Friday, August 21, 2009

What Shall We Do With the Prisoners of Guantanamo Bay?

What Shall We Do With the Prisoners of Guantanamo Bay?
“When I initially learnt of my deployment to Guantanamo and the purpose we were going for, I was ready to go and face the world’s most dangerous men; these terrorists who had plotted and killed thousands of people in my country on 11 September 2001. I was ready to seek my own personal revenge on these people in whatever manner I could.

“Then the day came when these ‘world’s most dangerous men’ arrived, and they were not what I expected to see. Most of them were small, underweight, very scared, and injured. I was expecting these people to come off that bus looking like vicious monsters. . .”—(The above is from an interview by Brandon Neely as part of the Guantanamo Testimonials Project, run by the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas at the University of California. To read the full transcript visit )

For the future of our country it is important to address what happened at Guantanamo Bay. In responding to the injustice of what was done there, cries of protest demanded that the camp be closed. President Obama in his campaign pledged to do just that. In fact, it was one of the first orders he signed after taking office. But closing Guantanamo Bay is proving difficult. What should be done with the prisoners?

Members of Congress are voicing their objection to any prisoners coming to their states. "Not Fort Leavenworth," said Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas along with 50 community leaders. "We don't want them around the United States," said Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid.

The New York Times, May 23, 2009, quoted a resident, Tom Baron of Canon City, Colorado, “An Area Packed With Prisons” .He said, "People here are good Christian conservatives." He thought that large numbers of Muslims--the family members and friends of inmates--would move into town if the transfer occurred. Property values would fall, he said, and some family members of terrorists might be terrorists, too.
"That would destroy this community," Mr. Baron concluded.

This impasse strikes me as being wrongly addressed. First of all, is it the place that is wrong or what has happened in this place—this prison that has become a worldwide symbol of injustice and torture? Conceivably, the prisoners could be moved, but the same thing could happen in a different place with a different name. And to move detainees to prisons within the United States would not necessarily guarantee better treatment. Our prison system is notorious—as investigations have proven. . (“We seem to have a gap between our cherished ideals about justice and the realities of the prison environment," said Nicolas Katzenbach, who served under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. "Despite these numbers and some compelling evidence of abuse and safety failures... there is little public knowledge about the nature and extent of the problems in our prisons and how to solve them.").

Secondly, to know what to do with the prisoners, shouldn't we know who they are and under what circumstances they came to be at this now infamous Bay of Guantanamo?

In 2002, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld referred to Guantanamo prisoners as "the worst of the worst." Senator Pat Roberts who doesn’t want the prisoners in his state said, "These are people who are sociopaths and terrorists and killers and would stop at nothing to do harm to the United States." Are these correct evaluations of the prisoners—many of whom have not been charged or tried?

Among Rumsfeld’s “worst of the worst” are an estimated 60 children, 13-18 years old at the time they were brought to Guantanamo. Then there’s the British detainees who were released to the UK. They are now suing the US, saying they were stripped, shackled, beaten, tortured and intimidated with military dogs. They were made to give false confessions saying they appeared in a video with al Qaeda chief Osama ben Laden and Mohammad Atta when it could be proven that they were in Britain at the time. These men were tried in Britain and were totally exonerated.

A former Guantanamo guard, Chris Arendt from Michigan, united with them to expose the torture at the camp. He had joined the army shortly after September 11 when he was 17. Two years later he was sent to Guantanamo as a guard. Being disillusioned with what he saw there, he left the army and joined Iraq Veterans Against the War. “It was like sitting down with a bunch of brothers,” he said. Now, he feels compelled to speak about what he experienced at Guantanamo. Moazzam Begg, a former detainee speaking with Arendt, said the experience of being reunited with a former guard is “truly unique. We embraced as brothers.”

Michael Scheuer, of the CIA from 1999 to when he resigned in 2004, said,” By the fall of 2002, it was common knowledge around CIA circles that fewer than 10 percent of Guantanamo's prisoners were high-value terrorist operatives”...

Torturing Democracy is an invaluable, accurate and thorough documentary of what happened at Guantanamo--it should be distributed widely. (I first saw it on PBS.) You can go directly to the web site,, and listen to it in its entirety. The transcript is backed up with specific citations, footnotes and links for researchers to build on.

