January 18, 2013
Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013. Once again, our commander-in-chief demonstrated how futile his veto threats really are.
Recall he threatened to veto the 2012 version of the NDAA, only to sign it like he did this new version of the bill. Among the many disturbing provisions this act provides, section 1028, which places restrictions on the executive branch’s ability to transfer detainees to a foreign country, is one of the most troubling. The reason being that it impedes the president’s ability to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The president's refusal to veto a bill that he knew restricted his authority to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay completely undermines his cogent promise to close the prison in the first place.
The government has done a great job in convincing the public that the military prison in Guantanamo Bay is necessary to maintain U.S. national security and insure the safety of American citizens. What most people do not realize is that the government’s account of this facility amounts to nothing but dishonest prevarication. The public is not provided with these statistics about the detention center:
- 92% of the prisons held are not "Al-Qaeda fighters" according to the U.S. government.
- 86 men have been cleared for release but remain detained
- 46 of the "indefinite detention" prisoners are held without charge or trial
- Most of the men have been detained 10 or more years at Guantanamo without being charged or put on trial
- At least 22 prisoners were under the age of 18 when they were imprisoned
Even worse is the government’s cruel and inhuman treatment of the detainees. Interrogators at this prison engage in torturous practices, which included dragging a 15-year-old boy through a mixture of his urine and pine oil back and fourth and then throwing him back into a cell without a shower or change of clothes for two days. Just as disturbing are some of the interrogation tactics used at the detention facility. According to a Center for Constitutional Rights report, the U.S government used cruel interrogation techniques that include: holding detainees in solitary confinement for a whole year, sleep deprivation, beatings, exposure to extreme temperatures, sexual harassment and rape, denied medical treatment, and short-shackling (shackle wrist and ankles together on the floor) for hours and sometimes days.
The U.S government has attempted to depict the tortured detainees as the worst terrorists, but these assertions have been belied by secret U.S. military documents that have been released by WikiLeaks, which provide that the government knowingly imprisoned over 150 innocent men for several years without charge. Many of which were poor farmers, cooks, and taxi drivers who were just rounded up by the U.S. or sold by warlords in return for thousands of dollars. The released documents also highlight that several of the prisoners were detained for information, like a Sudanese cameraman for Al Jazeera who was held for 6 years partly so that the government could obtain information about the Arabic news network. The United States is guilty of not only supporting but carrying out the unwarranted detention of innocent individuals without a charge or a trail and engaging in abominable treatment of these detainees. Maintaining the Guantanamo Bay detention facility has resulted in the contravention of Geneva Convention laws and is a human rights transgression. Isn’t Habeas corpus — a writ codified in U.S. statutory law — meant to insure that prisoners are not detained unlawfully? Didn’t the Supreme Court decide that foreign prisoners are entitled to challenge the lawfulness of their detention? It isn’t an accident that the government chose Guantanamo Bay as a location for its prison site. It figured that if the detention facility is not located on U.S. soil, the foreign prisoners wouldn’t have to be extended rights that they are entitled to under U.S. laws.
The balance between the "war on terror" and security is a precarious one.
The United States is no longer the impregnable nation it once was and maintaining a facility like Guantanamo Bay prison only further threatens the lives of U.S. citizens. Mathew Alexander, leader of an interrogations team assigned to A Special Operations task force in Iraq has said, "the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo … It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
The continued operation of this prison will have a baleful affect on the future of this nation and will continue to put our troops at risk. The so-called war on terror has done nothing but provide a false sense of security and engender hate towards the United States. The United States is supposed to be the paragon of justice but it undermines this very notion by maintain the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
There are various despicable provisions in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act; it is necessary to highlight section 1028 as on of the worst aspects because it insures that Guantanamo Bay detention center will remain open. Operating this facility threatens our national security and puts U.S. troops in harm. This facility has forever stained the image of the United States. The future of this nation is indeterminate but one thing is certain: the coming generations will read about Guantanamo Bay Prison and wonder, "what were they thinking?"