Gitmo – it’s getting worse

The Guardian in the UK is reporting that the conditions in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay are getting worse. The American military lawyer for a British resident who is being held at Gitmo has said:

At least 50 people are on hunger strike, with 20 on the critical list, according to Binyam. The JTF [the Joint Task Force running Guantánamo] are not commenting because they do not want the public to know what is going on.

Binyam has witnessed people being forcibly extracted from their cell. Swat teams in police gear come in and take the person out; if they resist, they are force-fed and then beaten. Binyam has seen this and has not witnessed this before. Guantánamo Bay is in the grip of a mass hunger strike and the numbers are growing; things are worsening.

And this is happening on the watch of the new administration.

This information was part of a story by the Guardian on the treatment of Binyam Mohamed, who she claims was tortured at Gitmo – and that Britain was complicit in his treatment.

Suspicion is also growing that some sections of the US intelligence community would prefer Binyam did die inside Guantánamo. Silenced forever, only the sparse language of his diary would be left to recount his torture claims and interviewees with an MI5 officer, known only as Witness B. Such a scenario would also deny Mohamed the chance to personally sue the US, and possibly British authorities, over his treatment.

Those responsible should be held accountable for their actions.

More at American Torture.


33 Responses

  1. I thought Mr Obama said no more torture. How can we make this go away? Can we back-date the story to say…10/2/08? How can we, other than using the talking head from CNN, airbrush Mr Obama so his image remains untarnished? Any suggestions?

  2. Stephan,

    I am sorry – but you think that we hold Obama on a pedestal and that we will not criticise him or his administration. Well, that is not correct. Notice how I say that this is occuring under the new administration.

    The torture is still occuring – and those responsible must be held accountable.

  3. Well done joni. Keep up the good work.

  4. I know you have a hankering for bagging out anything/anyone “left pinko communist” Stephan, but it was explicitly dropped on the new administration’s doorstep.

    I don’t think Obama is personally responsible for this, but he had better bloody well do something about it. Bush/Cheney may have been the reason behind the buildup of this atrocity, but not doing anything about it is just as bad.

    I’m a pinko lefty (with the one exception being the whole “indigenous reconciliation” thing); but I would tear Obama a new one if he let this continue. At least Bush/Cheney were semi-honest in their attitude (“f#ck them, their terrorists”) – Obama talks the talk, let’s see him walk the walk.

  5. BT, I ain’t interested in tearing down anything from Team Left or Team Right. The fact is my diet does not include bullshit. It’s as simple as that.

    In saying ‘how do we make this go away’ I was of course referring to Anderson Cooper of CNN. During the USA presidential race when Billary and Obama were slugging it out, incidents of overt racism started to surface via the maw of The Most Reverend Wright. Cooper Anderson said on air ‘how do we make this go away?” Because of the nexus that existed between Mr Obama, The Most Reverend Wright, Mrs Obama, The Most Reverend Wright’s overt racism and, the label (my mentor) used by Mr Obama to describe The Most Reverend Wright, it was thought that Mr Obama’s CV should be sent away for emendation.

  6. Yeah yeah Stephan and Obama launched his career in Bill Ayres’ living room. Don’t you guys EVER get sick of mouthing the same tedious crap?

    As any CEO knows, it’s one thing to issue an instruction that subordinates do something and quite another to have it happen. If Obama becomes aware of this latest story (he has quite a bit on his plate ATM) he’ll ask for confirmation. The request will wend its weary way down the chain of command and in due course a response will come back up; probably a mendacious one intended to deflect inquiry. That’s how big organisations work, and the CEO can’t go do everything personally.

    If Obama has picked competent cabinet members they’ll eventually sort this kind of stuff out. But you can’t just sack a bunch of serving soldiers on the word of a lawyer for a prisoner. He’s hardly an impartial source.

  7. @Stephan: I too cannot abide a “diet of bullshit” as you so eloquently put it. I tend to find, however, that you are more amenable to “right wing” crud as compared to “left wing” crud. This has created an impression (rightly or wrongly) that you are a “right winger”. Having a quick glance through your recent posts (though there are not many in the last week), I find nothing to change this view

    @Ken Lovell:Absolutely true, but if there is no REAL investigation & action resulting from this – it is the equivalent of the CEO simply making nice noises for company PR, but still dumping the toxic waste in the ocean. A competent CEO needs to take charge of the company or they are simply a figurehead for the real power-brokers outside the public firing line.

  8. I’m unsure of why there is a conscious effort on the part of those “not of the left” (as unhelpful as left/right labels can be) to imagine some kind of blind, servile docility among those “of the left” in regard to assuming that Obama is a deity who can do no wrong.

    What a crock!

    Obama gets no more of a free kick than the Village Idiot, he is just the next hood ornament on the US institution & will be scrutinised as such. I don’t believe in human invincibility.

