Thursday, September 24, 2009

Judith Miller Is Right about Gitmo

Even if she was wrong about Bush & Cheney's unprovoked and unnecessary invasion and occupation of Iraq.

As uneasy as I feel featuring a scummy and self-defamed journalist, I do so in this instance. Having argued before about the wisdom and prudence of keeping Guantanamo open, and having received little or no support for this position, I'll go to the swamp if that's the only place I can find corroboration.

Look what happened the other day: Sixteen al-Qaida-affiliated prisoners, including five sentenced to death, escaped from a prison in Tikrit City. And that's just the most recent example. All over the world, terrorists are captured, convicted, and incarcerated. But they don't stay in the lock-up. Rather than having them taken out back and shot, which is a rather permanent disposition, I'm saying the civilized world needs a centralized holding facility like the Hague.

So, I am saying that Guantanamo fits the bill as a secure residence, for people we cannot afford to try, convict or release back in circulation. That includes some that have been tried and convicted but are incarcerated in less than politically or physically secure prisons throughout the world.

Therefore, don't end Gitmo! Instead, mend Gitmo! Rehabilitate Guantanamo!

Here's what the witch, Judith Miller, says about Keeping Gitmo (my excerpts):

.... The joint task force in charge of the 226 remaining detainees is spending about $440,000 to expand the recreation yards at Camp 6. At nearby Camp 4, which offers communal living for the most "compliant" captives, the soccer yard is being enlarged. At Camp 5, a maximum-security facility, a $73,000 classroom is under construction. In March, the task force added art classes to the thrice-weekly instruction it offers in Arabic, Pashtu and English, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer.

Though President Obama vowed on his second day in office to close the detention center within a year, Gitmo's officers say they intend to continue spending previously budgeted funds to improve life at the center until the last detainee leaves. "It's business as usual around here," the task force's deputy commander, Brig. Gen. Rafael O'Ferrall, told me two weeks ago during one of the official tours that Gitmo offers outsiders.

The point of the tour is to show that Gitmo, which Obama called a "stain" on America's reputation, has become a model, if somewhat surreal, detention center.

And therefore that closing it and relocating its inmates is a largely empty political gesture that makes little sense.

My hosts would never dare publicly challenge their commander in chief's orders. But they clearly believe that Gitmo no longer deserves to be seen as a symbol of human rights abuses. "This place is synonymous with military abuse, and it's just not fair," said Rear Adm. Thomas H. Copeman III, the task force's commander.

Officers at Gitmo are eager to distance themselves from the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that senior Bush administration officials approved soon after 9/11. "No one was ever waterboarded at Gitmo," said Army Col. Bruce E. Vargo, commander of the Joint Detention Group.

.... Officials are sparing little effort or expense to improve Gitmo. They provide captives with prayer rugs, beads, caps and Korans in their native languages. Arrows point toward Mecca. The center spends about $4 million a year offering detainees a choice of six different halal meals a day. The kitchen prepares two Islamic "feast" meals a week and offers fresh food -- such as yogurt, veggie-burger patties with fresh garlic and onion, and scrambled eggs and waffles.

In fact, obesity is increasingly a problem, one Navy doctor said. He knows, because the detainees make roughly 7,800 visits a year to the medical center to receive state-of-the-art care. That includes colonoscopies for "age-appropriate" detainees; 25 have been performed so far. The medical center has one staff member for every two detainees.

Hunger strikes are allowed, but only along with "voluntary force-feeding" -- a phrase admittedly worthy of Orwell. Each day, most of the hunger strikers (about 18% of the detainees) line up for Ensure nutritional supplements. They ingest the supplements not through the mouth but through the nostril, via a yellow, spaghetti-size tube lubricated with olive oil. (Butter pecan is the most popular of the five available flavors, the doctor said.) Of course, those who don't "volunteer" are shackled and force-fed anyway. "They have a right to protest, and we have an obligation to keep them alive and healthy while they do so," Copeman explained.

Detainees are also screened for a variety of illnesses -- diphtheria, tuberculosis, flu and HIV. "This place embodies the best of what we do as Americans," the Navy doctor told me, without a trace of irony. Are the detainees grateful? "Some are, some aren't," he said. But like his clientele back in California, "most detainees don't want to die."

Still, some clearly do: There have been five documented suicides so far at Gitmo and many more unsuccessful attempts. The latest -- Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih, a 31-year-old Yemeni held here since 2002 -- killed himself in June, apparently by hoarding pills and downing them all at once. (An internal investigation is ongoing.) Depression and other mental ailments among detainees are common, doctors acknowledged.

