This disgusts me

The President needs to stop this and find a way out. But he isn’t. He’s defending it. The inhumanity of force-feeding political prisoners plays out in the wider world just like Abu-Ghraib. But this time, it’s my guy doing it. Shame, shame, shame.

MIAMI, July 3 (Reuters) – The U.S. federal court has no  jurisdiction and no legal basis to intervene in the  force-feeding of prisoners at the Guantanamo naval base, the  Obama administration argued in a court document on Wednesday

32 responses to “This disgusts me

  1. Moe, I agree. It is disgusting…

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  2. So, you’d prefer him to let them starve to death or to the point where they suffer permanent harm? That’s more than fine with me, but it sounds odd coming from you.

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  3. Moe,

    With all due respect, what the heck else is Obama supposed to do? Let them starve?

    And even if you make the counter argument that he should just release these prisoners, it still takes time to find countries willing to accept them (there aren’t many) and to get around procedural issues — and I can guarantee you that the Secretary of Defense won’t make a case for how releasing any of these prisoners will actually improve national security. In fact, a large percentage of those we’ve released end up taking up arms against us again anyway, so there’s actually a strong argument to support the opposite conclusion (see http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/06/us-usa-guantanamo-recidivism-idUSTRE82501120120306). Since it takes about three weeks for a human being to starve to death, releasing the prisoners as a solution is simply not realistic or feasible.

    Moreover, this has to be one of the most self-serving, vacuous interviews I’ve ever seen. Not once does the interviewer ask the practical question most reasonable, pragmatic people would ask: what’s the immediate alternative? Let them starve? And there may, in fact, be other alternatives, but the interviewer didn’t bother to ask. Instead, he went on to lament over how terrible the prisoners’ suffering was, while ignoring why any of these cuddly, lovable individuals found themselves in Guantanamo Bay.

    There are some seriously dangerous individuals here. Take Saifullah Paracha (http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/1094/documents/11), for instance. He attempted to smuggle chemical and biological weapons into the United States for al Qaeda. Do you honestly believe that this individual should be unleashed? How about Mohammed Ahmad Said al Edah (http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/33/documents/11), a known bin Laden associate? What about Ali Husein Shaaban (http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/327-ali-husein-shaaban), a confirmed Syrian terrorist?

    Do you honestly think the liberal media would be any kinder to Obama if the US military let the hunger strike continue and someone actually died of starvation?

    Personally, if these prisoners want to commit suicide by starving themselves, I agree with you on an emotional level. I say let them do it. We shouldn’t stand in their way. However, from a cold-hearted rational perspective, I just don’t think it would serve our national interests if these people starved to death in our care, which seems to be the only realistic alternative to force feeding.

    I’m sorry, but I stand with President Obama on this one. What he is doing is rational as it is the lesser of two evils.

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    • Nice to see you here Sean. You’re always missed. (and how’s the reception on the newest publication?)

      You say ” the Secretary of Defense won’t make a case for how releasing any of these prisoners will actually improve national security”. Of course he won’t. But the hate engendered among our enemies by these kinds of violations of human rights are far far more dangerous to us than what 80-something men can do. And it’s damaging our reputation among many who are NOT our enemies. And it makes a mockery of what the US has always stood for.

      I’m sure with some creative thinking the big brains in Justice and the Pentagon can find alternatives between force feeding and letting them go. They invented the internet and stuff. Smart guys there.

      Their starvation campaign is a protest and they’re protesting because they want to be heard. So let us offer them that. Find some legal justification for bringing htem to mainland prisons. Put them on public trial in Federal court. Hey, I’m even okay with going ahead and ‘fixing’ the trials sub rosa so they are found guilty.I wouldn’t like it but it would be better than this.

      You say “he went on to lament over how terrible the prisoners’ suffering was, while ignoring why any of these cuddly, lovable individuals found themselves in Guantanamo Bay”

      I’d say one of these has absolutely nothing to do with the other. You’re basically saying if the crime is terrible enough torture is okay? I dont’ believe you believe that Sean.

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      • Moe,

        Firstly, the hate for America you mention was already there and was endemic in the Muslim World since WW2 and the hatred of the Western World for longer.

        Secondly, the last thing you do when people resort to this sort of behavior is give them an audience and venue. You’re a parent; you should know that.

        Thirdly, insofar as I can see, trying these creatures in a civilian court is the last, worst thing we could do to ourselves. It would amount to a destruction of the framework for our whole judicial system actually set a precedence for that “American Empire” you Liberals rant about because doing so would both require a trial with incontestable (National Security) evidence and witnesses AND an at least tacit acceptance of international jurisdiction for American laws.

