Yemen Wants Their Guantanamo Detainees Back
In some regards, the Yemeni government’s recent demand for the repatriation of Yemeni detainees who have been languishing in Guantanamo Bay for nearly a decade seemed to come out of left field, as did the prison hunger strikes that prompted it. President Obama’s 2008-election-campaign promises to close the notorious prison remain unfulfilled. According to recent polls, roughly 70 percent of Americans back the president’s decision to ignore his pledge and keep the prison open; polls taken at the start of his 2012 term put support for Guantanamo’s closure at a tepid 53 percent.
It’s a mistake, however, to say that the detainees have completely disappeared from most Yemenis’ minds. Of the 166 detainees who remain held without charge in Guantanamo Bay, 91 are Yemeni. It’s not quite as popular an issue as the drone strikes, but Yemenis still bring up Guantanamo on a nearly weekly basis. Many see the legal limbo of their fellow countrymen as a kind of tragicomic joke.
Recently in Sanaa, dozens of family members of Guantanamo detainees gathered at the American embassy to protest their internment.
“We demand that the American government release all detainees,” one father said, holding up a poster of his son. “The Yemeni government should do everything in its power to pressure them. Does Obama think that there’s a Yemeni exception when it comes to human rights?”
Strange Things Are Afoot at Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s Trial
If the trial had happened in federal court in New York City, like the Obama administration originally wanted, it’s unlikely that the surreal shenanigans of justice that went down this week at the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s pre-trial hearings in Guantanamo Bay would have gone so unnoticed. After all, it’s the trial of the century, except it’s being held in a secretive offshore facility and administered with rules of evidence and procedure that are still being figured out.
To refresh your memory, KSM is the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and a host of other Qaeda initiatives. He was captured by CIA and Pakistani intelligence forces in 2002 and was shuttled between CIA black sites until he took up permanent residence at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba in 2006.
It’s there that a military commission, a kind of ad hoc court-martial-like trial, is being held for KSM and four of his top-level al Qaeda associates. These proceedings are the War on Terror’s first forays into“bringing these terrorists to justice,” as President Bush said in a speech to a joint session of Congress in the weeks after the attacks in 2001.
But things got weird on Monday, during a pre-trial hearing. Some of the evidence that will be used against the five defendants in the case was either obtained through enhanced interrogation techniques or is classified information that cannot be released to the public. So the courtroom at Gitmo, which was specially built for these proceedings, is equipped with a “censorship button” that an assigned security officer of the court presses at the behest of the judge, Army Colonel and retired judge James Pohl, when classified information is brought before the court. After that button is pressed, the audio of the proceedings cuts out, and a red light illuminates on the judge’s bench, letting members of the media, who are already listening in on a 40-second delay, and trial counsel know that this information is being blocked.
On Monday, it became entirely unclear who is in charge of pressing that button and by extension, who or what entity is really running this trial or monitoring the proceedings externally. According to unofficial court transcripts obtained through the Office of Military Commission’s website, the censorship button was pressed during an exchange between the judge and defense counsel.
After the red light went off, Judgle Pohl said, “Trial counsel, note for the record that the 40-second delay was initiated, not by me. I’m curious as to why.” He continued, “If some external body is turning the commission off under their own view what ought to be… then we are going to have a little meeting.”
BROKEN HEARTS, LOST MINDS, AND MISSING LIMBS - IN AFGHANISTAN, THE FRONTLINE IS EVERYWHERE
Above: Amputees take a break from exercise at the International Committee of the Red Cross Orthopedic Center in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 2012.
We stand by the bed of Mohamad Doad in the paraplegic ward of Kabul’s International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Orthopedic Center.
Aziz Ahmad, my Afghan colleague, translates Mohamad’s grievances.
“He says he hates American soldiers,” Aziz tells me.
“Why does he hate the US?” I ask. “He’s a policeman. The US trained him to fight the Taliban.”
“He says he saw three families killed by coalition forces. If he gets better, he says he will kill American forces himself.”
“But he’s willing to speak with me?”
“So he can remember your face, he says, and kill you when he is well.”
Eleven-year-old Mariam, who lost a leg after stepping on a landmine, rests after physical therapy.
Mohamad, who is 23 but looks no older than 14, was shot by the Taliban last spring. Across the hall is an examination and exercise room where recent amputees learn to operate their new prosthetic limbs. Most of these patients have lost a hand or leg to land mines or rocket-propelled grenades—some of them as long ago as the 1979 Russian invasion, others in the more recent fighting between American troops and the Taliban.
I wedge my pen between the pages of my notepad and consider Mohamad. I am an American reporter. Aziz and I have worked together in Afghanistan since 2004. On this trip, I am reporting on the consequences of more than 30 years of war by spending time with a handful of its victims.
I arrived in early July and stayed through August. I had hoped to come earlier, but Aziz warned me in an email that, at the time, I would not be safe. In January, just six months before my arrival, a video surfaced showing US Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters. A month later, US troops burned dozens of copies of the Koran, sparking days of deadly riots across the country and attacks on American forces. Then, in March, a US soldier was charged with shooting to death 16 civilians after entering their homes in Kandahar province. US officials apologized for the incident, but their remorse failed to quell protests and attacks that killed at least 30 people, including six US soldiers. And in the weeks before I arrived, the Pentagon reported increasing numbers of American-trained Afghan police recruits turning their guns on US soldiers.
“This is not a good time for you to visit,” Aziz had said when he picked me up at Kabul International Airport. “Everyone is very angry with America.”
The USA Can Kill Whoever it Wants (According to the USA)
The War on Terror has always been antagonistic to law. There was no time to build or follow a coherent legal framework when everybody could die at any moment all the time. Hell, securing a warrant can take upwards often minutes. In ten minutes, everybody could be dead, everywhere, perhaps forever. So we invaded countries on fabricated evidence and we tried suspects in kangaroo courts on evidence elicited by torture. We had to because we were afraid.
History is full of overreactions and bad judgments that are corrected with time, or at least condemned in hindsight. But the US government doubled down on the secrecy and the extra-judicial violence. And now the Obama administration wants to legalize murder.
Let’s back up. On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a speech at Northwestern Law School to formally defend the War on Terror, arguing that we can, should, and will follow these practices in the future. Of course, Holder is silent on the issue of torture. Apparently, that page has turned.
Instead, Holder focused first on the recent killing of the American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, by CIA-operated drones in Yemen. Holder offered these killings as a model for future US policy. His justification is simple: We are at war with al Qaeda and those we deem members of al Qaeda are soldiers. And we fight these soldiers on a global battlefield, so we have the right to kill them anywhere. Holder assured his audience that this policy follows the letter of international law—a claim that’s arguable at best.
It’s hard to say what’s the most shocking part of our Taliban in Pakistan series. The quote, “You are an old man, but if you sit with me for 30 minutes I can turn you into a terrorist”? Or all the dead bodies?
“In a recent trip to Pakistan to report on the recent spike in the region’s violence and bloodshed, Suroosh Alvi heard over and over the same sentiment from people on the ground: America’s war on terror is falling flat on its face…”
See the rest at VBS.TV: Taliban in Pakistan Part 1 - VBS News | VBS.TV