So Gitmo continues to expand its "intellectual stimulation program": a library of more than 15,000 books, magazines, puzzles, electronic games and newspapers, as well as satellite TV and more than 315 movies on DVD.

Gitmo's "compliant" detainees have access to recreational activity for as much as 20 hours a day -- including soccer, basketball, foosball, ping-pong and gardening. "Noncompliant" detainees are confined to individual cells, about 10 feet long by 8 feet wide, for 22 hours a day, with two hours of daily recreation. That's an hour more than most civilian prisoners get in American maximum-security prisons, officers pointed out -- but then, American civilian prisoners have been tried and convicted of crimes.

This is the real problem with Gitmo -- the fact that most of the detainees have not been charged with terrorism or any other crime. Satellite TV is all well and good, but not if you're being held indefinitely without trial.

Ending the detainees' legal limbo and ensuring them due process is far more important than closing down the prison they're being held in. Yet there is little difference between Obama and his predecessor on some of the key due-process issues. Not only has Obama embraced George W. Bush's notion of military commissions to try some detainees, with ostensibly bolstered rights for the defendants, but he has endorsed Bush's position on "renditions" to countries with suspect human rights records. And he agrees with Bush on preventive detention for a "fifth category" of detainee: captives who cannot be prosecuted by a civilian court or even by a military commission because of torture-tainted evidence or the need to protect intelligence sources and methods, but who "pose a clear danger to the American people," as Obama puts it, and may be too dangerous to release. It is unclear how many detainees fall into this category.

While the administration ponders the detainees' legal fate, it seems pointless to spend more money and energy moving them to "Gitmo North" -- maximum-security prisons in the United States where they may be far more harshly treated.

It's time for the Obama administration to acknowledge that Gitmo, or another center like it, will be needed as long as the war on terrorism -- no matter what our commander in chief calls it -- endures. But to ensure that such places do not become legal black holes, detainees should be assured of some kind of periodic, independent review of the allegations against them. They should have not only decent physical treatment but the legal right to challenge their detention in a way that does not jeopardize intelligence sources and methods.

Several legal experts have proposed legal compromises that would authorize preventive detention for terrorism suspects but with bolstered rights and a guaranteed, periodic, impartial review of the allegations that led to their detention. These schemes may not be perfect. But they may be the most effective way to protect American values while we continue fighting a war that we cannot afford to abandon.
There you have it: 
  • internationalize staffing
  • indefinite incarceration with periodic review; 
  • voluntary interviews; 
  • transparent oversight through un-announced visits by the International Red Cross; 
  • nutritious diet; 
  • diverse reading materials; 
  • Islamic religious observances; 
  • monitored correspondence with families.

That's my case. And this is not the last time circumstances will call upon me to restate it.


  1. Note: photos were added to Miller's article to enhance it's readability.

  2. Hate to be the 1st one to tell you, Vigil, but your new dog named 'Gitmo' will not hunt.

  3. Hunt or no, there is something to be said for this proposition ... our enmity over Gitmo stems from the injustice tied to it by previous admins. Having a 'central holding center' for global terrorists is not a such a bad fiscal idea nor a bad idea in fostering clear-er relationships with brother and sister countries. Still, the recent history of Gitmo keeps us, suspicious.
    :-) Hey Vig! have a great weekend!

  4. a "stain" on America's reputation

    That's what Gitmo is. Nothing can change that, so it must close.

    Too bad you had absolute, unashamed dickwads as Prez and VP, but you did. And they fucked up, and wreaked tremendous damage on the United States' world reputation in the process. Now Obama is trying to reverse that. Closing Gitmo is a necessary part of that effort.

  5. Vig, if Gitmo had not become an international buzzword for injustice and torture, I would agree with your position. However, our maximum security federal penitentiaries are safely holding the most dangerous people in the country, and they can handle these people, and one even more dangerous than they, if we ever make Cheney accountable for his deeds.

  6. @Vig,
    Gitmo has to close for the reasons others have already stated above, but more importantly I think we have to clearly and definitively move away from the impression that we can have different rules and standards in different places, whether they happen to perceivably superior standards or especially if they become unConsitutional in application. That they are making Gitmo in its last days more like a standard prison, or more specialized is likely beside the point now. I think a Supermax with stone walls, guarded under standard machine gun towers is a better, more secure state of incarceration than an island with chainlink fences in any case.

  7. I thought that lying scumbag Miller was in jail ?

    Rumsfeld used to talk about how well the prisoners were treated, great food,made it seem like Club Med which didn't jibe with all the torture stories coming out.I wouldn't believe a thing Miller said if the Angel Gabriel was standing next to her nodding his head.