        I won’t even speak to the idea of rigging the trials since accepting that means the goal has no connection with anything other than political expediency.

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        • jonolan, I get that they’ve always hated us (and why not? Crusades (admittedly bizarre given that those were almost a thousand years ago), oil, Iran 1953, dictators galore) but adding to that is still problematic.

          Re Empire – that of course is what we are. We don’t grab territory anymore, so in that sense we’re a different kind of empire. But a hegemon with military presence in a hundred other nations, the largest badest military in the world (by a factor of about 20) who dangles monetary aid to anyone who will do what we say . .. sorry,, that’s an Empire.

          And as for political expediency as a reason to do what I suggest? Okay. After all, isn’t war considered to be a failure of politics? By extension then, war itself is politics by other means.

          As Karl Rove and Richard Viguery used to say (probably not original to them) perception is everything. Stopping this force feeding can mitigate the growing perception of the US as a torturer and a violator of the human rights that we have so loudly demanded of others.

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  4. I’m with Sean on this one, Moe. If these men were allowed to starve themselves they would become more martyred to radical Islamic culture than they are as mere prisoners. Also, despite the unfortunate but unavoidable legal conundrum of their imprisonment, i.e., the difficulty of trials, their continuing imprisonment surely must make would-be terrorists think twice before acting. I hope.

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    • Jim – see my reply to Sean about alternatives, but I’ll add that I don’t think imprisonment is any kind of a deterrent to political ideologues who don’t fear death. Who often seek martyrdom. What’s prison to them?

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      • What’s prison to them?

        Moe, when I had a slipped disc in my back and was operated on at Bethesda Naval Hospital 32 years ago, I developed a leak of my cerebral spinal fluid which caused me to be confined prone in a private room for about a month. (They said I set a record for the longest healing of such a problem.) My family, including two teens in school, were in Boston and couldn’t be with me. The only human contact I had during that period was meal delivery and very brief nursing visits, plus a daily phone call with my wife. I had a TV, but somehow I remained sane. It was exquisite torture. Religion or not, restraint of freedom is just that for human beings, torture. I am confounded by Mandella’s prevalence in this regard.

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        • Jim!! Ouch! So sorry.

          So . . . if these guys start out seeking – or at least willing to be – martyrs, how is capture likely to keep them from their mission? In criminal justice, there is not any evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterent to horrific crimes.

          We use the rationale of being at war which, since the enemy is an idea not an army, will be perpetual.

          Should not the simple fact that we haven’t added to that prison population in recent years suggest that that war is no longer ongoing?

          I’m not suggesting “releasing prisoners of war” because the war is over (of course, ‘officially’ it is not). I’m quite aware of the impossibility of that even for those thought to be innocent. But I think we now have an obligation to do something else . . . and the only thing that works for me is actual trials.

          Have there even been any military tribunals yet? KSM was tried I think, but others?

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          • You’re right of course, Moe, to note that the death penalty is not very effective as a deterrent. It’s human nature to assume that getting held accountable is something that happens to the other guy. As for tribunals, a Miami Herald columnist had this take last April:

            Of the 800 people to pass through Gitmo, Bravin reports, there have been all of seven convictions in the tribunals: five plea bargains and two trials, only one of which was contested. The trials cost the government hundreds of thousands of dollars per week (much of it due to judges, lawyers, witnesses, journalists and all the rest who must be flown to the base in Cuba, where some sleep in tents) and produce questionable outcomes.

            David Hicks, an Australian who was the first to be sentenced by a terrorism tribunal, got a nine-month sentence in addition to time served in Gitmo; he is now a free man and wrote a book about his experience. Compare that to John Walker Lindh, tried on similar charges in civilian court because of his U.S. citizenship. He got a 20-year sentence.

            The prosecution of KSM and his co-defendants had a kangaroo-court feel, even before the defense emails mysteriously wound up in prosecutors’ hands. As my Washington Post colleague Peter Finn reported, microphones had been hidden in rooms where defense lawyers met with their clients. Without the judge’s knowledge, censors thought to be from the CIA operated a “kill switch” that kept the audio of court proceedings from being broadcast to the public whenever topics such as torture came up. At another point, a large tranche of defense lawyers’ files disappeared from the military computer network they were stored on.

            Confidence in the integrity of the system is so low that defense lawyers have resorted to filing handwritten motions and communications. There have also been problems with mistranslations by interpreters and uncertainties about which laws applied to the proceedings.