How many Americans know that many of the prisoners came to the US through bounty hunters? To offer such payments in poor areas makes almost anyone fair game.

From Torturing Democracy:

NARRATOR: Tens of thousands of leaflets promising “enough money to take care of your family (and) your village for the rest of your life” 9 were dropped by psychological ops teams.

Javed Ibrahim Paracha: “Where is Arab? Where is Arab? Where is Arab? You get thousand dollar for one Arab. Thirty thousand, forty thousand, sixty thousand. And helicopter loud speaker announcing these things.”

NARRATOR: Any Arab in the region was at risk of being turned in as a terrorist.

. . .

SHAFIQ RASUL – Detainee #086: As soon as we were handed over to the U.S. military, they tied our hands behind our back and put sacks over our heads.

NARRATOR: Twenty-four-year old Shafiq Rasul10 was among hundreds of men who had been rounded up by a warlord in northern Afghanistan.

SHAFIQ RASUL – Detainee #086: We couldn't see what was going on. We couldn't see anything around. We didn't know where they were taking us. We didn't know what was happening. They kept shouting things like we were the ones responsible for 9/11. We killed members of their family, and they were going to take their revenge out on us. And they had rifles in their hands and they could have shot us at any time.

Words of Mohamed Mazouz – Detainee #294:11 “We were hauled like animals, one drawing the other in its walk.” 12
Words of Jumah al-Dossari – Detainee #261:13 “They started making us run towards the unknown. The prisoners started shouting and crying because of their severe pain. There were many young people with us, and the soldiers increased their insults and beatings.” 14
At Guantanamo Bay:

Colonel STUART COUCH: And so I walked down the hallway and the door was open. And I saw a detainee sitting on the floor. He was shackled. And the room was blacked out with exception of the strobe light. And he was just, he was rocking back and forth... There wan an Air Force attorney that was accompanying me, giving me the tour. And I just said, "Did you see that?" And he goes,” Well, yeah." And I said, "You know, I got a problem with that." And he goes, "Well, that's approved."

Narrator: Colonel Couch was not the only one troubled by the tactics Secretary Rumsfeld approved. FBI agents at the prison camp were keeping what they called a "war crimes" file--noting what they witnessed.
"I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more."
. . .

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY (November 14, 2001): “We think it’s the appropriate way to go. We think it guarantees that we’ll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve.”
RICHARD SHIFFRIN: That, of course, was premised on the idea that everyone we captured and detained really was a bad person. As it turns out, a large percentage of them were merely shepherds.
. . .

NARRATOR: In other words, the President has the power to suspend - or simply ignore - the fundamental laws of war. That includes Geneva and its guarantees of basic human rights to prisoners and civilians alike.

RICHARD ARMITAGE – Deputy Secretary of State (2001-05): Our views were well known in this matter. We were not on board.

NARRATOR: Richard Armitage served three combat tours in Vietnam.

RICHARD ARMITAGE: For the most part, the Department of State was left out of this discussion, I think precisely because we'd have no part of it.

NARRATOR: The State Department’s top lawyer called John Yoo’s legal reasoning “seriously flawed” 39 - and warned that if heading to the dark side meant violating Geneva:
“This raises a risk of future criminal prosecution for US civilian and military leadership and their advisers, by other parties to the Geneva Conventions.” 40

NARRATOR: The photographs of shackled and blindfolded prisoners provoked alarm – and an urgent letter from Amnesty International reminding Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that:
“The term ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ should be interpreted…to extend the widest possible protection against abuses…including the holding of a detained or imprisoned person in conditions which deprive him…of the use of any of his natural senses.” 46
(Press Conference, Department of Defense - January 11, 2002):
Q: How do you respond to charges – hooding, shaving, chaining, perhaps even…”
Secretary Rumsfeld: “What are the words?”
Q: “Hooding, shaving, chaining, perhaps even tranquilizing some of these people – violating their civil rights.”
Secretary Rumsfeld: “Uh, that –uh– that’s not correct.”
Q: “That you’ve done it?”
Secretary Rumsfeld: “That it’s a violation of their rights. It simply isn’t.”

. . .

MOAZZAM BEGG – Detainee #558: It goes beyond being scared now. You just want to sleep. They produced pictures of my wife, my children, and waved these pictures in front of me, asking me if I knew what had happened to my wife and kids that night. If I thought they were safe, if I thought I’d ever see them again. If I really cared about them so much, I would tell them everything.

