Dear President Bush,
Your wordsmiths, the modern day money changers, have been working hard to manage the public information on the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Two weeks ago the United Nation’s Committee Against Torture conducted hearings on Guantanamo Bay. Very little information came through American media sources on the two day event.
A friend gave me an update and from her perspective it sounded like any Bush appointee dodging questions about a secret program. One could insert Mr. Gonzales, Sec. Rice, Vice President Cheney (energy strategy), and the most recent General Michael Hayden, but in the case of Guantanamo that “mouth moving with no substance” appointee was Mr. John Bellinger III. Also not mentioned was a previous admission of torture at the Cuban facility.
Before a more detailed look at events, consider the following recent chronology.
January 16, U.N. Committee Against Torture issues preliminary report on Guantanamo
May 5 & 8, U.N. Committee Against Torture Hearings
May 18, Fifteen Saudi’s released from Guantanamo Bay, transferred to their home country
May 18, Prisoners conduct coordinated attack, two attempt suicide
May 19, Report from U.N. Committee Against Torture Released
May 19, Mr. Bellinger discredits report
Scripps Howard News Service gave this summary of the Committee’s report:
U.N. panel wants Guantanamo Bay prison closed
The United Nations' Committee Against Torture recommended Friday that the United States shut down its terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and avoid using any secret prisons in the war on terror. The panel also said that any foreign prisoners under U.S. control should not be returned to any country where they face a risk of torture. The committee, which held a hearing in Geneva this month, said it feared the United States was holding detainees for indefinite periods with few or no legal safeguards. At issue is whether Washington has violated the 1984 U.N. Convention Against Torture, which America had signed.
U.S. Reaction to the Report
The United States expressed disappointment with the committee report, which was based on two sessions this month with a 25-member delegation of officials from Washington and hundreds of pages of U.S. documents.
"It's unfortunate that they don't appear to have read a good deal of that information or have ignored it, and as a result there are a number of both factual inaccuracies and legal misstatements about the law applicable to the United States," said State Department legal adviser John B. Bellinger III.
The U.N. committee also said detainees should not be handed over to any country where they could face a "real risk" of being tortured.
Bellinger, who led the U.S. delegation at the panel hearings, said it was not "practical" to recommend that Guantanamo be closed but insist that prisoners should not be sent to a large number of countries. "So it's not exactly clear what they think ought to happen to these individuals," he said.
Tony Snow, your press secretary made similar points to Mr. Bellinger saying the U.N had been invited to the facility and the U.S. follows all American laws. I would like to explore those two themes in more depth.
Applicable U. S. Law
Why do Mr. Bellinger and Snow refer to the law applicable to the United States vs. its commitments stemming from the U.N. Convention Against Torture to which it is a signatory?
Anyone who say the military brass conduct its 3 Stooges imitation in Congressional testimony last summer on its handling of prisoners, knows “the law” is clear as mud. Throw a Presidential signing statement upon Congress’ most recent “no torture” legislation and the mud thickens considerably.
Secretary Rumsfeld drove this point home before the Senate Appropriations Committee Defense subcommittee just this week! Wednesday he stated “officials are at odds over whether a new Army manual should endorse different interrogation techniques for enemy insurgents than are allowed for regular prisoners of war.”
The debate hinges on whether suspected terrorists or other insurgents can be treated more severely than captured members of an enemy army. There are concerns such a distinction could fly in the face of a law enacted last year, pressed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that explicitly banned cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners by U.S. troops.
"There is a debate over the difference between a prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention and an unlawful combatant in a situation that is different from the situation envisioned by the Geneva Convention," Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee. "And those issues are being wrestled with at the present time."
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., pressed Rumsfeld on whether there will be one uniform standard for interrogations, which he said was the intent of McCain's legislation. And he asked whether the manual would allow anything that "would be considered unlawful if it were employed against American service members?"
Rumsfeld did not say whether there would be one uniform standard. Rumsfeld said a draft of the new manual has been circulated in recent weeks, and there have been meetings with members of Congress to discuss it.
The summer of 2005 certainly wasn’t the launching point for the military’s wrestling with the prisoner treatment issue. Army Captain Ian Fishback did not like what he saw in the field and pressed the chain of command for a definitive position. Based on his experience, Ian believed the abuse of prisoners to be military policy and systematic in contrast to Sec. Donald Rumsfeld’s stated position the U.S. followed Geneva Conventions in Iraq. After a year and a half of failure in getting his superior’s attention, the captain went to Veteran Senator John McCain for assistance.
Captain Fishback wrote “I would rather die fighting than give up the smallest part of the idea that is America”. Based on recent events it appears your administration would rather die fighting to turn torture into a “bubared” mess, such that no one really knows what is going on, be it Congress or the United Nations. You recall bubar means Bushed Up Beyond All Recognition”.
U.N. Torture Expert Invite
Would you allow Iran to host Nuclear Weapons inspectors without full and free access to all applicable sites? The U.S. essentially closed off key areas necessary for a complete torture assessment by refusing them access to the detainees. For this reason the experts chose not to waste their time. Of course, Tony Snow failed to mention this constraint placed on U.N. inspectors by your administration. You better hope President Ahmadinejad has not been watching and learning from you!
I will leave you with a few final questions:
a. Does the military after two years of struggling, finally have a definition of torture?
b. Was the prisoner riot a fortuitous event in that it showed the danger posed by those in captivity or was it engineered, allowed to happen?
c. Were the Saudi’s purposefully released the day before the report as their host country is known for torturing people in its custody?
d. Were you just lucky that most American media sources combined the prison riot story and the U.N. criticism? Such a combination discounts the prisoners as they are “the worst of the worst”.
e. Had the Stanford Students in the prison experiment been subjected to Guantanamo Bay tactics how would they have responded?
f. Would you invoke your signing statement if the Stanford students in the experiment were thought to have information on the next terrorist attack?
Write me back, I want to know…