Guantanamo Bay: not closing.

10 Jul

Updated below.

Obama promised he would close the Guantanamo Bay military facility in Cuba as soon as he took office.  Shortly after taking office, he signed an executive order to that effect: the order read that Guantanamo Bay would close no later than one year after the issuance of the order, which was dated 22 Jan., ’09.  Two years later, with the base still open, Obama issued another executive order, setting up review processes for the detainees held at Guantanamo and released a White House statement about the new executive order.  The statement did not mention closing the base, or even use the word ‘Guantanamo’.

When Congress passed a bill which prevented federal money from being used to transfer and house the Guantanamo prisoners on US soil, Obama signed the bill, saying that he didn’t like that part, but that the overall bill on military spending was too important to refuse signing.  Of course, he could have taken matters into his own hands and issued a signing statement or sent out an executive order, but he only seems to take charge when it comes to making the decision on who to kill and how.

Releasing prisoners who have been cleared of wrong-doing, as 89 of the men held at Guantanamo have, well, in that decision, his hands are “tied” and he bows to a Congress too frightened to let these tortured, broken humans set foot outside of the prison where they have been held for over ten years.  46 of the 169 prisoners still held cannot be tried or released, according to the government (they are “too dangerous” to release, something the government intuitively knows without holding any trials, but have been tortured and so cannot be brought to trial – a perfect set up, if one is running one of Kafka’s fictional prisons).  Those 46 will be held indefinitely.  Ninety-two percent of the 169 prisoners have no affiliation with al Qaeda, according to the government’s own experts.

As for the rest of the men held at Guantanamo, Obama has returned to the use of military tribunals, which he condemned when he was a candidate running for office.  To make a thorough mockery of the whole “trial” process, the US government reserves the right to continue holding the person indefinitely, even if he has been acquitted, for “national security reasons”, of course.

The base at Guantanamo Bay has existed since 1903, when the US demanded a lease to the property from Cuba, which was then a protectorate of the US.  Cuba has not cashed the $4000 monthly lease checks since 1959 in protest, as they want the base closed and the land returned to Cuba.  The government of Cuba insists the lease was coerced and is not legal under international law.  The base is the only one in a country with which the US does not maintain diplomatic ties.  However, the base has the first, the one and the only, McDonald’s in Cuba.  It also boasts other American fast-food restaurants, none of which are available to Cubans, and there are reports that prisoners housed on the base are rewarded with Happy Meals from the Mickey D’s if they “cooperate” during “interrogations”.  God, are we great, or what?

Given that the US is now going to spend 40 million dollars to lay an underwater fiber-optic cable from Florida to Cuba to serve the base, it seems highly unlikely that the plan to close Guantanamo still exists.  This is but one of the upgrades scheduled or currently underway at the base.  Even the military commanders on the base remark that they don’t believe the base is going to close any time soon.  Maybe we need the place to house a few American prisoners out of sight now that Congress has decided that any number of us may be subject to indefinite detention under the NDAA.  At least we won’t have to give up our Happy Meals.

The Pentagon has decided to lay an estimated $40 million underwater fiber-optic cable from Guantánamo Bay to South Florida, The Miami Herald has learned, in the latest sign that the military is preparing for detentions and other operations at the Navy base for the long-term.

It only makes sense to do if we’re going to be here for any period of time,” said Navy Capt. Kirk Hibbert, disclosing the project in an interview last week before ending a two-year tour as the Navy base commander.

Construction won’t start for more than a year. And communications won’t come online for probably two more years.

But the American military has already notified the Cuban military to expect a surveyor ship, the USNS Zeus, off the base’s coastline this summer — a first step toward getting the program funded and then out to bid.

The fiber-optics plan is the largest known infrastructure improvement for the base by the Pentagon, which has undertaken expansion and building projects in a mostly piecemeal and sometimes secretive fashion in the decade of housing war on terror captives there.[…]

The base, population about 6,000, is like a small town with a seaport, airport and the detention center that houses 169 foreign men as captives, with 1,700 troops and contractors on temporary assignment to imprison them.[…]

Even if President Barack Obama were to succeed in his ambition to close the detention center, Stimson said, the infrastructure there could be put to other use.

Maintaining Guantánamo is expensive, and the constant churn of prison staff adds to the cost. Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese, the recently departed public affairs officer, said the prison estimates it costs taxpayers $77 a day to house and feed a soldier or sailor assigned to detention center duty.

The Bush administration built a series of prison camps for the 779 detainees who have passed through the place, including a still-secret building for former CIA captives. The Navy also put in a sports field, renovated housing and leases trailer parks for rotating detention center forces. And it has a variety of overlapping and at-times unreliable communications systems — from a contract cable TV and Internet plan that troops must pay for, to a no-charge, molasses-slow Wi-Fi system and sophisticated teleconferencing for the commanders.[…]

It turns out that most Americans are quite pleased with the gulag system we have set up at Guantanamo and elsewhere, and equally happy with the idea that our president can use drones to murder people wherever he wants.  I would also guess that the use of mercenary contractors is also quite acceptable to the majority of us, although the poll does not ask that question.  If the results of the following poll are truly indicative of the opinion of the public, I can only surmise that consuming too many Happy Meals addles brain functions and decimates moral sensibility.  We might be comfortable, then, housed in a facility like Guantanamo, where there are ten guards for every prisoner, but if we are very, very good, we get our daily ration of cholesterol and e-coli on a bun.  If the results of this poll leave you feeling lonely and somewhat bewildered as to the state of mind of your fellow ‘Mericans – congratulations.  You might be one of few remaining actual and sentient human beings in the US.