NARRATOR: A woman began to scream in a nearby cell. Threats against a prisoner’s family were called “second degree torture” 62 during the Spanish Inquisition – and were commonly used by the Soviet KGB. 63
For two days and two nights, he heard the woman he thought might be his wife being tortured. . .

NARRATOR: During the eleven months Moazzam Begg was imprisoned in Bagram, at least two men in U.S. custody there died. 64
In Guantanamo, he was locked into a 6-by-8 foot cage where he would spend the next two years, in isolation. His nightmares were filled with the screams of a woman.

NARRATOR: Now, his interrogations would intensify. An hourly log – leaked from Guantanamo - narrates the harsh details.
He is forced to wear a woman’s bra. A thong is draped over his head – sexually taunting and humiliating – a Muslim man.
A leash is tied around his neck.
1115: Began teaching the detainee lessons such as stay, come, and bark to elevate his social status up to that of a dog. Detainee became very agitated.
1300: Dog tricks continued and detainee stated he should be treated like a man. 106

NARRATOR: Nine hours later, while women are in the interrogation booth, he is stripped naked.
2200: After approximately five minutes of nudity the detainee ceased to resist…. He stated that he did not like the females viewing his naked body. 107

NARRATOR: Besides the physical coercion, an interrogator posing as a Navy captain sent by the White House told Slahi that his family was “in danger” if he didn’t cooperate, 150 that his mother had been imprisoned – and implied she might be raped in custody.151

Colonel STUART COUCH: If you tell me that Slahi gave up information because you told him, and showed him in a letter, that you’re bringing his mother to Guantanamo and that she could be abused by men, is anything that he tells you from that point, you know, is that credible?
Colonel STUART COUCH: God means what he says. And we were created in his image, and we owe each other a certain level of dignity – a certain level of respect. And that’s just a line we can’t cross. If we compromise our own ideals as a nation, then these guys have accomplished much more than driving airplanes into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon.
Please go to the website and listen to the whole documentary.

Remembering what I learned in Torturing Democracy, I watched another powerful documentary, Children of the Taliban, shown on PBS Frontline
Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy undertook a dangerous journey to her native Pakistan to document how the Taliban are repressing young girls and recruiting children to carry out suicide attacks. Poor parents who cannot feed their children, let alone educate them, often allow the Taliban to do so.

From Children of the Taliban (transcript):

In one video, 25 children appear wearing the traditional Pakistani shalwar kameez. Sitting cross-legged on the ground, they rock back and forth reciting the Koran...
Housed in a bare compound, three young boys watch over the group holding automatic guns. Their teacher, dressed in brown military fatigues, paces the room reading from a book called, "Justifications for Suicide Bombing." Moving to a white board, he writes, "Reasons for killing a spy."

…In another video, three teenage boys talk about their desire to become suicide bombers. We meet Zainullah, who later blows himself up killing six; then Sadique, who blows himself up killing 22; and Masood who kills 28. We're shown footage glorifying their attacks...
"Suicide" schools run by the Taliban are preparing a generation of boys to commit atrocities against civilians. Last year, suicide attacks struck right across Pakistan, killing more than 800 people. Pakistan's war is no longer confined to the lawless Tribal areas along the Afghan border, it has moved to the cities. Children are being killed, but they are also being turned into killers...
(Please go to PBS and watch the entire documentary.)

As I watched Children of the Taliban, I thought of my grandchildren--a little boy like my four year old grandson, Philip, or Patrick or Jonathan or Robert--a little boy like my son, Jack, used to be. A little boy taken in his formative years and trained. He is told about being a suicide bomber, and how it pleases God, and that America is the Big Satan. All of these little boys are some mother's child. So the little boy grows up and becomes what we think of as a terrorist and now is a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. How shall we combat this? I'm sure those who were tortured felt that what they had been taught was certainly affirmed. They had fallen into the Big Satan.

Before we know what to do with the prisoners, we must know who they are and how they got there. However, to get to know the prisoners is not part of the military agenda. Charge and trial being absent, many were just judged as terrorists. Chris Arendt, the Guantanamo guard, who joined the British detainees, said that he would talk to the inmates to learn about their lives. However, this was thought to be "fraternizing with the enemy". So he was given other responsibilities. If you don’t know them, how do you know they are enemies?

