May 23rd, 2013: War of Terror/Drone/Gitmo Speech.
May 23rd, 2013: War of Terror/Drone/Gitmo Speech.
[…] Drone warfare is the ultimate form of terrorism. It is political warfare designed to terrify foreign enemies and American citizens alike. It demonstrates to foreign enemies that the President can kill them and their supporters like a god hurling a lightning bolt from the sky. It lets Americans know that Obama is omnipotent, remorseless, and above the law.
Despite what he says, you know this to be true.
Drone warfare is no longer experimental, either. It’s here to stay and you have been conditioned to accept it.
Likewise, kidnapping people, rendering them, and holding them without due process in torture centers like Guantanamo is terrorism, designed for all the same psychological reasons as drone warfare.
And like drone warfare, administrative detention is not going away either. And you have been conditioned to accept it.
Doesn’t matter that you are more likely to be killed by a bee sting than a terrorist attack.
Doesn’t matter that 30,000 Americans die every year in automobile accidents. You will climb into your car and hurtle down the highway at 80 MPH, heedless of the danger. Fearlessly.
But you will fear Obama.
Things to keep in mind when Barack Obama tells us later that all of these things are “legal” or “thoughtfully considered” or “just” and therefore he has, somehow, made them better.
Keep this in mind as Obama speaks about Guantanamo on Thursday:
The Pentagon is asking Congress for more than $450 million for maintaining and upgrading the Guantanamo Bay prison that President Barack Obama [purportedly] wants to close.
New details on the administration’s budget request emerged on Tuesday and underscored the contradiction of the president waging a political fight to shutter the facility while the military calculates the financial requirements to keep the installation operating, AP news agency reported.
The budget request for the fiscal year beginning October 1 calls for $79m for detention operations, the same as the current year, and $20.5m for the office of military commissions, an increase over the current amount of $12.6m. The request also includes $40m for a fiber optic cable and $99 million for operation and maintenance.
The Pentagon also wants $200m for military construction to upgrade temporary facilities. That work could take 8 to 10 years as the military has to transport workers to the island, rely on limited housing and fly in building material. [++]
U.S. military medical providers counted 102 Guantánamo prisoners as hunger strikers on Thursday, the first increase after three weeks when the number seemed to plateau at 100.
Navy medical workers were tube feeding 30 of the hunger strikers, said Army Lt. Col. Samuel House. Three were hospitalized but none had “any life-threatening conditions,” House said.
Military officials refused to say whether the protest had spread to Camp 7, the secret prison building where the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and 14 other so-called high-value detainees who were once held in secret CIA facilities have been locked up since 2006. On May 8, defense lawyers for some of the accused 9/11 conspirators filed a motion asking the war court judge to forbid the prison staff from force-feeding their clients.
The motion was under seal Thursday, but Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz said by telephone from Dubai that he had invoked the American Medical Association opposition to force-feeding in the motion he filed on behalf of his client, Saudi Mustafa al Hawsawi, one of the five detainees charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks. The AMA and the International Red Cross oppose force-feeding prisoners who are mentally competent to decide their fate.
[…] The [Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)] contains a “General Algorithm for a Hunger Strike”, described in the document as “a simplified outline for the medical management of detainees on hunger strike”.
It notes that, after a prisoner is identified as a possible hunger striker, a medical officer performs a physical examination, and the behavioural healthcare service conducts a psychological evaluation. The prisoner is then “counselled” about the dangers associated with a hunger strike.
“If detainee continues to hunger strike and clinical criteria for the initiation of enteral feeding are met… the detainee may be admitted to the Detention Hospital or designated feeding block if medically stable. Authorisation is obtained via chain-of-command from JTF-GTMO Commander to begin enteral feeding.”
Before being placed into the restraint chair, medical personnel offer the prisoner one last chance to eat voluntarily. If the prisoner refuses, the “medical provider signs [the] medical restraint order” to force feed the prisoner, and encourages him to use the restroom before he is shackled.
A guard then “shackles detainee and a mask is placed over the detainee’s mouth to prevent spitting and biting”, states the chair restraint protocol. “Detainee is escorted to the chair restraint system and is appropriately restrained by the guard force.”
