Death Only Way Out of Gitmo
By Victor Thorn
In January, the State Department closed down its own Guantanamo Bay prison closure office and reassigned Daniel Fried, the only envoy responsible for resettling detainees. If anything, it looks like the White House is intent on expanding Gitmo into a larger facility.
In a March 26 column, former Project Censored award winner Stephen Lendman complained about the current administration’s plans to expand—not close—Gitmo.
“[Obama] broke every major promise made,” wrote Lendman. “Appalling human rights violations continue on his watch. Torture remains policy. It persists throughout Washington’s gulag. Obama bears full responsibility.”
To get a firsthand account, on March 28 AFP spoke with Assistant Federal Defender Carlos Warner, a man who has visited Gitmo on at least 30 occasions, twice within the past month. He has also represented several of the inmates.
As a way of clarifying his disappointment, Warner began: “I’m a liberal that supports Obama. I had faith in him. But there’s no evidence that Obama will ever close Gitmo. I need to call the facts as I see them. Guantanamo isn’t a priority for the White House.”
Warner continued: “In their press briefings, Obama spokesmen say they remain committed to closing Gitmo, but it’s nothing but rhetoric. Or, they make policy decisions to blame the GOP so that liberals will be calmed. But there’s no will at all. Obama’s actions completely belie his words.”
Stressing the seriousness of this situation, Warner explained: “Obama made a promise, then utterly failed to follow through. Because of that, men in Gitmo are starving themselves to death. When someone dies at Gitmo, I won’t blame Lindsey Graham or John McCain. I’ll blame Obama.”
When asked to provide a snapshot of Gitmo today, Warner spoke from direct experience.
“Despite possessing very modern prison facilities, the mood is one of utter hopelessness,” he said. “Most of these men were declared innocent and freed for release, but the only way they’ll leave Gitmo is through their deaths. Obama hasn’t done any work to repatriate them. As a constitutional attorney, it’s incomprehensible that Obama still embraces the idea of indefinite detention, especially when it’s outlawed under the Geneva Conventions.”
In a July 23, 2012 article, political journalist and civil rights expert Glenn Greenwald addressed how, like with so many other aspects of U.S. foreign policy, Obama is little more than a continuation of neocons George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. “In January 2010 the Obama administration announced it would continue to imprison several dozen Guantanamo detainees without any charges or trials of any kind, including even a military commission, on the grounds that they were ‘too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to release.’ That was all Obama’s doing, completely independent of anything Congress did.”
Greenwald further revealed that Democratic congressmen voted to block funding for Gitmo’s closure because no one in the current administration has offered a workable plan for reassigning detainees. In essence, Greenwald concluded that Obama is acting as Bush-Cheney II. “The administration plans to continue its predecessor’s policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial.”
Taken a step further, Obama has directly halted the transfer of 57 Yemeni prisoners that have been designated for release. Nancy Talanian of “No More Guantanamos” provided the reasoning behind this decision during a March 28 AFP interview.
“The Yemenis are being kept at Gitmo because the 2009 Christmas Day Bomber was indoctrinated in Yemen,” said Ms. Talanian. “So, to save face with the Republicans, Obama put up a moratorium to keep them in Gitmo.”
To get a better idea of Obama’s tactics, AFP contacted Bill Schuerer, director of the anti-war group Peace Majority. Schuerer began: “I’m from Obama’s home base of Illinois, so I never had high hopes that he’d close Gitmo. It’s all political wishful thinking. I still remember when Obama said he wasn’t against all wars, just dumb wars. He wants to push the U.S. toward what he considers ‘just wars.’”
On a more positive note, Schuerer offered a suggestion. “All of the most high-profile anti-war and human rights groups like CODE PINK should charter a boat and organize a flotilla like they did in Gaza. That would heighten awareness and get some domestic coverage from the mainstream media. Hopefully, your article will lead to this idea