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Guantánamo Bay « Previous | |Next »
April 26, 2011

Barack Obama has been unable, and unwilling, to shut Guantánamo Bay more than two years after he ordered its closure. The continued existence of the extrajudicial prison camp has become a symbol to many of the gap between the promise and rhetoric of his early presidency.

BellSGuantanamoBay.jpg Steve Bell

Early moves by the White House to transfer these detainees to a facility in the US, while it figured out what to do with them, foundered after the Senate voted down a budget for it amid rising public resistance in the US to the idea of allowing potentially dangerous terrorists on to US soil.

With the Guantánamo files---750 leaked US military files containing secret assessments of Guantánamo detainees--- we have an insight into the extraordinarily thin material presented as "evidence" in the assessments. This evidence must be treated with scepticism as a number of files contain information known to have been extracted under torture, which has in several cases subsequently been found unreliable. It is a Kafkaesque world of the national security state.

The files spell out the extent of involvement US authorities believe each detainee has had with al-Qaida, the Taliban or other terror groups, an assessment of their intelligence value and the threat they are considered to pose if released. In each case they also make a recommendation for the future detention, release or transfer of the detainee.

Many had no connection to al-Qaida or the Taliban leader. Some were uneducated farmers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. No matter. The myth that the prison held "the worst of the worst" terrorists, picked up on the battlefields of Afghanistan, was what was important.

The Conservative's big concern is to use military tribunals to extract intelligence and to try terrorists because of their distrust of the ordinary judicial system to fulfill the goals of criminal justice system, which for them, is to send people to prison and to execute them. The shift from criminal to enemy is cloaked in law.

This gives the national security state greater freedom to deal with its enemies, including people who have no link to a war in any normal sense of the term on the ground of protecting a liberal democratic society and the rule of law. Hence the examples of the miscarriage of justice at Guantánamo Bay.

This is not a concern for conservatives because their political agenda is one of rights curtailment; a systematic attack on human liberties; a displacement of peace by war, and a displacement of the rule of law by the state of exception.

So the surreal system of Guantanamo Bay remains open for business despite the fact that over half the remaining 172 prisoners have been cleared for release by Obama's own task force. Guantánamo will remain active in all its forms: indefinite detention; military commissions; and transfers.

Guantánamo embodies the failure of America, Britain and Australia's Afghan war, which began amid bombast in 2001, and has since collapsed into yet another quagmire. Retreat under the cover of spin is the only viable option.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:59 AM | | Comments (12)


I always hope that the people running the world are actually a bit smarter and more reasonable than they seem to be. So often it turns out they're even more stupid and unreasonable than you'd think possible. This is one of those times.

Cool, Lyn's still alive :).

The US response to September 11 2001 was essentially adolescent. The overwhelming instinct was to punish assholes who had the nerve to do that to the iconic city of the Empire. It was a furious reaction based on wounded pride at being made to look just as disorganised and unexceptional as all those ordinary countries.

It also required 'the enemy' to be boosted into a malignant external force infinitely greater in power and influence than was actually the case. Cue endless macho strutting in response to comparisons with Munich and Pearl Harbour and so on, when in fact all that happened was that a small bunch of terrorists got amazingly lucky.

Having restored their self-esteem by making out the danger was hugely greater than it really was, they are caught now in a trap of their own devising. They can't admit to the truth because it will make their absurd over-reaction over the last 10 years look even more ridiculous than it does already. Therefore they are forced to defend the indefensible and engage in the most ludicrous cognitive dissonance, just to bolster the fictitious basis of the whole GWOT/existential Islamofascist threat nonsense that has underpinned so much policy for a decade.

Sad really. Even sadder that the Australian government refuses to call it for what it is and the PM instead prefers to keep shouting "USA! USA!" like the most simple-minded Teabagger.

Well put, Ken.

But suuuuuurely it's better to be safe than sorry. After all the US (and Australia, of course) are ALWAYS the victims. Aren't we?

The Guantánamo Files, says the New York Times show that the United States has imprisoned hundreds of men for years without trial based on a difficult and strikingly subjective evaluation of who they were, what they had done in the past and what they might do in the future.

Among the leaked documents is a 17-page guide for analysts, evidently prepared by military intelligence trainers, on how to gauge the danger posed by a detainee.

“Refusal to cooperate,” the guide says, is a Qaeda resistance technique!

Guantánamo is a closed world where detainees were the main source of allegations against one another and sudden recollections of having spotted a fellow prisoner at a Qaeda training camp could curry favor with interrogators.

The other point of course is that al Qaeda's leaders have been rubbing their hands with glee for 10 years. In their wildest dreams they cannot have imagined they would achieve such stunning success - something the US establishment seems to ignore completely.

"...something the US establishment seems to ignore completely..."

Sorry Ken. If by "establishment" you mean the US power elite, I think you're missing the point. As far as those folks are concerned, they WANT an al Qaeda success. How else would the neocons justify their schemes? It's a perverse win-win.

I'm surprised I get zilch when I google for "guanoleaks"

There has been lots of mythmaking about al-Qaida. Remember the spurious connection of al-Qaida to Saddam Hussein and the non-existent weapons of mass destruction in the "threat" of a mass casualty attack involving chemical and biological weapons.

The carnival barkers on Fox News rants on about WikiLeaks. They should be tried for espionage according to Bill O'Reilly at the infotainment sideshow.

The Republican brand is toxic---eg., birtherism. Their basic rhetorical game was simple: Avoid endorsing an idea that is crazy on its face while not fully repudiating it, thus giving the Republican base a reason to keep believing. The conservative US media then plays along, stirring the pot.

Indeed, Nan.

The mythmaking was hysterical and relentless. And all the fearmongering had the desired effect.

Whatever happened to the Boeing 707 fuselages at Salman Pak... the ones apparently being used by al Q for hijack training?

I recall the position of the Howard Government that we should trust the government to imprison people for life based on secret, untested "evidence" never reviewed by a court.

The WikiLeaks Guantanamo files shows the extreme unreliability of the “evidence” used by the US and Australian governments to justify the imprisonment of detainees indefinitely without any charges either in a real court or even before a military commission.

What these files show is how oppressive the American detention system is; how unreliable the evidence is on which the accusations are based; and how so many people were put in cages for years without any justification.

Remember the justification for the War on Terrorism?

It's about a "struggle against murderous extremism"; that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are designed to enhance "the country's security"; that The Terrorists hate us for our freedoms; that the War on Terror makes us safer; and that the U.S. is one of the Good Guys in the world fighting the Evil Doers to protect Democracy and Freedom.