The U.S. has controlled Guantanamo Bay since 1903, following a U.S. invasion of Cuba. It was 14 years ago today that the first inmates arrived at Guantanamo Bay prison. The U.S. government would soon be accused of abolishing basic human rights, as defined by the Constitution, the Geneva Convention, U.N. decrees, and other accords.
After 9/11, the Bush administration quietly established that a noncitizen could be tried by secret military tribunals, with no right to choose a lawyer or see the evidence against him, and later, that American citizens could be held indefinitely without charge, without a lawyer, without a trial, if the government suspected they were an “enemy” (See Foner, Give Me Liberty). Under Obama, foreigners and American citizens could be imprisoned or assassinated anywhere on Earth without evidence or trial.
In 2003, Guantanamo Bay held nearly 700 men, age thirteen to ninety-eight, most given to the U.S. military for cash by “Afghan warlord militias and both Afghan and Pakistani bounty hunters,” but only 8 percent turned out to be Al-Qaeda. “Six hundred have been released, six convicted, and, according to the government, nine have died, most from suicide” (see Stone and Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States).
A 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report found that at least 119 people, some innocent, were tortured during the Bush years in secret prisons, including Guantanamo—and failed to provide information leading to any high-level terrorists. The report
…described in disturbing detail the mistreatment meted out by untrained CIA officers, some with histories of violence. The abuse included detainees being interrogated for days on end, hooded and dragged naked across floors while being beaten, threatened with death, deprived of sleep for up to a week, and subjected without medical reason to “rectal rehydration” and to “rectal feeding” with a puree of humus, raisins, nuts and pasta with sauce.
Other techniques include mock executions, exposure to extreme cold or heat, and psychological warfare, all ongoing under Obama’s administration. A U.S. soldier described how a fellow female soldier reached into her pants and wiped fake menstrual blood on a Muslim prisoner, asking, “Does that please your God? Does that please Allah?” The reporting soldier said:
I think the harm we are doing there far outweighs the good, and I believe it’s inconsistent with American values. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that it’s the moral antithesis of what we want to stand for as a country.
One Guantanamo inmate spoke of being hung naked from a wooden beam for three days, having his genitals touched, and being isolated and deprived of sleep through loud music and bright lights for long periods. Other prisoners describe beatings, broken bones, broken teeth, heads struck against the floor, without medical treatment afterward.
Obama’s Justice Department consistently works to coverup images of torture, according to American lawyerstrying to represent prisoners.
Similarly, at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, suspects were beaten, electrocuted, attacked by dogs, and made to lie naked on other prisoners.
As at Guantanamo, other prisoners were nearly drowned (“waterboarded”), many were kept in coffin-sized boxes for days, some were told their mothers would be raped and killed, and at least two prisoners died—one from beatings, the other from hypothermia. High-level military officials have warned that such methods do not yield accurate information, and inspire individuals to join terror networks and participate in suicide bombings (see Chomsky, Hopes and Prospects).
Al Qaeda and other extremist groups use the imprisonment and torture of innocent people at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere to ferment anti-American hatred and recruit new members.