Notes on Guantánamo & the ‘War on Terror’ (22 June)

22.6.07

Who’s woken up to reality?

In a must-read article on Salon, Imperial presidency declared null and void, Sidney Blumenthal, former Clinton adviser and perspicacious commentator on the brutal follies of the Bush administration, tantalizingly points out that “one of the key framers” of the “war paradigm” –- the President’s post-9/11 power-grab, which gave him dictatorial powers, as wartime commander in chief, to make and enforce laws as he saw fit –- “confesses that he has abandoned his belief in the whole doctrine, though he refuses to say so publicly. If he were to speak up, given his seminal role in formulating the policy and stature among the Federalist Society cadres that run it, his rejection would have a shattering impact … But this figure remains careful to disclose his disillusionment with his own handiwork only in off-the-record conversations.”

Blumenthal also writes of “another Bush legal official, even now at the commanding heights of power,” who “admits that the administration’s policies are largely discredited. In its defense, he says without a hint of irony or sarcasm, ‘Not everything we’ve done has been illegal’.”

This is progress, of course (to put it mildly), but now we need NAMES …

Habeas denied: it’s official

On Wednesday, as reported by SCOTUSblog, Think Progress and almost no one else, DC Circuit judges, “after pondering the issue for more than two months … refused to delay any longer putting into effect its decision that Guantánamo Bay detainees have lost all rights to pursue habeas challenges to their prolonged imprisonment.” Habeas? Who cares? With the recent collapse of the Military Commissions, this latest abject surrender to the tyranny of last October’s Military Commissions Act leaves the 379 men still alive in Guantánamo’s isolation cells with no rights whatsoever, their fate entirely subject to the whims of the President.

Let’s forget, shall we, what Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his majority opinion in Rasul v. Bush, way back in June 2004:

Executive imprisonment has been considered oppressive and lawless since John, at Runnymede, pledged that no free man should be imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed or exiled save by the judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. The judges of England developed the writ of habeas corpus largely to preserve these immunities from executive restraint.

Passing the buck

Meanwhile, the Miami Herald, in Capitol Hill struggles with closing Gitmo, reports on State Department legal adviser John Bellinger’s testimony before the US Helsinki Commission (on Security and Cooperation in Europe), in which he admitted, “We fully and acutely realize Guantánamo has become a lightning rod for criticism around the world,” but added, “Everyone will agree these people need to be detained –- somewhere.” Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings –- the chair of the Commission and a former judge who was impeached for corruption and perjury –- then weighed in with a suggestion of his own. “Guantánamo has to be closed, over and out,” Hastings declared. “But if Europe isn’t prepared to stand up and take their share, I believe they ought to mute some of their criticism.”

Fine words, Sir, but remind me again: what exactly was Europe’s role when Messrs Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzales concocted the aberrant extra-legal experiment that is Guantánamo in the first place?

When the pot calls the kettle black

From Bangladesh, where released Guantánamo prisoner Mubarak Hashim –- arrested in a Pakistani street for no reason in December 2001 –- recently described how he was subjected to electric shocks and held naked in a freezing cold cell during his five years in Guantánamo, comes a perceptive letter in the Daily Star quoting US ambassador Patricia Butenis –- soon to depart for Baghdad, of all places –- saying, “Deaths in custody, mistreatment of the detainees, lack of clarity on who gets arrested and why, and so-called ‘secret detentions’ are all unacceptable.” The letter writer adds that these comments “will earn her the gratitude of the whole sane world who will no doubt applaud her courage –- provided, of course, that the quote refers to Guantánamo Bay. However, if it is a remark on Bangladesh, then one can only ignore her for being a part of the usual myopic vision exhibited by recent US governments.”

Touché!

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.

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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, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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