    Add to that the fact that quite likely most everybody there is innocent of any crimes or they'd be charged and trotted before the world as proof of the nobility of our efforts. When you offer huge (by 3rd world standards)no questions asked rewards for terrorists you're gonna get hella lotta terrorists,generally a disliked neighbor or brother in law or an Arab in Afghanistan.

    Close Gitmo.

  8. She's not in jail, Oso. She works for Fox News. I'm serious. P.S. This is what I like about Vig. He's unpredictable.

  9. LOL. FOX. I should've guessed it man. I guess satan doesn't have a newsletter down there huh ?

  10. Just for the record, Oso, she's one of their "liberals". As to the substance of this piece, the TomCat has nailed it. It's just too late. It's far, far, too late. And with prisons like the one in Montana basically begging for these guys, we really need to close the chapter. I do, however, admire the Vigsters courage and contrary stance. Like I said, it's one of the things that I like about him.

  11. I know I'm rolling Sisyphus' stone uphill in this case.

    What I am sayin' is that North American prisons (like in Montana) lack the legitimacy to house prisoners taken on other continents. For example, Mas Selamat Kastari in Singapore, in the instance linked in my article. It's my case that Gitmo's legitimacy could be resuscitated with a little bit of political inspiration and leadership from the White House. It could be internationalized, like the Hague. But of course, my president painted himself into a corner (on this issue as well as others) during the campaign and committed himself to the rash move of nuking Gitmo. But it's my role to point out the foolishness of this policy, even if the rest of my esteemed friends consider it Quixotic of me to do so. Only dead fish go with the flow! Right?

  12. That said, I certainly enjoyed (and echo) the negativity expressed toward Judas Miller.

  13. @Vig,
    I agree that in an ideal world Gitmo can been a fully "internationalized" unit like the Hague, but the problem is that was concieved as the exact opposite of that in too many respects, people have short memories, but not that short. I don't think anybody could change that perception with any PR efforts or legitimate changes in operating procedures at this point. I believe it's not a matter of whether it can be functionally transformed into the type of facility that the world could rely on, endorse and accept; it's about whether anyone would ever believe (at home or abroad) that an off-shore military prison run by the US for "enemy combatants" would ever be anything other than a cover for bypassing our own Constitution and international law. The last administration's stubborn idiotic posture toward the Geneva conventions is just one reason that President Obama, even if he wrote the speech of his life could not have turned this around. I agree that Gitmo could have been all the things you point out Vig, I just don't agree that anyone would buy it. The President may have painted himself into a corner on this, but I think he and his administration bought the paint bucket themselves and did it cheerfully, -trim, moulding and all. I think they reached the same conclusion many have on all sides of Gitmo's practicality and purpose, -it's a lost cause now. Gitmo is certainly no Auschwitz, but like that horrid facility all it can ever be now is a museum to offer testimony to future generations about what never to do.

  14. "can been"???? -yeccch. Typos.

  15. Obama took office, confident he would fulfill his campaign promise to close Club Gitmo in a year’s time. A miscalculation? Gitmo is yet another example of a headstrong, naive community organizer who acts before he thinks, merely to elicit public adoration. As a mere Josephine Blow citizen, I find it embarrassing to see it takes a POTUS/CIC eight months to recognize what I saw as absolute folly at the very minute of the grandiose signing ceremony of the Gitmo EOs. Could our POTUS genuinely be this dense and entrenched in his own fantasyland?

  16. "Hotel Gitmo"
    I'd pay a dollar for that t-shirt.

    Petro is funny calling Obama a naive community organizer when the egoistical chimp before him really screwed the pooch in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama is just trying to cleanup the moral and legal mess that bastard left.

    Having republican congressman, still upset the senile old fart and giggly bimbo lost the election, stir up unfounded doubts about escaping terrorists from federal super max prisons is just fear mongering.

    There are currently American inmates being held in super max prisons that make Gitmo inmates look like boyscouts.

  17. check this out-teabag signs.

  18. The squelchers were out yesterday. Beach-Bum has squelched Petro-Sexual. And SJ has squelched Vigilante. Good Job, Guys!

  19. It never ceases to amaze me. Leftists like Beach can refer to Bush as the "chimp", but for any one else to refer to Obama as a 'monkey' ist verboten. Why is that? Can you enlighten me, Food-Blogger?

  20. I think we could ALL stand to use a few less ad hominems, myself included. As for Obama "cleaning up the mess", isn't that what tricky Dick said when he replaced Johnson?.....I think we all need to realize that some messes can't be sanitized.

  21. Petro you take the award for being clueless.