Brandon Neely said almost the same thing:
“I know that being in the position I was in, as an active duty Military Police officer guarding the most dangerous men in the world, that I was not supposed to really interact with the detainees. But it’s hard. Especially when you realize that some of these guys are no different than yourself. The military trains you not to think and just to react and not feel any compassion for anyone or anybody. And do what you are told. No questions asked.”
So what shall we do with these prisoners for whom we are responsible? These prisoners whom Congress as a whole does not want to touch our righteous soil? These prisoners for which our prisons are too fine? There are around 250 left at Guantanamo—50 of which have been cleared now by US authorities. But no one wants them. Where shall they go? Who will take them?

I advocate

Which includes:

First, "If your enemy hunger, feed him." Make sure every prisoner has adequate food and if their religion has certain dietary rules, comply. Make sure he has clean water to drink, a clean bed to sleep on, a place to wash, and can use the restroom in privacy. If he wishes, supply him with reading material, paper and pen, music. Make him comfortable. Make him feel he is among people who love God, who love freedom and democracy. In this way he may question his false training.
Pray for him--he doesn't need to know you pray for him. By the Spirit of God, watch for opportunities of conversation. He should know why he is there--tell him about 9/11. Get to know him. What is his background, his childhood--did he grow up in a school of the Taliban?

Some may think this is crazy naïve interrogation. Contrast it with what is described in Torturing Democracy.
Some having compassion, making a difference. . .” Jude

The man in Colorado said they were "good conservative Christians." Are they? What would Jesus do?

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. . . Matthew 5: 43,44

Wouldn't "a good Christian" look at this as an opportunity to show the love of Christ and win such a person to the Kingdom of God?

Closing Guantanamo Bay is not the first step–it is not the place that must be changed, but the treatment. The first step is enhanced interrogation, as I have described–which can begin immediately. The second step is that our consciousness as a nation needs to change. Yes, there are people of compassion. There are people who understand what has happened at Guantanamo Bay. But it is hidden from the majority of Americans if what is expressed by some of our legislators and some of our newscasters is any indication.

"I was in prison and you visited me..." Matthew 25

Here is our job description:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound... Isaiah 61

Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart. Psalm 109:16

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. . . Matthew 5:7

Who is a God like unto thee that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. Micah 7:18

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8

He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth; but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he. . .He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor. Proverbs

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. James 2:13

These prisoners have been judged “the worst of the worst” without knowing them.

Judge not, lest ye be judged. Matthew 7:1

Judge not according to appearance but judge righteous judgment. John 7:24

He shall not judge after the hearing of the ear or the seeing of the eye but with equity shall he judge the poor. . . Isaiah 11
Brandon Neeley:
"After speaking with the detainees and realizing they had families who loved them, just as I had, I started to realize that these people are no different than me. Hell! I was older than some of the ones there.
"I think everyone can agree that, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, there are some really bad people. And there are a lot of good people there as well. But – innocent, guilty, black, white, Muslim, or Jew, no matter what you are – there is no excuse to treat people in the manner that I and other people did. It’s wrong and just downright criminal, and it goes against everything the United States of America stands for.
"Since we started this interview President Barack Obama has said the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay will be closed within a year. That's great, but what are WE as the United States of America, the people who kidnapped and tortured these people going to do for them? Just send them home like nothing happened? In the USA if you are sentenced to prison and later on you are found not to be guilty through DNA or what not you are given compensation. Are we going to give compensation to these individuals that were so wrongfully held for so many years? We should. We started this mess and it's time we attempt to help this people move on with their lives. The sad part of this all is the people who are responsible. Former President George Bush and Former Vice President Dick Cheney will never be held accountable for the decisions they made. It's the detainees and the guards like myself that will have to live every day with what they went through, saw, and did while there. "
What better could be done with an enemy that to make him a friend, and especially to make him a friend of God...It enables you to see unlimited possibilities in everyone and even in the most tragic of situations—J. Rufus Moseley

A holy person is concerned about the suffering of other people.
July 24, 2009

U.S. admits it has no case against teen held at Guantanamo
Washington–The Justice Department conceded Friday that it lacks the evidence to hold a teenage Guantanamo detainee as an enemy combatant after a federal judge last week ruled that his confession was inadmissible.

