Posts Tagged ‘Guantanamo Bay’

Fear and Loathing in Guantanamo Bay

Posted on July 23, 2014 at 12.21 pm

The Guantanamo Bay detention center briefly reasserted its presence in the public consciousness this month with the news that a single Navy nurse refused to participate in the force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike. Quietly feted by civil liberties advocates, the story quickly slipped off the radar. The Pentagon confirmedthat the nurse “has been temporarily assigned to alternate duties with no impact to medical support operations”—in other words, the torturous force feedings, instituted in 2006, will continue unabated.

Gitmo currently houses 149 inmates. Fewer than 20 detainees have been charged, and 78 are cleared for release—a status some have held for more than half a decade. About 45 prisoners are scheduled for indefinite detention, never to see a day in court.

The tepid response to the nurse’s moral stand is not surprising. Despite the fervor of outspoken antiwar protesters during the Bush years, the broader public has never cared much about the welfare of those imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, innocent or no. Support for closing the facility peaked at 51 percent in early 2009. That high corresponded with the first inauguration of President Barack Obama, who took office trumpeting his intentions to put an end to Bush-era abuses like Guantanamo, which he labeled a betrayal of American ideals.

A year after the inauguration, the Obama administration’s now-extensive history of Gitmo excuse-making was well underway. “Political opposition” caused the President to break his promise. Temper your expectations, an anonymous White House official suggested, “The president can’t just wave a magic wand and say that Gitmo will be closed.” But of course—of course!—it’s still going to happen.

Come 2011, we found the President admitting that the facility won’t be closed in the near future. “[W]ithout Congress’s cooperation, we can’t do it,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I stop making the case.” And that narrative—the “I really want to close Guantanamo, but Congress just won’t let me!” line—has persisted ever since, typically with a heavy dose of partisan undertones. As Obama moved an issue he once called vital to the restoration of the United States’ moral authority to the backburner, public opinion followed his cue. By 2010, only 39 percent supported closing the prison. Today, just 27 percent are on board.

What’s fascinating about this unwillingness to close Guantanamo Bay as observed in government and citizens alike is the way it encapsulates the charade of modern American politics: a GOP that abandons its support for limited government out of fear, and a Democratic Party whose civil libertarianism is built more on partisan rancor than ethics.

Read the whole thing here.

Gitmo Numbers

Posted on February 8, 2013 at 12.08 pm

$800,000: Annual cost to tax-payers of maintaining one prisoner in Guantanamo Bay.

166: The number of prisoners currently in Gitmo.

86: The number of prisoners currently in Gitmo who have been cleared for release but not actually released.

46: Detainees scheduled for indefinite detention without charge or trial.

15: The age of arrest of the youngest Gitmo detainee ever, Omar Khadr, who was “tortured and refused medical attention” because he would not confess.

15: The number of prisoners under the age of 18 who have been kept at Gitmo.

9: The number of inmate deaths at Guantanamo Bay.

6: The number of those deaths suspected to be suicides.

2009: The year Obama was supposed to close Gitmo.

2013: The year he closed the office dedicated to closing Gitmo.

Tortured Inertia

Posted on August 18, 2011 at 4.37 pm

Al Jazeera reports that Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked President Obama to prosecute his predecessor and many prominent members of the Bush Administration for torture of terror suspects in legal limbo at prisons like Guantanamo Bay.  “Instead of looking at isolated cases, Obama should probe those responsible for setting up the harsh interrogation practices at Guantanamo and the secret rendition programs overseas as America went to war in Afghanistan,” the humanitarian group said in a public statement.

It’s a well-intentioned plan, certainly.  That the American government tortures (even in spite of its own Constitution and legal code) is an established and despicable fact.  The problem is that the torture didn’t stop when Dubya went home to Texas in 2009.  As with so many other issues, Barack Obama has followed in Bush’s footsteps in matter of detainee treatment, secrecy, and rendition.

HRW is correct that we must be consistent in condemning torture when we find at home as well as abroad.  But the organization’s appeal to Obama as a potential ally is…credulous, to put it mildly.

This is a map from 2010, well into the Obama presidency:

Secret prisons are not a thing of the past.  They are not unique to the Bush Administration.  Torture is a bipartisan “necessity.”  Inertia has once again taken over.

Why would Barack Obama go after Bush Administration officials for policies he’s continued?  (Each word in that last sentence is a unique link, by the way.)  This call for justice from HRW is admirable but, unless it’s secretly intended to bring the spotlight to the remarkable lack of policy change we’ve seen on this matter in the past few years, it’s more than a little naive.