A 10 or 12 “French” size (3.3/4mm external diameter) feeding tube is then placed into the prisoner’s stomach through his nostril. He is given a topical anaesthetic, such as viscous lidocaine for his nostril “unless detainee refuses”. A sterile surgical lubricant is applied to the feeding tube.
Medics use a stethoscope and a test dose of 10ml of water to ensure the pipe has reached the detainee’s stomach.
The feeding tube is secured to the prisoner’s nose with tape “and the enteral nutrition and water that has been ordered is started, and flow rate is adjusted according to detainee’s condition and tolerance.”
The manual says a feeding can be “completed comfortably over 20 to 30 minutes”, a claim disputed by Guantanamo prisoner Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, who described in a New York Times op-ed the intense pain he experienced from being force-fed.
The administration of two powerful drugs, in addition to a wide range of over-the-counter medication, further undercuts the assertion that force-feeding can be completed comfortably in a half-hour or less. The two drugs at issue, according to the force-feeding policy, are Phenergan, which is used to prevent motion sickness, nausea, vomiting, pain - or as a sedative or sleep aid - and Reglan, which is used to treat heartburn caused by acid reflux. Long-term use of Reglan has been known to cause the irreversible neurological disorder, tardive dyskinesia. [read]
Hunger striking Guantanamo prisoners who are force-fed a liquid nutritional supplement undergo a brutal and dehumanising medical procedure that requires them to wear masks over their mouths while they sit shackled in a restraint chair for as long as two hours, according to documentation obtained by Al Jazeera. The prisoners remain this way, with a 61cm - or longer - tube snaked through their nostril until a chest X-ray, or a test dose of water, confirms it has reached their stomach.
At the end of the feeding, the prisoner is removed from the restraint chair and placed into a “dry cell” with no running water. A guard then observes the detainee for 45-60 minutes “for any indications of vomiting or attempts to induce vomiting”. If the prisoner vomits he is returned to the restraint chair.
That’s just a partial description of the “chair restraint system clinical protocol” which medical personnel are instructed to follow when administering a nutritional supplement to prisoners who have been selected for force-feeding by Guantanamo Commander Rear Admiral John Smith.
The restraint system, published here for the first time, along with the feeding procedures policy, was contained in a newly revised Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Guantanamo hunger strikers, obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera from United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which has oversight of the joint task force that operates the prison.
The 30-page manual contains the most detailed descriptions to date pertaining to the treatment of hunger strikers and prisoners who undergo force-feedings. The SOP replaced a previous SOP issued in 2003 - revised in 2005 - which was declassified several years ago by the Pentagon, albeit with redactions. The new, unredacted policy obtained by Al Jazeera went into effect March 5 - one month after Guantanamo prisoners launched their protest over the inspection of their Qurans.
The procedure appears to have been revised and implemented in order to deal with a mass hunger strike.
“Just as battlefield tactics must change throughout the course of a conflict, the medical responses to GTMO detainees who hunger strike has evolved with time,” says the SOP. “A mass hunger strike was successfully dealt with in  by utilising procedures adopted from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the approach delineated in this SOP.
“However, the composition of the detainee population, camp infrastructure, and policies has all undergone significant change since the initial version of this SOP… Much of the original instruction has been retained in the form of enclosures. In the event of a mass hunger strike, these enclosures can be utilised as they have proven efficacy under mass hunger strike conditions.”
The SOP notes that there are a number of prisoners who have been hunger striking since 2005, who have “proven their determination”, and whose physical frailty have limited Guantanamo authorities’ “options for intervention”. The document goes on to say, “in the event of a mass hunger strike, isolating hunger striking patients from each other is vital to prevent them from achieving solidarity”.
On April 13, guards staged a predawn raid at the communal camp and isolated more than 100 prisoners into single cells in an attempt to bring an end to the protest.
Leonard Rubenstein, a lawyer at the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Heath and the Berman Institute of Bioethics, who reviewed the SOP document for Al Jazeera, said the revised guidelines were troubling because they prohibit doctors and nurses from acting independently and make clear that they are simply “adjuncts of the security apparatus”.