    He should, however, be given a bit more time than a couple of weeks to get his shit together.
    That he recognises the damage done to US “prestige” globally by his predecessor through such blatant disregard for international due process as Gitmo is a good start. The hard part will be following through with workable, meaningful change; & the jury will be out on how well he’s doing this for a while yet.

  9. Geez……If you guys are that convinced people have been “tortured” at Gitmo you best not do any research on the American penal system as a whole. You have no idea how good they have it comparatively speaking…………..It is my understanding that Rudd has no intention of taking any of the innocent goat herders as well; even those taken on the battlefields of Afghanistan, the “Good War”? How typical……..

  10. Trying to divert the attention to the US penal system will not stop me (or others) from from blogging on the torture at Gitmo. You know – the torture that you have denied.

  11. I don’t think it’s a “Good War” sparta. Never have. A misnomer.

    Is there any such thing? only in the minds of ideologues I’d suggest.

    How do you read the public mood of your country ATM?
    Is it as “doom & gloom” as it’s being portrayed to be?
    [not taking the piss here, genuinely interested]

  12. Joni,

    You’re a “true believer” Joni…..I simply think the term torture is to loosely used these days (undefined) and this issue way to politicized. I mean you’re taking your talking points from the Guardian for heaven’s sake; hardly a bastion of objectivity. I am surprised you haven’t posted anything on BO continuing on with the rendition program yet? Forgive me for not chalking “water-boarding” up there with bamboo shoots under the finger nails or beheading. Given what goes on in our Federal prisons daily without the benefit of world condemnation, like rape, murder and physical abuse I would expect you would have more to say? So you keep beating that drum if it helps you sleep at night or gives you a sense of moral superiority but many, to include your Prime Minister, recognize the difference between rhetoric and reality………..

  13. Ah yes, sparta, when I use details from your own Senate you are very quiet. When I use details from Susan Crawford you are very quiet.

  14. Hard to argue that water-boarding isn’t torture Sparta, it looks pretty bad to me

  15. Joni,

    “Ah yes, sparta, when I use details from your own Senate you are very quiet. When I use details from Susan Crawford you are very quiet.”

    Well there are also around 30% of Americans that share your opinion Joni, also true believers in my opinion. We also have a moron in the Senate who compared Gitmo to the Soviet Gulags so go figure. One thing is certain; BO is not in a big hurry to shut the torture palace down either as reality has replaced the rhetoric. But in regards to Susan Crawford: “It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge” to call it torture, she said.” Thank you for that Susan, your OPINION is duly noted! Hardly quiet Joni, just don’t quite understand her rationale or yours and getting into another debate over whose definition of torture is more legitimate is not exactly productive. Again, if we use your definition and Mrs. Crawford’s, then the American penal system as a whole is more of a torture system then Gitmo will ever be. Why not start there crusader? I simply disagree with your version of reality mate but you’re certainly entitled to it.

  16. The Only Ones,

    “Hard to argue that water-boarding isn’t torture Sparta, it looks pretty bad to me”

    Not really. Although I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end, would you say having your finger nails pulled out is on par then? Do we define torture by the physical, psychological or what? Is being made uncomfortable fit that description as well?

  17. I simply disagree with your version of reality mate but you’re certainly entitled to it.

    As compared to what, your version of unreality?

    Like the condescending use of the term “mate”, sometimes methinks you are more Australian and less American than you would have us believe.

  18. Adrian,

    You really must try to get out more………….

  19. @Sparta:
    Um, mate, you included “beheading” as a comparison to water-boarding in debating the definition of “torture”. Where we come from, beheading is a method of “execution”… something even you would frown upon I believe.

    Also, trying to redefine “water-boarding” as not torture because pulling out fingernails is worse is like stating that people in minimum/medium security jails are not “incarcerated” because they are not as confined & watched as those in maximum security. I don’t think anyone here is arguing that pulling out fingernails is an equivalent “torture” to water-boarding. That doesn’t change the fact it IS torture (as has been admitted by your own officials, regardless of how much you try to disregard it).

    If we were to take your approach to these things, abusive husbands would be able to get off because
    “It was only a slap, it’s not like I broke her arm which is REAL abuse”

    Trying to get us to complain about your penal system is a red herring. We’re talking about Gitmo and it’s treatment of non-American citizens. and I highly doubt your penal systems allows water-boarding for confessions either.

  20. would you say having your finger nails pulled out is on par then

    Yes, I think I would. But that’s not really the point, because what that argument is is a question of the degree’s of pain involved. I reckon getting your nails ripped out would be awful, I think shoots underneath them may be a bit worse(no, I’m not willing to run a test lol) and I think getting electric shock applied to your genitals probably trumps those. So comparing one form of torture to another like that is not very useful in my opinion, however I do think the act of essentially simulating the effects of drowning, indeed breathing water into your lungs and gasping, sputtering trying desperately( futilely ) to get it out again as your body craves oxygen is something that I think sounds very much like my idea of torture. Putting aside for a minute the other aspects involved in that you may or may not know that you actually, might die from the whole experience.

