Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama Signs Order Closing Guantanamo.

Obama has signed an order to close Guantanamo Bay down within a year. He is also ordering that all future interrogations are done in accordance with American values:

Obama: Any interrogations taking place are going to have to abide by the Army Field Manual. We feel that the Army Field Manual reflects the best judgment of our military -- that we can abide by a rule that says we don't torture. But that we can still effectively obtain the intelligence that we need.

This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, I think, but an understanding that dates to our founding fathers. That we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it's easy but when it's hard.
I read something online today which utterly shocked me. A statement by Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld is linked to in this excellent article by Glenn Greenwald. Vandeveld was the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay charged with ensuring the conviction of a young man called Mohammed Jawad.

At the start of his Sworn Declaration in Support of Jawad's Habeas Petition, he is convinced of the young man's guilt and thinks he is dealing with an open and shut case. By the end he was so disgusted by what he was dealing with that he resigned.

He begins by outlining his views at the time regarding prisoners claims that they had been abused: He believed that the Taliban had trained their foot soldiers to manufacture abuse claims. However, when he gained access to the Detainee Incident Management System report he discovered that the abuse of this young man had all been scrupulously recorded.

Greenwald takes up the story:

In Afghanistan, Jawad was severely beaten, drugged, and threatened with death for both himself and his family if he refused to confess to the grenade incident. That occurred just weeks after the incident where two Afghan detainees, including a completely innocent 22-year-old Afghan cab driver, were beaten to death -- murdered -- while detained and interrogated by U.S. troops in Bagram. The confession Jawad "signed" (with his fingerprint, since he can't write his name) became the centerpiece of the Bush administration's case against him, and yet, it was written in a language Jawad did not speak or read, and was given to him after several days of beatings, druggings and threats -- all while he was likely 15 or 16 years old.

In December, 2003, when he was (at most) 18 years old, Jawad -- according to Guantanamo prison logs -- attempted to kill himself. In 2004, he was subjected to the so-called "frequent flier" program, where, in a two-week period alone, he was moved to a new cell 112 times -- an average of every 3 hours, in order to ensure he was sleep deprived and disoriented. Over the six years at Guantanamo, Jawad was repeatedly subjected to extreme cold, bright lights, and various stress positions. He was often kept in solitary confinement or in "linguistic confinement," isolated from anyone who spoke his only language (Pashto). As recently as May of 2008, while Jawad was at Guantanamo, he was beaten so badly by guards that, weeks later, he still had extreme bruises on his arms, knees, shoulders, forehead and ribs.

Despite all of that, the Bush administration -- monstrous war criminals to the end -- just last week demanded in Jawad's habeas corpus proceeding that his military commission be allowed to proceed as scheduled and that his habeas petition be dismissed. The U.S. was about to proceed with a military commission of a tormented and destroyed human being -- a teenager when his ordeal began and now nothing resembling a healthy, functioning adult -- before a completely rigged tribunal and try him, ironically enough, for "war crimes." It was that repulsive travesty which Obama's order yesterday stopped, at least temporarily.

I strongly recommend reading Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld's statement. It is all the more powerful because he starts out as an utter believer that what he is doing is right.

In the end his confidence of ever gaining any conviction in this case, which is in any way fair and just, is shattered. And he has to resign.

The only evidence - and I really mean the only evidence - is a statement which the young man was tortured into making; which the court, because it was obtained by torture, refused to allow to be admitted.

And yet, six years - six years - after they picked this adolescent up, they are refusing to release him and attempting to have him charged with "war crimes".

The real war criminals are the people who engaged in such systematic and brutal torture.

Of this young man, Mohammed Jawad, his former prosecutor now writes:
Had I returned to Afghanistan or Iraq, and had I encountered Mohammed Jawad in either of those hostile lands, where two of my friends have been killed in action and one of my very best friends in the world had been terribly wounded, I have no doubt at all -- none -- that Mr. Jawad would pose no threat whatsoever to me, his former prosecutor and now-repentant persecuter. Six years is long enough for a boy of sixteen to serve in virtual solitary confinement, in a distant land, for reasons he may never fully understand.
It's utterly shocking, and it's very seldom that I have read a report which literally had my mouth gaping.

Today, at least and at last, Obama said "Enough!"

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.


coffee said...

closing Guantanamo represents a step in the right direction; pretty soon the U.S. will be able to join the world community once again

Kel said...

Yes, I think Obama is going to make it very clear that US will, once again, abide by international law.