Indeed, the SOP says that in order to effectively manage hunger strikers, a “close partnership” must exist between the Joint Medical Staff and the Joint Detention Group security force. Rubenstein characterised such a relationship as “Orwellian”.
“It is a very frightening idea that the medical staff is an adjunct of the security force,” Rubenstein said. “The clinical judgment of a doctor or a nurse is basically trumped by this policy and protocol. Doctors are not acting with the kind of professional medical independence [they should]. It’s clear that, notwithstanding references to preservation of detainee health in the policy, the first interest is in ending the protests.”
Rubenstein pointed out the SOP does not provide any direction to medical personnel on how to deal with prisoners who may be suffering from a mental health condition.
Currently there are at least 100 prisoners who are on hunger strike, although some prisoners’ lawyers say that number is much higher.
[…] In a letter sent to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last month, American Medical Association President Dr Jeremy Lazarus said the force-feeding procedure at Guantanamo “violates core ethical values of the medical profession”.
“Every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions,” Lazarus wrote. “The AMA has long endorsed the World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo, which is unequivocal on the point: ‘Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.’”
The United Nations has condemned force-feeding as both a form of torture and a breach of international law. [READ]
Needs 800 signatures to reach 200,000. Boost please.
… no ‘state of war’ exists for a couple of reasons. First, only Congress can declare war — something it has not done since World War II — and there is no ‘country’ that can decide whether or not we are committing acts of war against it. The enemy — the government insists — is not a nation, but an ideology. There are militants operating throughout the globe who desire nothing more than to terrorize the United States. These are the enemy. Using the president’s logic, then, every nation — including our own — is a potential theater in the ‘War on Terror,’ but traditional rules of warfare need not apply because we’re not at war with any nation that can assert a claim against the United States for violating those rules. Brilliant.
Two years ago, President Obama signed an executive order that established review procedures for detainees [at Guantánamo] that would determine if continued detention was necessary. The process was to begin with hearings before an interagency Periodic Review Board, which were to begin in March of 2012. But no hearings have been announced thus far.
Although representatives of two presidential administrations argue over which is more offensive to American values — indefinite detention in Guantánamo or death by drone strike — the debate is a false dialectic.
The value placed by Americans on life is set forth in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. There need be no either/or discussion when it comes to which reduction of those rights by our government we will tolerate.
The Fifth Amendment clearly restates our principle that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” No person. That is the standard. Person means person. It does not mean good person, person who agrees with us, person who lives the way we want them to live, and it doesn’t even mean American citizen.
Every time an agent of the government of the United States kills or detains someone suspected of posing a threat to the security of the homeland without affording that person the due process of law — charges, access to legal counsel, a right to defend oneself against the charges, a right to have the merit of those charges heard by an impartial judge and jury, among others — then we have abandoned our principles.
Whether such betrayal of our most fundamental expression of the sanctity of life and the demands of due process occurs in a prison in Cuba or in a village in Yemen destroyed by a Hellfire missile launched from a Predator drone, the loss of liberty is the same.
So as long as the government is permitted to frame the argument as a this-or-that choice between the lesser of two evils rather than subject any such policy to the scrutiny of the Constitution, Guantanamo (or similar prisons) will remain full and functional and drone strikes will continue culling the kill list.
Interesting piece; however, the author makes the case for shutting Guantanamo only, not necessarily ending the practice of indefinite detention. Remember, many of the prisoners are striking to end their unlawful detention without charge (until the “end of hostilities”, nowhere in sight), not to get a new view at a new prison (86 of the 166 prisoners have been cleared for release). Nor does the author mention Obama’s own moratorium, imposed in early 2010, on releasing any Yemenis from the prison.
It’s easy to blame Congress for standing in the way of a rational solution. But if the Obama administration would take some of the legal ingenuity that it has applied in justifying indefinite detention and apply it instead to closing the island prison, maybe something could actually be done, despite the organized madness that is our constitutional separation of powers.