            There should be little wonder, then, that it took nearly a decade for KSM to be arraigned. First, the CIA kept him at a “black site” prison, where he was waterboarded 183 times, Bravin recounts. After the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hamdan case in 2006, the Bush administration had to shut down the prisons and transfer Mohammed to Guantánamo Bay — but concerns that details of torture would be made public slowed the prosecution. In 2008, KSM tried to plead guilty, but under military rules he wasn’t allowed such a plea to a capital charge. More delays came when the Obama administration tried to transfer him to civilian courts, then retreated after a public backlash. By the most optimistic forecast, the military trial could start sometime next year — 11 years after his capture.

            Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/24/3362632/the-fiasco-of-military-tribunals.html#storylink=cpy

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            • It seems from this account that the National Security State that we have become is alive and well and will control outcomes at their pleasure. That’s an astonishing account and pretty depressing too.

              Jim, do you think that perhaps what the writer describes is even worse for the health of this nation than anything that could result from a real trial in real court? Basically,, that’s the CIA and NSA saying f**k you to the Supreme Court.

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              • Jim, do you think that perhaps what the writer describes is even worse for the health of this nation than anything that could result from a real trial in real court?

                War in the past has usually meant the suspension of many normal legal procedures and rights, simply because, as has been said elsewhere in this thread, the violence of war makes such normality impractical. But then, the nature of “war” itself has changed, hasn’t it? I think that we as a nation have painted ourselves into a corner by trying to wage this strange “war on terrorism” and extend a normal civil justice system to the enemy at the same time. Maybe now that the Iraq and Afghan wars are winding down we can settle on something that makes more sense. I’m wondering whether the FISC court with more transparent oversight might be an answer, but I’m not sure.

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                • ” painted ourselves into a corner by trying to wage this strange “war on terrorism” and extend a normal civil justice system to the enemy at the same time”

                  Worth thinking about Jim. Puts things in a clearer light, though I’m not likely to change my mind about what we do once we ‘capture’ them.

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  5. Hi this is a really good thread. Can I take issue with Sean for a moment? He asks what is Obama to do? Well my answer is he does what Truman did at Nuremburg and stick them up for trial or release them. I did a long post at
    http://theoligarchkings.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/osama-obama-and-eichmann/
    a while back which showed that once apon a time when we were all small America had the idea of Justice for war criminals, and took Nazi’s – who let us be honest committed far worse crimes than this bunch of amatuers ever did – and they gave them what the Nazi’s had denied their victims – Justice in an open court.
    In 1961 I remember when the Jews caught Eichmann and put him on trial televised into my parents livingroom. They could have bumped the old jew killer off but they didnt – they gave him justice too.
    Last year the Hungarians had another trial of a possible holocaust perpetrator. Agin Justice in open court was afforded.
    If Ameica could do it in 1945, and Israel in 1961, or Hungary in 2012 why in God’s name cannot Obama do it in 2013?

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    • One, David, the Nazis were brought to a Court. That doesn’t mean that they got justice; it just means that the Allies got a nice bit of theater and the ability for people like you to think justice was served. By and large justice was probably served but the trials of most of the Nazis was more show than substance.

      Two, we had no use for those Nazis and wanted them dead or locked up for life. Hence Nuremberg. Contrariwise and to point out the true error of your thought, we had a use for the Japanese leadership after WW2 even though many of them did at least as much evil as the Nazis – Unit 731 ring a bell by any off chance? – so didn’t “bring them to justice.”

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      • David Macadam said,

        Why should we change from this (the supremacy of law) now and for this threat when we didnt for far worse?

        I submit the logical answer to this is that “war” supersedes law because unfettered violence is antithetical to law. War is enabled by fear and despite many historical efforts to deny or hide it, it’s a fact and Gitmo is its current symptom. I think Jonolan is right about Nuremberg and Unit 731. Nuremberg was mere tidying up after the fact and the ignoring of Japan’s Unit 731 after the war was tacit recognition by all of the Allies of war’s preeminence.

        How remarkable it is then that a President can utter a phrase like ” . . . the war on terror . . . ” that has such profound implications!

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  6. Hi Jonolan, did you read the piece by any chance?

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  7. Jonolan can I remind you of what Dr Thomas Fuller said in his famous legal saw in 1733 “Be you never so high, the Law is above you”. It’s obviously first an English concept but is also a fundamental of American Law. By this he meant that the exercise of power had to be done in the sight of the law, and all who are charged with a crime have the right to a fair trial, the application of law, and this free of discretionary, arbitory, tyranical power.

    Why should we change from this now and for this threat when we didnt for far worse?

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    • But we did change from that, if it is actually true that we ever held to it in the first place, long ago with the WW2 trials being just one set of examples…and bringing the terrorists to a civilian trial would be an even further change from that history because doing so would require a subornation of the basic tenets of American law…and that is the crux of my problem with it.