The sharpest edges of President Obama’s counterterrorism policy, including the use of drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists abroad and keeping open the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, have broad public support, including from the left wing of the Democratic Party.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Obama, who campaigned on a pledge to close the brig in Cuba and to change national security policies he criticized as inconsistent with U.S. law and values, has little to fear politically for failing to live up to all of those promises.[…]

Americans favor a national security approach that relies more on technology than troops. By a margin of more than 2 to 1, Americans say the president’s handling of terrorism is a major reason to support rather than oppose his bid for reelection.

The survey shows that 70 percent of respondents approve of Obama’s decision to keep open the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He pledged during his first week in office to close the prison within a year, but he has not done so.

Even the party base appears willing to forgive that failure.

The poll shows that 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats — and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats — support keeping Guantanamo Bay open, even though it emerged as a symbol of the post-Sept. 11 national security policies of President George W. Bush, which many liberals bitterly opposed.

Obama has also relied on armed drones far more than Bush did, and he has expanded their use beyond America’s defined war zones. The Post-ABC News poll found that 83 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s drone policy, which administration officials refuse to discuss, citing security concerns.

The president only recently acknowledged the existence of the drone program, which some human rights advocates say operates without a clear legal framework and in violation of the U.S. prohibition against assassination.

But fully 77 percent of liberal Democrats endorse the use of drones, meaning that Obama is unlikely to suffer any political consequences as a result of his policy in this election year.

Support for drone strikes against suspected terrorists stays high, dropping only somewhat when respondents are asked specifically about targeting American citizens living overseas, as was the case with Anwar al-
Awlaki, the Yemeni American killed in September in a drone strike in northern Yemen.[…]

Update, Thurs., 12 July:

We will never know all that goes on in the taxpayer-funded secret hell-holes like Guantanamo, but sometimes a tiny window opens and we get to view another little atrocity being committed in our name.  This is what the majority of Americans support.  From Robert Beckhusen for wired’s dangerroom:

Prisoners inside the U.S. military’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay were forcibly given “mind altering drugs,” including being injected with a powerful anti-psychotic sedative used in psychiatric hospitals. Prisoners were often not told what medications they received, and were tricked into believing routine flu shots were truth serums. It’s a serious violation of medical ethics, made worse by the fact that the military continued to interrogate prisoners while they were doped on psychoactive chemicals.

That’s according to a recently declassified report (.pdf) from the Pentagon’s inspector general, obtained by Truthout 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.

Its side effects are not great. A full list would be too long to reproduce here, but they include depression, muscle contractions and suicidal behavior. A patient on Haldol can develop long-term movement disorders and life-threatening neurological disorders. There’s a possibility (though not common) of heart problems that can lead to sudden death.

Haldol’s main effect, though, is that it makes you really groggy. Now combine that with sleep deprivation and intense, fearful questioning. Brent Mickum, an attorney for detainee Abu Zubaydah, said Zubaydah was “routinely overdosed” with the drug, Truthout notes. (Zubaydah was also waterboarded 83 times in one month.)

The inspector general report also notes that former Guantanamo prisoner and former Saudi policeman named Adel al-Nusairi, was never given Haldol shots during interrogations, but was forced to take monthly injections as he was diagnosed as ”schizophrenic and psychotic with borderline personality disorder.” Other ”uncooperative” detainees were also forced to take injections.

An unnamed detainee told the inspector general he was given unidentified red and blue pills while traveling to Guantanamo from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in 2002. ”At the time they said it was some candy,” he said. After eating the “candy,” the prisoner said he felt like in a “state of delusion” for several days.

At least one detainee, so-called “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla was tricked into believing he was injected with a “truth serum” during an interrogation, possibly a form of LSD or PCP. In reality, it was a flu shot. Still, it’s a “serious breach of medical ethics,” Georgetown University law professor and health policy specialist Gregg Bloche told Truthout. “It undermines trust in military physicians and it’s an unfair insult to the integrity of the vast majority of military doctors, who quite rightly believe that this sort of thing is contrary to their professional obligation,” Bloche said.

The military’s response has been muted. A Pentagon spokesman refused to comment to Truthout as “doing so might not only compromise security,” but added that the military’s operating procedures “are ‘living’ documents, subject to regular change and updating.” The inspector general report noted comments from Guantanamo’s former medical commander that drugs were giving “to help control serious mental illnesses,” and that the practice was approved by an ethics committee.

But did they consent? (No.) Did the medics consult the prisoners’ medical background before administering drugs? Were prisoners still under the effect of the drugs during interrogation? The report concludes: very likely.

And what kind of confessions were interrogators receiving? They may not have been the most reliable, or truthful. Worse, men with serious mental disorders were given heavy sedatives, while interrogations continued. Not many medical professionals would call that treatment.

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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in MIC


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