Once upon a time, Daily Kos had numerous diaries on the ongoing use of torture by the United States, or on the false evidence, much of it wrung from tortured prisoners held by the US or by foreign countries via rendition, that was used to start the Iraq War. But today, such diaries are the exception rather than the rule.
The general turning away from the torture issue follows the policy of the very popular US president Barack Obama who has famously said that the country must look forward and not backwards when it comes to the torture scandal. By that he means, no investigations or prosecutions for torturers.
But he never told the American people it would mean making deals with torturers in the Saudi government, or with allies, who would seek to hold one Guantanamo detainee in particular indefinitely, or ship him to the Saudi dungeons, all so evidence he could supply in an ongoing investigation could be suppressed.
If proven true, this obstruction of justice is a crime. But more than that, it is an attempt to falsify history, and that may be its real legacy. More immediately, it is destroying the life and family of an innocent man, British resident Shaker Aamer, cleared for release from Guantanamo by both Bush and Obama administrations, but still held in indefinite detention by the U.S.
Via his attorney, Aamer was able to get heard via an op-ed that was published April 20 in The Guardian:
Have you ever tried going without food for 24 hours? Today, I am on my 68th day….In truth, while I am horrified by the suffering around me, I am also encouraged. There is more solidarity among the prisoners than ever before. The military is not being honest about the number of men on strike: most of us are refusing to eat. The military responds with violence, as if that will break us; it draws us all together.
Now they are sending in the goon squad (the Forcible Cell Extraction, or FCE, team) to beat me up every time I ask for something, whether it is my medicine, a bottle of water or the right to shower. That only reinforces my resolve….
I hope I do not die in this awful place. I want to hug my children and watch them as they grow.
A UK petition to free Aamer has reached over 100,000 signature, and according to Andy Worthington reporting from Britain, “on 15 April 2013 the Leader of the House of Commons passed this petition to the House of Commons Backbench Business Committee to consider for debate.” But it may be almost too late, as Aamer’s attorney has indicated the likelihood that Aamer may die in Guantanamo.Aamer’s assertions of ongoing brutality by Guantanamo’s “Emergency Reaction Force” (“goon squads”) was documented in a well-received 2009 article by Jeremy Scahill. Many thought that President Obama would never let such tactics continue. Sadly, they were wrong.
Shaker Aamer’s Secrets Embarrass UK and US
Unlike the vast majority of detainees held at Guantanamo, Aamer speaks very good English. He is intelligent and motivated. That makes him dangerous to the authorities running Guantanamo. While President Obama’s administration and DoD officials maintain Guantanamo is run humanely, a blue-ribbon panel assembled by The Constitution Project, including former GOP officials, have determined that abuse still occurs, and have pointed out the the Army Field Manual’s Appendix M, a prime culprit in ongoing abuse, should be excised from that document and from DoD practice. (Link to the long and fascinating report.)
But it apparently is not only testimony about being tortured or seeing others tortured that Aamer can supply. That alone would probably not be enough to hold him forever. Instead, exposes this past weekend in the British press have indicated Aamer is being held indefinitely, or considered for “repatriation” to Saudi Arabia, because he can testify to the presence of British counter-terrorism agents from MI5 and MI6 at his own torture… and the torture of Ibn Shaikh al-Libi.
Al-Libi famously was tortured to give false evidence about Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of chemical weapons as part of the doctored evidence presented to US and world public opinion to justify the unprovoked invasion of Iraq by the US-dominated coalition in 2003. The invasion was responsible for the deaths of an untold number of Iraqis (estimates ranging from 100,000 to well over a million), an untold number of injured, produced millions of refugees, and generally destabilized the region.
In a recent Guardian expose, the culpability of high US officials in the organization and operation of death and torture squads by the Iraqis was documented. But in the United States, there appeared to be almost no interest in these developments.
From the Guardian/Observer story:
Aamer’s lawyers increasingly fear his chances of being allowed home to London are actually diminishing. Reprieve say Aamer is alone among the 779 who have been detained in Guantánamo Bay in having purportedly been cleared for release, but to only one country – Saudi Arabia. Repatriation to Saudi Arabia would, they warn, see Aamer detained indefinitely, his access to media and his lawyers hugely curtailed. Aamer has repeatedly protested against the possibility of forced repatriation to Saudi Arabia.According to Stafford Smith: “The sole reason for the US to send Shaker to Saudi Arabia is to have him silenced, most likely by sentencing him to a long imprisonment after a sham trial.”
Meanwhile, a massive hunger strike at Guantanamo continues, as prisoners protest the disrespect accorded to them by treatment of their Korans, and the generally brutal conditions under the psychologically debilitating regime of indefinite detention.It would be not just a crying shame if the Daily Kos readership were to continue with their general neglect of this issue, but the deterioration of human rights at Guantanamo are meant ultimately to affect you, as the assault on individual rights and liberties are bleeding back into the US criminal justice system, as this article by Emptywheel explains.
In the end, I consider this to be a moral and ethical question. Ask yourselves if you are okay living in a country that can routinely destroy the lives of innocent people and align themselves with the most reactionary regimes on the planet, all in the name of supposedly protecting people, but really to cover the asses of the crimes of governments.
You may ask why me? Why today? Why should I put myself out? The answer is not to save your soul, though some may put it that way. It is to save the world for your children and your children’s children. There is no end to evil when good people refuse to step forward and do what is right.
Men today suffer in small rooms, isolated, beaten when they ask even for a bottle of water, “chemically restrained” (as a recent DoD IG report admitted) if the authorities decided it, and for what? I ask you for what? Well, now we know. Are you okay with that?
Jeffrey Kaye, a psychologist living in Northern California, writes regularly on torture and other subjects for Truthout, The Public Record and Firedoglake. He also maintains a personal blog, Invictus. His email address is sfpsych at gmail dot com.