    So yes, I think it’s torture

  21. B.Tolputt

    Addtionally – the US penal system allows for any allegations of abuse to be dealt with by the courts (whether or not those courts are flawed is a different matter).

    But it is just a red herring that sparta is trying to introduce.

    And it is interesting to note that he dismisses the convening authority of the military commissions at Gitmo so lightly.

  22. **actually, might die from the whole **

    actually might NOT die from the whole

  23. Even if it ain’t torture, & it is, it is a foolhardy way of trying to obtain inaccurate & coerced unreliable & inadmissable intelligence.

  24. While I broadly agree the Obama administration should be given more than two weeks to institute their new hopenchange nirvana, they are directly responsible for this particular decision:

    Dissenting Justice: Just As I Predicted: Obama Administration Invokes State Secrets Privilege in Anti-Torture Lawsuit

    At a court hearing held today, the Obama administration maintained the Bush policy of asserting a broad “state secrets” privilege to shield from disclosure information related to the CIA’s rendition program. Human rights activists have long maintained that Bush utilized the program to “outsource” torture.


    But rendition and secrecy provoke passionate political debate. Accordingly, the Obama administration has released a statement, which (predictably) says that DOJ will “review” the state secrets privilege in other cases. The ACLU, however, is fuming. I, however, am not surprised — particularly since Obama will continue rendition itself.

  25. Tony, if you’re correct (& I can’t see why you wouldn’t be in this case) then they stand condemned in my eyes.

    First notch against on my mental blacklist, more to follow no doubt…multitudes required to plumb the depths of Bush/Cheney’s repugnance.

  26. Tony of South Yarra, on February 10th, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Good one ToSY. And I’ll tell you something else all past administrations have done that he will vigorously continue, and that is protect US industries from investigation by overseas and international entities for corrupt and sometimes human rights violations. He will also prevent them from being investigated on these things by any US authority or agency. Senator Hillary Clinton once voted against one such investigation into Haliburton on their corruption in Iraq, as did about 90% of the US Senate.

    There is one thing above the law, government and even above religion in the US and that is the right of US companies to make money on the backs of the misery of others, especially foreign others.

    Iraq is setting up to sue many of the US firms who operate there and under any international or domestic court they have a very good case to mount and a high likelihood of being successful, but watch this being killed stone cold dead by the Obama administration.

  27. Tony of South Yarra, on February 10th, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Indeed, Obama owns that one

    Somethings, never change (sadly)

  28. I’m disappointed, but not surprised by the Obama decision you bring up, Tony. Simply put there are two major “traditions” (for want of a better word) in play that no US President will ever break, no matter how liberal.

    Firstly, there is (like here in Australia) a complete lack of criminal/civil liability imposed on previous governments/leaders. Even Nixon was pardoned, and his was a pretty open & shut case of (severe) abuse of power. Basically put, nobody wants to set the precedent that will enable people to come after them once their term is over. As such, cases that would bring George Bush & Co. into court for criminal / civil issues will be buried using whatever means possible.

    Secondly, the US reputation is bad enough right now but just imagine how low it would get if there were definitive proof shown in open court that they shipped prisoners to YOUR country for torture & illegal imprisonment. Right now, world leaders are probably aware of the issue & I reckon a few of them know outright that such things occurred in their country, but the general (voting) population only has “lefty pinko” rumours & innuendo (as it is spun) on the problem. Definitive proof would change the relationship in a heartbeat as the voters would turn against leaders that condoned siad behaviour.

    Finally, and this is a “good” reason to keep things secret. If countries were able to know certian details about these renditions – it would be possible to compromise at least some of the CIA operatives involved. This would, in my opinion, be worth it but the good ole USA places alot higher opinion on their war-readiness, of which covert operations & operatives are an important component.

  29. After the recent announcements that Obama would continue the practice of rendition and that the CIA would seek approval for “harsh” interrogations “if necessary,” the small space I reserve in my heart for idealism and for surprisingly good decisions (or at least decisions that fulfill promises) by politicians has diminished substantially. But after today’s news, the space has completely vanished.

    What happened today? Elena Kagan, Dean of Harvard Law School and nominee for Solicitor General, announced that she believes that the government has the authority to detain indefinitely terrorism suspects because the country is “at war” with Al Qaeda. Because I am busy finishing edits on a law review article, can someone please explain to me how this differs from Bush’s position, which liberals condemned, bashed and burned in effigy?

  30. ToSY,

    Please understand that we will hold Obama to the same standards that we held Bush. If he allows indefinite detention – we will protest. If he allows torture – we will protest.

    This is not about left/right, this is about human rights.

  31. OK Joni, thanks.

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