      Better to my mind is the exercise of discretionary, arbitrary, tyrannical power than the altering of the law to provide the appearance of legality.

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    • David – I’m with you. Even if – as jonolan and JIm say – Nurenberg et al were for ‘show’, that’s no reason to abandon our eternal journey toward a more just world. And if Nurenberg was undertaken as propaganda, well, it succeeded and calmed many tortured souls. Definitely worked better than today’s renditions and torture.and public extralegal actions by a ‘free’ country that preaches the rule of law.

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  8. The use of sensory deprivation was applied by the government to imprisoned radicals in the 1960s including members of the Black Panthers, the Black Liberation Army, the Puerto Rican independence movement and the American Indian Movement, along with environmentalists, anti-imperialists and civil rights activists. It is now used extensively against Islamic militants, jailhouse lawyers and political prisoners. Many of those political prisoners were part of radical black underground movements in the 1960s that advocated violence. A few, such as Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal , are well known, but most have little public visibility—among them Sundiata Acoli , Mutulu Shakur , Imam Jamil Al-Amin (known as H. Rap Brown when in the 1960s he was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), Jalil Bottom , Sekou Odinga , Abdul Majid , Tom Manning and Bill Dunne .

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    • Damn – another robot generated comment – I’m not deleting it although I block 99% of these. It’s interesting to track how much better these things are getting.

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  9. There is no other option here. Both parties in Congress will not let them in mainland prisons, if you let them go they ‘will’ kill Americans. If you let them starve they will gain martyrdom.

    This is funny as all get out. Who’d thunk it, us on the right defending President Obama against his own supporters.

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    • Yeah, the irony of that has been hitting me pretty hard, Alan. Then again, I’m a little happy that at least of few of his followers will, at least, complain a little about it.

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  10. Folks, before I bow out of this I want to ask you all, especially those of you that want these individuals brought to a civilian trail, I want to ask this question:

    Given how we got a lot of the evidence against them (Umm…waterboarding in a few prominent cases) and how much of the evidence can’t be vetted by civilians for real national security reasons, how can you expect the evidence to be allowed and, without it, how can you expect a guilty verdict that is ACTUALLY based upon law? Do you REALLY want this set in Common Law as a legal precedent?!?!?!?!?!

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    • Self incrimination as a result of torture? Evidence against others as a result of torture jonolan? And we are then to believe that what they got was true and use that as justification for the torture after the fact?

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      • Moe, that’s a lot of why I DON’T want them to go to a civilian trial. We’d either have to eliminate that evidence or use it and do great harm to our legal system.

        You’re the one that wants them in court, Moe, not me.

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        • Part of that for me is that I’m willing to accept the risk. They can hurt us again if we fail to convict. But we’re being hurt now. When Boston happened, the world didn’t condemn or even blame Americans. But when we torture and force feed? The condemnation shifts from the prisoner to us. Give me the trials. Release the guilty if we must. And take our chances.

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  11. The longer these people are confined to Guantanamo the longer America is percieved as a pariah state.

    Yes, the prisoners may well be dangerous. They may be crazy too, but the prison systems in America are already filled with the crazy and dangerous. To say they cannot deal with these additions is not credible.

    And remember these are prisoners who have not been charged, and are denied due process to have their cases heard in court. There is no habeas corpus here. It is a massive failure of publicity, legality and humanity.

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  12. Beyond the figures, the Guantánamo hunger strike is indicative of the degree of despair of those detained in this prison, in an unquestionable breach of legality. Occupied by the United States for more than a century, as part of an outdated colonial agreement, the detention camp is one of the many points of tension between the U.S. and Cuban governments. The enclave has acquired international notoriety as an example – in conjunction with Abu Ghraib, Bagram and CIA secret flights of persons suspected of terrorism – of the criminal network established by the White House in many countries to kidnap, disappear, torture and murder alleged members of Al Qaeda and other Islamist groups, or others from the Arab and Muslim world who, according to Washington, represent some sort of threat. On top of that, the detainees have had to endure extremely cruel treatment, the negation of virtually all their human rights and have essentially become invisible before the law. They have not been accused of any crime which would require a trial, but neither have they been acknowledged as belonging to an enemy force, which would have guaranteed them recognition and rights reserved for prisoners of war.

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    • One point I sort of agree with. We should have treated them as an enemy force. We could have interrogated in the field using whatever means were expedient and quiet (yeah, illegal but I don’t care and expected no better from them) and then executed them on the spot (perfectly legal).

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