Republican Pushback on Gitmo

25 01 2009

Apparently, President Obama’s series of executive orders to shut down Gitmo and the network of secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency within a year has not gone over well with many Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Representative Steven King has made the case that Obama’s plan amounts to granting terrorists a path to U.S. citizenship and a free pass to strike again. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham still wants to preserve the option of detaining of at least some war on terror suspects or enemy combatants indefinitely.

House Republican Leader John Boehner has even gone so far as to suggest that the well documented abuses at Gitmo are somehow exaggerated. Earlier this week, the Ohio Congressman told the Politico, “I don’t know that there is a terrorist treated better anywhere in the world than what has happened at Guantanamo.”

He also went on to say, “We have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build a facility that has more comforts than a lot of Americans get. … I believe they have been treated fairly.”

That of course does not square with a recent bipartisan Senate Armed Services report which concluded:

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. Secretary Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 approval of Mr. Haynes’s recommendation that most of the techniques contained in GTMO’s October 11, 2002 request be authorized, influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity, and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But its important to understand the human dimension of all of this and why this chapter of the Bush administration’s legacy needs to be closed. In the January 15th issue of the New York Review of Books, Georgetown law professor David Cole quotes the U.S. Army log describing the tortuous interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, the alleged 20th 9/11 highjacker, at Gitmo. The descriptions of the brutality are nothing short of harrowing.

Detainee began to cry. Visibly shaken. Very emotional. Detainee cried. Disturbed. Detainee began to cry. Detainee butted SGT R in the eye. Detainee bit the IV tube completely in two. Started moaning. Uncomfortable. Moaning. Turned his head from left to right. Began crying hard spontaneously. Crying and praying. Began to cry. Claimed to have been pressured into making a confession. Falling asleep. Very uncomfortable. On the verge of breaking. Angry. Detainee struggled. Detainee asked for prayer. Very agitated. Yelled. Agitated and violent. Detainee spat. Detainee proclaimed his innocence. Whining. Pushed guard. Dizzy. Headache. Near tears. Forgetting things. Angry. Upset. Complained of dizziness. Tired. Agitated. Yelled for Allah. Started making faces. Near crying. Irritated. Annoyed. Detainee attempted to injure two guards. Became very violent and irate. Attempted to liberate himself. Struggled. Made several attempts to stand up. Screamed….

Thankfully, 53 percent of the American public support using a different system for handling detainees than the military commissions process at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Another 58 percent support an complete ban on using torture as a interrogation technique, according to a recent ABC News poll.

Sure, Obama himself admitted that shutting down Gitmo “is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize” and that many of the so-called enemy combatants are still dangerous enough to pose a threat, but we can still try them in our own civil system or in the military courts-martial system for war crimes.

As Obama noted earlier this week, the U.S. will win this fight and “We are going to win it on our own terms.”

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