Start with the most fundamental reason that Obama should be able to act unilaterally. The president is commander in chief, and the Guantanamo detainees were all held pursuant to the executive power to wage war. The Obama administration says the detainees are being held as, in effect, prisoners of war pursuant to the Geneva Conventions, until the end of hostilities with al-Qaeda — whenever that may be. So why doesn’t the president, who has the absolute power to hold and release the detainees, have the authority to move them around according to his sound judgment?
… The first step would be for the Obama administration to show some of the legal self-confidence it did in justifying drone strikes against U.S. citizens or in ignoring the War Powers Resolution in the Libya military intervention. Likewise, it could assert a right of control over where the detainees should be held. And if the president’s lawyers are worried about Bush-style assertions of plenary executive power (which, for the record, didn’t concern them when it came to drones or Libya), there is a path [through the courts] they could follow that would hew closer to their favored constitutional style. [continue]
… [B]ack when the moratorium [on releasing cleared Yemeni prisoners from Guantanamo] was announced 40 months ago, the Obama Administration suggested that it was a response to a recent setback in security in Yemen, one which would be fixed by its new counterterrorism efforts in the country [i.e. death by robot, signature strikes, guilt by association, location, etc.]
Midway through the ensuing period, the Obama Administration succeeded in killing Anwar al-Awlaki, whom they would implicate in that Christmas Day attack.
And yet 40 months after the moratorium (and the drone strikes) started and 19 months since Awlaki’s death, the Administration still hasn’t removed the moratorium.
It may well be that things in Yemen haven’t gotten more stable since January 2010 and on that basis the Administration continues the moratorium (though Yemen’s treatment of Adnan Latif sure made it sound like the Administration was moving toward some shift). Indeed, Brennan’s most recent estimates say the number of AQAP members has grown fivefold through this period of moratorium.
Clearly, the Gitmo policy has to change. But what about the Yemen policy, which over 40 months time hasn’t brought the stability Obama’s team was promising when the moratorium started?
On May first, which we in the United States celebrate as Law Day, presumably to honor, at latest count, the principle and practice of indefinite detention, which includes torture, solitary confinement, and now, forced feeding, to pacify, break the will, and otherwise punish with impunity, detainees at Guantanamo, for many, going on a full decade, the New York Times in an editorial ever so gently criticized Obama for betraying (not their word) his promise to close the facility.
Whether prompted by the other May Day (completely unlikely), or the excellent national-security reporters Mazzetti, Savage, and Shane’s investigations ranging from waterboarding to targeted assassination (also unlikely, given the disconnect between the editorial page and the live journalism), or simply, because the stench of illegality was so great that the Times had no other choice, provided of course Guantanamo was treated in isolation as a self-contained topic bearing not at all on the totality of Obama’s militarism and grandiose vision of world supremacy (to be executed through covert operations and the extreme importance attached to paramilitary operations and advanced technologies of killing), it took a step to chide the president in the hope perhaps that no one was looking.
Yet Guantanamo is but a speck in the vast sea of America’s international posture of counterrevolution. In its own right it is our Devil’s Island, our Penal Colony, placing the United States in the fine historical company of the most nefarious imperialist powers. And Obama of course still sleeps well at night, confident that he is proving his mettle to the military establishment, defense contractors, hired guns, and finding increasing favor, the CIA and JSOC.
Guantanamo is, for him, merely a symbolic gesture of unrestrained American power, a veritable sideshow as the US prepares to take on the big boys, most notably China, as well as the brush fires which keep Americans on their toes, defense spending copiously rolling in, and the force-feeding of another kind, the steady diet of patriotism in the Homeland steeling our resolve for further interventions, assassinations, etc., North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, and still, Cuba, filling the bill. Counterrevolution and counterterrorism, dialectically entwined, becomes Obama’s magic elixir at the foundation of the National Security State, the one creating the conditions for making the second operable and, to the American people, legitimate, the second, meanwhile, in its execution feeding the forces of the first—a vicious circle of hegemonic dynamism.
