Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Are we still torturing prisoners at Guantanamo?

Last week I was startled and dismayed to hear a radio report from Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman that not only has torture not subsided at Guantanamo since Obama took office, it has gotten worse.
Another Guantanamo Bay prisoner has come forward to back accounts of worsening torture since President Obama took office. In a letter to his attorney, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif said, “I have seen death so many times. Everything is over. Life is going to hell in my situation. America, what has happened to you?” A Yemeni national, Abdul Latif has been imprisoned since 2001.
Wait a minute. Didn’t Obama renounce torture when he pledged to close Guantanamo?

He sure did. President Obama’s first executive orders as president required Defense Secretary Robert Gates to ensure within thirty days that the conditions for prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay prison conformed to the Geneva Conventions. Among other things, the Conventions ban "cruel treatment" and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment," in other words, things like beatings and force feedings.

That thirty day deadline came and went two months ago, so why are conditions getting worse?

In mid-March, Amnesty International was still receiving numerous accounts from Guantanamo prisoners and their lawyers of beatings and force feedings. These reports are inconsistent with the findings of the Obama administration’s team reviewing prisoner conditions.

The Pentagon’s Guantanamo review, delivered to the White House in February, approved of the detainee treatment, but with contradictory facts coming out, I don’t think that report should be the last word on the subject.

Since the situation at Guantanamo is essentially the Pentagon's baby, they are the wrong group to be charged with evaluating it, which is why the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union declared the report "a farce."
The reported Pentagon review of Guantánamo appears to be nothing more than a whitewash of the Bush practices of abusive treatment and illegal detention. How Admiral Walsh could have completed a thorough review of the conditions of confinement and treatment of prisoners over the past seven years in the lightning speed of seventeen days belies logic and underscores what a farce this process appears to be.
Guantanamo needs regular observation from objective, independent organizations in order to ensure that Obama’s intentions to fully comply with the Geneva Conventions are carried out. We shouldn't take the Pentagon's word for it and neither should Obama.


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