In a hearing last week, U.S. District Jude Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled that Mohammed Jawad's confession to Afghan officials was inadmissible because it had been extracted through torture. She also questioned whether the Justice Department had any evidence to proceed with a trial to determine whether he
can be held as an enemy combatant.

Huvelle called the case an "outrage," and told Justice Department lawyers that their case against Jawad had been "gutted".

"Without his statements, I don't understand your case," she told Justice Department lawyers. "Sir, the facts can only get smaller, not bigger... Face it, this case is in trouble... Seven years and this case is riddled with holes."...

Comment written about the above article, August 2, 2009:What do you call German SS officers who wrecked havoc on US troops? My grandfather was an SS officer who spent six years in a US POW camp. He always talked about how humanely he was treated. And he was personally decorated by Adolf Hitler for something he never wanted to elaborate upon. Same goes for the Japanese – even the Japanese commander who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor was treated as a VIP in custody with his private interpreter present at all times. So why are Afghan kids held in custody for many years and maltreated like that. It seems that the US is creating its own enemies.
President Barack Obama ordered the closure of Guantanamo by January, but the administration has struggled to come up with a way to either release or try detainees.
New York Times, May 22, 2009:
Obama Would Move Some Terror Detainees to U.S.—backs detentions without trials if needed. By Sheryl Gay Stolberg—Washington—Despite stiff resistance from Congress, President Obama said Thursday that he intended to transfer some detainees from Guantanamo Bay Cuba, to highly secure facilities inside the United States. He also proposed “prolonged detention” for terrorism suspects who cannot be tried, a problem, he called, the toughest issue we face... (He speaks of detainees who pose a national security threat but cannot be prosecuted, either for lack of evidence or evidence is tainted.)
"In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists," -- Dick Cheney
“We think it’s the appropriate way to go. We think it guarantees that we’ll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve.”—Dick Cheney
In a comment to Chris Arendt’s testimony, Mark Read Pickens wrote:
Let me see if I've grasped the theory. Someone in Afghanistan has a personal enemy. He captures that guy and sells him to the U.S. The U.S. imprisons the guy indefinitely. And this makes us safer.

Guantanamo Bay—the very words now evoke injustice and torture indicative of a shameful part of our present history—why not transform this bay into a haven of redemption, justice and hope—an example of what we really are and want to be as Americans?

A Secular President?

Bill O'Riley said on Fox News. "There is no question that President Obama is a secular president and that message is well received in Washington." (July 10, 2009)

However, I heard the President say something different on Religion and Ethics --PBS:
October 10th, 2008
2008 Campaign: What the Candidates Believe

Bob Abernethy, anchor: Religion's role in the campaign is at the center of our program today, beginning with a special report from Kim Lawton on the religioius beliefs of the presidentail and vice-presidential candidates.

Kim Lawton: All four candidates decribe themselves as Christians, but they talk about their faith--and apply it to their politics --in very different ways.

Barack Obama has been the most outspoken about matters of faith, even though a survey last month found that 46 percent of Americans were still unable to correctly identify him as a Christian.

Obama says he was not raised in a religious household. But when he arrived in Chicago as a young community organizer he says he realized somethings was missing fom his life. He visited Trinity United Church of Christ and went forward during an altar call. . .

Senator Barack Obama: The skeptical bent of my mind didn't suddenly vanish, but kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God's spirit bechoning me. I submitted myself to His will and dedicated myself to discovering His truths and carrying out His works.

Lawton: Obama easily offers testimony about what that means to him.

Sen. Obama (at Saddleback Church): I believe in--that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis. I know that I don't walk alone.

Lawton: Obama believes that his personal spiritual journey has public consequences, and he often talks about the importance of putting faith into action.

Sen. Obama: That I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn't be fulfilling God's will unless I went out and did the Lord's work.

. . .
Lawton: Obama often cites Scripture in outlining his agenda.

Sen. Obama. We need to heed the biblical call to care for "the least of these" and lift the poor out of despair. . .Faith may cause divisions, but Obama says it can also play a key role in bringing Americans together.

Sen. Obama: What is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand: that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper. Scripture tells us, Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another.