In the larger picture, Guantanamo is merely confirmatory. Already we see Obama’s contempt for the law and the rule of law, the former in blatantly disregarding the constraints of international legal-moral conduct (targeted killing), the latter in just as blatantly cutting the rug from under civil liberties whether through surveillance, the denial of due process, or, as in the case of Bradley Manning (our Dreyfus), the use of Espionage Act prosecutions and egregious modes of punishment. A police state in the making?—probably not yet, but not for want of trying.
I referred to Obama as a pathetic despot because, as one meaning in Webster, he arouses this writer to contemptuous pity for his transparent (the only case of transparency in the Obama administration!) opportunism, absence of human concerns, gravitation to the sources of power in America: beyond the military, the world of banking especially, but all consolidations of megawealth, from pharmaceuticals to oil to health insurers, and the list daily grows.
This issue of indefinite detention without benefit of trial and the rights accorded defendants in Western legal philosophy and practice, indeed, conversely, subject to “enhanced interrogation,” i.e., torture in its most reprehensible forms, is but one indication of the TRANSMOGRIFICATION of Pres. Obama, who is hardly recognizable from the candidate in ’08, and presently a sinister force immersed totally in the ways of militarism in international policy, and friend to the wealthy and increasingly concentrated corporate-banking structure. Where has the American soul fled? How accept barbaric policies unworthy of a free citizenry of a democratic nation? Yet, accept, we as a nation do.
Guantanamo is INSEPARABLE from armed drones for targeted assassination. They complement each other and spring from the same mindset, a sick psychopathological take on the human condition in which exercising strength with impunity becomes the New Ethics of the present age in America. Regrettably, the nation gives evidence of being past caring, mounting defensive mechanisms in the collective mind to prevent shame or the stirrings of conscience–defensiveness to go with its concrete embodiment in a megalithic structure of power disposed to unilateral actions, a DEFENSE of a status-quo world structure conducive to and consistent with American hegemony in a global system itself seeking to become multipolar and, hence, decentralized, as more in keeping with nations’ peaceful existence and growth.
With a weeks-long hunger strike focusing new attention on conditions at the United States’ controversial detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the minister of human rights for Yemen is due in Washington on Friday for talks she hopes will lead to the repatriation of at least some of the scores of Yemenis held at the island prison.
Speaking on the eve of her trip, Hooriya Mashhour told McClatchy that the Yemeni government’s ultimate goal is to gain custody of all its citizens currently held at Guantanamo – a number that is uncertain but includes at least 84 of the 166 men imprisoned there. But she said her current hope is more modest – the return of the two dozen or so Yemenis that a special Obama administration task force determined in 2010 could be returned to their homeland.
“At the very least, we want the release of the detainees who have been cleared – those who have already been determined to present no threat to the U.S.,” she said. “That, however, is just the first step.”
What to do with the Yemenis at Guantanamo is one of the major decisions that President Barack Obama must make if he is to accomplish his first-term campaign pledge to close the detention center – a goal he [sort of] reiterated at a news conference Tuesday.
The State Department said this week that 26 of the Yemenis at the center have been cleared for release, and that 30 others could be transferred to Yemen if the government could take “appropriate measures to reduce the risks associated with their return.” But their return is blocked by a moratorium on the transfer of any detainees to Yemen, which Obama imposed after the attempted Christmas Day 2009 midair bombing of an aircraft over Detroit. The Nigerian who confessed to that attempt said he’d been recruited for the mission by al Qaida-linked people in Yemen.
[…] With whom Mashhour will meet in Washington is unclear. The State Department did not respond to requests for information. Last month, Mashhour said she would seek permission to visit the prison to see for herself the conditions of the Yemenis there. But previous requests for such a visit have been denied, and Pentagon spokesman Todd Breasseale said Thursday he was unaware of any current request from Mashhour to visit Guantanamo.
Breasseale said such visits typically are restricted to foreign intelligence and law enforcement officials.
Mashhour’s delegation includes officials from Yemen’s intelligence service and the Foreign Ministry, she said.
Today in “No shit, Dick Tracy” news.
And Obama’s plan to indefinitely detain “terrorists” on U.S. soil is his alternative to indefinite detention at Guantanamo, should he ever get around to shuttering the place.
But keep using phrases like “lesser evil” if it makes you feel better.