether I am released and how long this takes would still be up to President Biden. My fate lies in his hands.

Like everything here, what the Board does is secret. I have not had allegations put to me, so I cannot respond to them. I do know that from the start, my case was one of mistaken identity. Nearly two decades of my life have been stolen because the U.S. thought I was someone else. I was sold for a bounty to the U.S. based on the false claim that I was an extremist named Hassan Ghul.

The U.S. Senate’s Torture Report later revealed that when I was being tortured in the Dark Prison in Kabul into saying I was Ghul, the U.S. actually captured the real Hassan Ghul and brought him to the same prison. But in the end they let him go and sent me to Guantanamo. He apparently went back to what he had been doing before, and the U.S. killed him in a drone strike. Meanwhile, I am simply collateral damage in the so-called “war on terror.”

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Does the Constitution Mean What It Says? by Andrew Napolitano

The US government has imprisoned a man for seventeen years without charges or a trial. From Andrew Napolitano at lewrockwell.com:

“No person … shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
— Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Abdulsalam al-Hela is a 53-year-old Yemeni cleric who has been incarcerated by the United States at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba since 2004. He has not been charged with any crime. His case has a long and complex legal history, but it is instructive to all who believe that the Constitution means what it says.

Hela is represented by competent counsel who have filed numerous petitions in his behalf asking the courts to compel the government to comply with the Constitution and justify his confinement. The underlying constitutional principles here are due process and habeas corpus. The obligations of complying with both are imposed upon the federal government by the Constitution.

Due process — which is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment — means that every person confined or charged by the government is absolutely entitled to a notice of the charges against him, a fair hearing on those charges before a neutral judge and jury, and the right to appeal any adverse decision to other fair and neutral judges. Hela is also entitled to a writ of habeas corpus. It permits all confined persons to ask a judge to compel the government to justify the confinement.

When Hela asked for due process and habeas corpus relief in federal district court in Washington, D.C. — the judicial venue for all Guantanamo Bay detainees — a district court judge denied his petition because the government has called Hela an enemy combatant and the president, the court ruled, has the lawful power to confine him for the duration of whatever hostilities he and the U.S. were engaged in.

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How Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantánamo Opens Up the Horrors of Torture, by Robert Koehler

Guantánamo is one of those things that Americans don’t want to think about, like Vietnam, the Middle East, and death row. That’s reason enough for the following post. From Robert Koehler at antiwar.com:

To read Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantánamo is to run your mind along the contours of hell.

The next step, if you’re an American, is to embrace it. Claim it. This is who we are: We are the proprietors of a cluster of human cages. This torture center is still open. Men (“forever prisoners”) are still being held there, their imprisonment purporting to keep us safe.

The book, by Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir – two Algerian men arrested in Bosnia in 2011 and wrongly accused of being terrorists – allows us to imagine ourselves at Guantánamo, this outpost of the Endless War.

“‘Take him outside,’ the interrogator told them. They led me up a flight of eight or nine concrete steps to a long gravel drive. It was pitch black out, and completely quiet. There was no one around. One of the soldiers grabbed my left arm, and another took my right. And then they started running.

“I tried to keep up, but my legs were shackled together. First, my flip-flops fell off, and after a few barefoot strides, my legs fell out from under me. The soldiers didn’t even slow down. They kept a firm grip on my arms while my legs bounced and scraped along the ground, gravel biting into them. When the run finally ended, the soldiers brought me back to the interrogation room, bloody and bedraggled.”

This is one fragment, one story of the seven years these two innocent men endured: these two fathers who were pulled away from their wives and children, yanked from their lives, stuffed into cages, interrogated endlessly and pointlessly, humiliated, force-fed (in Lakhdar’s case) . . . and finally, finally, ordered by a US judge to be freed, when their case, Boumediene v. Bush, was at long last heard in a real court and the lack of evidence against them became appallingly clear.

The book is the story of the courage it takes to survive.

And it’s a story that can only be told because of the work of the Boston legal firm WilmerHale, which spent more than 17,000 pro bono hours litigating the case, “work that would have cost paying clients more than $35 million.”

Lakhdar and Mustafa were freed in 2008 and began rebuilding their lives. They eventually decided they wanted to tell their story – to an American audience. Daniel Norland, who was a lawyer at WilmerHale when the case was making its way through the court process (but was not part of the litigation team) and his sister, Kathleen List, who speaks fluent Arabic, conducted more than 100 hours of interviews with the two men, which were shaped into Witnesses of the Unseen.

To continue reading: How Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantánamo Opens Up the Horrors of Torture

Guantánamo’s Last 100 Days, The Story That Never Was, by Karen Greenberg

The US government can decide a noncitizen is a terrorist and put them in prison for indefinite detention, with no right of habeas corpus. Such has been the fate of Guantánamo’s prisoners, some of them for over a decade. Hopes that Barack Obama would keep his campaign promises and shut Guantánamo were dashed, and President Trump wants to put more prisoners there. From Karen Greenberg at tomdispatch.com:

In the spring of 2016, I asked a student of mine to do me a favor and figure out which day would be the 100th before Barack Obama’s presidency ended. October 12th, he reported back, and then asked me the obvious question: Why in the world did I want to know?

The answer was simple. Years before I had written a book about Guantánamo’s first 100 days and I was looking forward to writing an essay highlighting that detention camp’s last 100 days. I had been waiting for this moment almost eight years, since on the first day of his presidency Obama signed an executive order to close that already infamous offshore prison within a year.

I knew exactly what I would write. The piece would narrate the unraveling of that infamous detention facility, detail by detail, like a film running in reverse. I would have the chance to describe how the last detainees were marched onto planes (though not, as when they arrived, shackled to the floor, diapered, and wearing sensory-deprivation goggles as well). I would mention the dismantling of the kitchen, the emptying of the garrison, and the halting of all activities.

Fifteen years after it was first opened by the Bush administration as a crucial site in its Global War on Terror, I would get to learn the parting thoughts of both the last U.S. military personnel stationed there and the final detainees, just as I had once recorded the initial impressions of the first detainees and their captors when Gitmo opened in January 2002. I would be able to dramatize the inevitable interagency dialogues about security and safety, post-Guantánamo, and about preparing some of those detainees for American prison life. Though it had long been a distant dream, I was looking forward with particular relish to writing about the gates slamming shut on that symbol of the way the Bush administration had sent injustice offshore and about the re-opening of the federal courts to Guantánamo detainees, including some of those involved in the planning of the 9/11 attacks.

To continue reading: Guantánamo’s Last 100 Days, The Story That Never Was