Notes on Guantánamo & the ‘War on Terror’ (21 June)


Return to Abu Ghraib

Don’t miss Seymour Hersh’s essential article, The General’s Report, in this week’s New Yorker, based on interviews with former US army general Antonio Taguba. Ordered by the Pentagon to investigate abuses at Abu Ghraib by the 800th Military Police Brigade, Taguba was belittled by Rumsfeld and his acolytes after the report was published –- and was ultimately forced out of his job, even though he had not pointed out the culpability of senior officials because it was not in his remit. “They always shoot the messenger,” Taguba told Hersh. “To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal –- that cuts deep into me. I was being ostracized for doing what I was asked to do.”

More important is the following passage:

“From what I knew, troops just don’t take it upon themselves to initiate what they did without any form of knowledge of the higher-ups,” Taguba told me. His orders were clear, however: he was to investigate only the military police at Abu Ghraib, and not those above them in the chain of command. “These MP troops were not that creative,” he said. “Somebody was giving them guidance, but I was legally prevented from further investigation into higher authority. I was limited to a box.”

And this:

“There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff” –- the explicit images –- “was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The President had to be aware of this.” He said that Rumsfeld, his senior aides, and the high-ranking generals and admirals who stood with him as he misrepresented what he knew about Abu Ghraib had failed the nation.

An eye for an eye, an ‘enemy combatant’ for an ‘enemy combatant’

Over at Tomdispatch, in Blowback, Detainee-Style, Karen J. Greenberg, the executive director of New York University’s Center on Law and Security, notes how the US administration has lost the high moral ground in the case of four Iranian-American scholars and activists held as “detainees” in Iran, and “accused of being spies and/or employees of the US government intent on fomenting dissent and disruption within Iran.”

Sounds familiar? Greenberg explains why:

In numerous ways, the US has robbed itself of the right to proclaim the very principles by which these prisoners should be defended. Though President Bush and his spokespersons may not see it, their past policies have set a trap for the government –- and for Americans generally. More than five years after setting up Guantánamo, and then implementing national security strategies based upon torture, secret prisons, and illegal detentions, the Bush administration has managed to obliterate the moral high ground they now seek to claim in relation to Iran.

And this:

At the inception of the war on terror, the Bush administration broke the very rules it now accuses the Iranians of breaking. As part of a high-stakes stand-off with countries associated with Islamic fundamentalism, it was the Bush administration that first collected individuals, some guilty of crimes, some simply swept up in the chaos –- initially off the Afghan battlefield and then off the global one. Often, they did so with very little knowledge of, or care about, whom they were rounding up. They incarcerated these prisoners for long periods without releasing their names or, often, their whereabouts; they refused to give them the established rights of prisoners of war; they defied the united protests of allies around the world; and they sought to justify this whole policy with the term “detainee.”

Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak

And on the front page of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, The Prison Poets Of Guantánamo Find a Publisher gives a welcome boost to Poems From Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak, an 84-page anthology of poems by 17 Guantánamo prisoners. Edited by Marc Falkoff, an English Literature graduate, law professor and attorney for 17 Guantánamo prisoners from the Yemen, this slim but attractive volume will be published in August by the University of Iowa Press. Here’s a sample, by imprisoned al-Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj (translated from Arabic), describing the US authorities’ unsuccessful attempts to recruit him to spy on his al-Jazeera colleagues:

The oppressors are playing with me,
As they move freely around the world.
They ask me to spy on my countrymen,
Claiming it would be a good deed.
They offer me money and land,
And freedom to go where I please.
Their temptations seize
My attention like lightning in the sky.
But their gift is an empty snake,
Carrying hypocrisy in its mouth like venom.

For more on Guantánamo, see my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed.

Leave a Reply

Back to the top

Back to home page

Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
Email Andy Worthington

CD: Love and War

The Four Fathers on Bandcamp

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo


Posts & Comments

World Wide Web Consortium



Powered by WordPress

Designed by Josh King-Farlow

Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist:


In Touch

Follow me on Facebook

Become a fan on Facebook

Subscribe to me on YouTubeSubscribe to me on YouTube

The State of London

The State of London. 16 photos of London

Andy's Flickr photos



Tag Cloud

Afghans in Guantanamo Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington British prisoners Center for Constitutional Rights CIA torture prisons Close Guantanamo Donald Trump Four Fathers Guantanamo Housing crisis Hunger strikes London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Periodic Review Boards Photos President Obama Reprieve Shaker Aamer The Four Fathers Torture UK austerity UK protest US courts Video We Stand With Shaker WikiLeaks Yemenis in Guantanamo