You see them flying over the doors at hotels, in front of post office is and other government offices, as stickers on cars. The POW/MIA flag is everywhere. But what it represent is complete fiction: the idea that there are still prisoners of war languishing in Vietnam nearly 50 years after the end of hostilities. There’s no evidence whatsoever that that’s the case. But even a progressive like Elizabeth Warren supports this ridiculous myth.
Obama Doesn’t Need Congress. He Needs Travelocity.
Guantánamo is complicated. Everyone says so.
Everyone is wrong.
There’s nothing complicated about it. Guantánamo should be closed.
Mainstream media pundits don’t get it. They suggest a lame hodgepodge of solutions: a few repatriations here, a few extraordinary renditions there, maybe convincing some allies to take the victims of our stupid “war on terrorism.”
Immoral and idiotic.
All of the detainees — every last one of them, the schlubs who have been officially cleared by the Pentagon and, yes, even the scary dudes the government insists are “the worst of the worst” — can, should and — if the United States Constitution means anything at all — must be released.
In the United States.
I don’t find myself saying this very often, but President Obama is finally doing talking about doing something right. Granted, he let five years pass before he took the problem seriously. It took a hunger strike, now entering its fourth month, which could begin claiming the lives of some of the more than 100 participating POWs, to get his attention. Even now, he is violating the detainees’ human rights and the standards of the American Medical Association by violently shoving feeding tubes up their noses to —irony alert! — save their lives. Still, better late than never: Obama (finally) says he wants to fulfill his 2008 campaign promise by closing this monstrosity.
“Guantánamo is not necessary to keep America safe,” he told a news conference. “It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us, in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.”
So close it. You don’t need Congress. All you need is a Travelocity account.
When Obama became president in 2009, there were 245 prisoners at Gitmo. Now there are 166. (None have been released since 2011, which demoralized the remaining prisoners to the point that many are willing to die from hunger.) Some of these wretches been there since the concentration camp — look it up, there is no better term for it — opened 12 years ago.
It’s been ages. Three inmates arrived at Gitmo as children. As they passed through adolescence and entered adulthood, they were tortured, abused, and denied basic human rights by American soldiers and CIA agents, left to rot in American dog cages. (At least 28 children have done time there.)
American officials worry that their experience may have radicalized them. How could it not? If it hasn’t, they must be insane.
The horrors are just beginning to come out. A Spanish investigation censored in U.S. media found that American soldiers have abused Gitmo prisoners with “blows to [the] testicles,” “detention underground in total darkness for three weeks with deprivation of food and sleep,” being “inoculated…through injection with ‘a disease for dog cysts,'” smearing feces on prisoners and (of course) waterboarding.
Actionable intelligence obtained under torture: none.
This was in 2009. Under Obama.
Few Americans are aware of how the vast majority of the so-called detainees got there. Mostly, they were sold. Yes, like slaves: Afghan warlords and Pakistani tribesmen sold anyone they could find, especially Arabs and other foreigners fleeing the 2001 US invasion, to the CIA and the US military for bounties ranging between $3,000 and $25,000. Hundreds of men and boys shipped to America’s new gulag were innocent, simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. As for the rest, the majority were never a threat to America. Their jihad was against the governments of U.S. frenemies like China, Pakistan and Yemen.
The 166 survivors — several have committed suicide, and some deaths classified as suicides were almost certainly murdered under torture using an obscure technique called “dryboarding” — can be classified into four categories:
Eighty-six have been cleared for transfer or release but can’t be sent back to their home country — Yemen, for most of them — because, as political dissidents, they might be — irony alert! — tortured or killed.
The Obama administration considers 47 too dangerous to release, but cannot prosecute them because there isn’t enough evidence against them, or the case against them has been compromised by the fact that they were tortured.
Twenty-four are deemed prosecutable but no one can say when a trial might take place.
Six have been charged and three have been convicted in the kangaroo court “military commission” system invented by George W. Bush’s legal team to prosecute “unlawful combatants,” a phony term that doesn’t exist under U.S. or international law.
Obama should stop blaming Congress. Yes, the Republicans did refuse to allocate funds to transfer Guantánamo detainees to the United States. But Obama signed their legislation into law. He owns this mess.
All 166 men should be offered the choice of a ticket back home or permanent residency in the United States. After all, what are we talking about? 166 one-way tickets. Even if we fly these guys first-class, $250,000 isn’t going to break the bank. Obama is worth about $12 million. Who needs taxpayer money? He could cover that personally.
Consider it retroactive payment for that 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
Under the American system of justice, everyone — citizen or noncitizen — is innocent until proven guilty. 163 of these guys clearly can’t be proven guilty, and the three that were found guilty obviously didn’t get a fair trial. The rules might have been different had the Bush and Obama administrations classified them as POWs, but he didn’t want to give them the rights that they were entitled to under the Geneva Conventions. The US has been having it both ways for 12 long years. This disgusting farce needs to come to an end now.
Imagine the visual: Obama flies to Cuba, personally apologizes to each man, hands him a big check for $10 million, throws open the gates of the camp and gives it back to Cuba (from which we stole it in the first place). Hell, let them hitch a ride back to Andrews on Air Force One. Open bar!
Would some of these ex-Gitmo victims join the fight against the United States? Maybe. After all, 60% of American ex-cons reoffend. In a free society, that’s a risk that we take.
Still, you’ve got to think that in a country full of security cameras, with two or three overfunded intelligence agencies and countless domestic police apparatuses, it shouldn’t be too hard to set up the former prisoners of Guantánamo with job training, phone taps, GPS trackers on their cars and two or three agents each to follow them around and make sure that they don’t get into trouble.
And don’t forget that footage of Obama apologizing.
Can you imagine how pissed off the Al Qaeda guys would be?
(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)
COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL