On Friday, just a few hours before I spoke to Jeff Farias, I was interviewed by Scott Horton for Antiwar Radio (the 22-minute show was broadcast on Monday, and is available here). In our tenth outing, Scott and I ran though some recent history: the administration’s decision not to push for new legislation authorizing the indefinite detention of prisoners in Guantánamo (and why it’s only a slight improvement on previous plans), the latest postponement in the fatally flawed Military Commission “terror trials” (which I wrote about here and here), the few dozen people in Guantánamo regarded as having any genuine connection to terrorism, and the government’s claims that, nevertheless, somewhere between 50 and 65 prisoners will eventually be put on trial (although whether in federal courts or in a revived version of the Military Commissions has not yet been decided).
This also allowed me to draw listeners’ attention to what should have been the final word on the unsuitably of the Commissions and the viability of federal court trials: electrifying testimony delivered to a House Committee in July by Maj. David Frakt, the former military defense attorney for Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan prisoner released in August after a judge granted his habeas corpus petition and condemned the government for having no case.
I also had the opportunity to raise the recent motion passed by the House of Representatives and intended to prevent any Guantánamo prisoner from being transferred to the US mainland for any reason — even for federal court trials — which was the subject of my most recent article, “On Guantánamo, Lawmakers Reveal They Are Still Dick Cheney’s Pawns.” Bringing up the topic of spineless lawmakers not only gave Scott and I the opportunity to mention how ridiculous is the Dick Cheney-inspired fearmongering regarding bringing prisoners to the US mainland, but it also allowed Scott to point out how numerous terrorists have been convicted in federal courts, including Ramzi Yousef, the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who attempted to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993, and how they are all safely imprisoned in the kind of impregnable prisons that would also be used for prisoners from Guantánamo.
Scott also asked me about the latest dubious developments regarding the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, which I discussed at length in two previous articles, “Obama Brings Guantánamo And Rendition To Bagram (And Not The Geneva Conventions)” and “Is Bagram Obama’s New Secret Prison?”, focusing, in particular, on the struggle for habeas rights for the foreign prisoners “rendered” to Bagram, who, according to a US judge, should have the same rights as those in Guantánamo, because “the detainees themselves as well as the rationale for detention are essentially the same.” According to the Obama administration, however, they should still have no right to ask — even after six years, in some cases — whether there is any basis for their detention.
The other significant aspect of the story, which we also discussed, was the decision to introduce Guantánamo-style tribunals at Bagram. This was presented as progress, even though it has nothing whatsoever to so with the Geneva Conventions, whose unilateral rewriting by the Bush administration seems to be being maintained by Obama — or, as Scott described it, we discussed “how Obama picks and chooses which Geneva Convention rules he abides by.”
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.
5 Oct. 2009