Obama declared at the start of his presidency that, when it comes to holding U.S. officials accountable for torture, we must "look forward not back." While he has failed to close Guantánamo or usher in a new era of government transparency, Obama has managed to keep this one promise: fostering impunity for torture.
In his first weeks in office, in a series of executive orders and public statements, the new president broadcast for all to hear the five commandments by which life in his new world of national security would be lived. Five years later, the question is: How have he and his administration lived up to these self-proclaimed commandments?
With its pursuit of the Tibet case, the Spanish courts had sent a strong message to those who oppress with impunity. But it is now looking like Spain may well be out of daring altogether.
During his first year in office, the president formed an interagency panel of top security and law enforcement experts to review every detainee at Guantanamo and cleared more than half of the detainees for release. Yet, most remain imprisoned.
For all his experience and sophistication, that grimly blank expression -- calmly unflinching gaze, slightly lopsided frown -- embodied a philosophy of power unapologetically, brutally simple: attack, crush enemies; cause others to fear, submit. Power from time to time must be embodied in vivid violence, like Voltaire's executions, pour encourager les autres.
While some Republicans are wont to decry anti-Guantanamo liberals as "anti-American," the only anti-American thing in this debate is Guantanamo itself. For it goes against everything our nation professes to respect and love.
Whether or not one believes that the Death Penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights, systemic fair trials violations, and the routine inhumane treatment of prisoners within the Pakistani justice system, inevitably places the country in breach of its international obligations...
The current review process is an improvement over the old one, in that the detainee is now assigned two "personal representatives" to help him. But as in Afghanistan, neither is a lawyer or trained advocate. And neither has a budget to do any real investigation of the case.
Unfortunately, we're a punitive culture, repeatedly enacting legislation based on emotion rather than reason, and turning a blind eye toward the reality that punishment alone rarely works to alter another's behavior (GTMO, anyone?). We love heroes and we love villains -- and we are rarely right about either.
Why Guantánamo? Why me? There are so many issues, so many injustices, so many tugs at the heartstrings and the consciences -- not to mention, there is only so much time, only so much energy. This is why.
At the end of December, it was reported that the last of three Uighurs being held at Guantánamo had been sent to Slovakia. They had been wrongfully detained at Guantánamo for 12 years. It's three steps forward and 15 steps backwards at Guantánamo.
I have spent over 12 years searching for the person who suggested that the term enemy combatant be adopted by the Bush administration. Now I know. The rest is dismal history.
Accused terrorists are tried all the time in U.S. federal courts with little extra burden on security officers and without incident. Only in the case of the five alleged perpetrators of the September 11 attacks did the plan cause such an uproar that their case was moved to another country.
When Col. John Bogdan took the witness stand at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he'd been called to testify about the strict limits he's imposed on defense attorneys' visits with their death penalty clients. The attorneys representing the defendants accused of masterminding the 9/11 terrorist attacks claim his rules make their jobs unreasonably onerous.
From the point of view of the interests of the majority of Americans, it's win-win for Karzai to stand tall. If Washington calls his bluff, U.S. troops come home and we win. If Washington caves to Karzai's demands, the peace talks start and the war starts to wind down.
The judge presiding over the 9/11 case at the Guantanamo military hearings had one of the five co-defendants forcibly removed from the courtroom after he objected that he was being deprived of his right to meaningfully participate in his case.