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The Father of Guantanamo

Posted on Apr 8, 2009
White House / Pete Souza

Air Force One, shrouded in fog, as it carries Barack Obama across Europe. The president’s detention policy is equally obscure. While he has ordered the closing of Guantanamo, Bagram air base, where so many humanitarian crimes are alleged to have occurred, remains open.

By Marie Cocco

    The strategic exposition of the “newness” theme during Barack Obama’s first presidential trip abroad reached its apogee in Turkey. Obama conducted a campaign-style “town hall” meeting with students in Istanbul, and toured the historic Blue Mosque, a masterpiece of Turkey’s multicultural history and architecture. 

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    When he addressed the Turkish parliament, Obama pointedly referred to his own family’s Muslim roots and his upbringing in Indonesia to draw the obvious point that the United States will no longer accept the intolerance that marked so much of our cultural and political response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He implored the Turks to embrace “an enduring commitment to the rule of law” as the “only way to achieve the security that comes from justice for all people.”

    Now that he is home, Obama has to show that his words have meaning.

    He must immediately reverse his own inexplicable support for the Bush administration’s policy of indefinite and secret detention as the fate for more than 600 detainees now held at the U.S. air base in Bagram, Afghanistan.

    Bagram is the father of Guantanamo.


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    When U.S. operatives under the Bush administration’s “war on terror” seized people around the globe on suspicion of terrorist ties, the prisoners often were sent first to Bagram, where, according to accounts by former detainees and human rights groups, many were brutalized before being shackled and shipped to what would become the notorious prison for alleged terrorists at the U.S. naval facility in Cuba.

    The symbol of Guantanamo—an offshore penal colony where hundreds of men have been incarcerated without charge, without access to any court and initially without access to lawyers—became such a blight on America’s reputation that during last year’s presidential campaign both Obama and Republican John McCain vowed to close it. Days after taking office, Obama ordered that Guantanamo be shut down within a year, and his administration began a case-by-case review to determine how to handle the detainees who remain there.

    But closing Guantanamo was a political promise, while Bagram went unnoticed during the long campaign.

    And just a month after the president—with some fanfare—ordered the Guantanamo closing, his administration embraced the Bush administration’s position that the Bagram detainees should properly be held in what is effectively a legal no man’s land, barred from having a court hear their cases.

    That premise, which the Supreme Court in several cases involving terrorism detainees already has rejected, now has been cast off by a federal judge hearing the claims of a handful of prisoners who were captured outside of Afghanistan—in Dubai and Thailand, for example—and taken to Bagram for detention. These prisoners, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ruled last week, are “virtually identical” to the Guantanamo detainees in whose favor the Supreme Court already has ruled.

    “They are noncitizens who were (as alleged here) apprehended in foreign lands far from the United States and brought to yet another country for detention,” Bates wrote. Yet the administration, he added, advocates different treatment depending on whether it “ship[s] otherwise identically situated detainees to Guantanamo or instead to Bagram.”

    Arguing that Bagram detainees are different from those at Guantanamo because they are held in a “theater of war” seemed particularly galling to Bates. The U.S. government itself is responsible for taking these detainees into the combat zone. “Such rendition resurrects the same specter of limitless executive power” that the Supreme Court has rejected and reinvigorates the concern that the president can move detainees “physically beyond the reach of the Constitution and detain them indefinitely.”

    This was a fundamental breach of justice and morality when the Bush administration did it. It is precisely the same breach—made worse by the stench of hypocrisy—when the Obama administration does it.

    The Justice Department says it is reviewing the Bates decision and hasn’t decided whether to appeal. It shouldn’t. The first step is to determine—because after all these years we still haven’t—which Bagram detainees were taken there from third countries, and are not citizens of Afghanistan who could conceivably be turned over to Afghan authorities.

    The Obama administration cannot decry the injustice of Guantanamo while continuing it in Bagram. Not even this president possesses rhetorical gifts so substantial they can bridge this chasm between words and deeds.

    Marie Cocco’s e-mail address is mariecocco(at)

© 2009, Washington Post Writers Group

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By Folktruther, April 12, 2009 at 7:36 pm Link to this comment

It’s quite true, Anarcissie, that you don’t need conspiracy to explain Obama retaining Bush’s torture policies.  If you are going to wage war on the population, you have to torture the activists to be effective.

But that doesn’t mean that conspiracies by the powerful don’t occur.  a bunch of scientists just published a paper reporting the residue of a high explosive-thermite- used to cut steel, such as steel supports of buildings, on the grounds of the 9/11 towers.

I think you suffer from what Michael Parenti has called conspiracyphobia.  I think you are an anti-paranoid.  Remember what they say in the intelligence agencies: even paranoids have real enemies.

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By Rontruth, April 12, 2009 at 5:16 pm Link to this comment

What I want to know is what is it that these “detainees” know about the 9/11 attacks? What do they know about whomever were the main, leading culprits who pulled off that day of horror. I noticed that, in a very recent speech, President Obama said of al-Queda when asking for support for his Afghanistan policies: “And we must remember that al-Queda SUPPORTED the 9/11/2001 attacks.” Obama is not a man to make careless verbal mistakes, as, for example, Bush was.

What does Obama know about who, inside the US knew about and/or even carried out the what many scientists and former military officers and others believe was a classic red-flag paramilitary operation, much the same as was carried out on November 22, 1963? That was carried out in that small 6 acre park known as Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Tx. (the one that Obama and Senator Ted Kennedy took a motorcade through in February, 2008,  during the Texas primary and caucuses.

I’m starting to think that Bush, Jr. made one of those “offers that are hard to turn down.” As in, keep things about 9/11/01 under wraps. I think Rosie O’Donnel was right, on the TV show, “The View” a few years ago when she openly questioned the fact that all three WTC sky-scrapers came down in their own foot-prints, when one of them had been ordered by it’s lease-holder to be “PULLED.” (brought down with pre-planted explosives.) The other two by fire, which had never brought down steel structures before in the recorded history of fire and steel.

We all know what happens when presidents somehow wrongly think that they have the power to tell the truth to the American people. Kennedy tried to stop Vietnam that he inherited from his predecessor. He left Castro in power in Cuba. The order to reverse Kennedy’s pullout orders from Vietnam was written and approved by Lyndon Johnson the DAY BEFORE KENNEDY WAS MURDERED. The Bushes own the CIA, and have since that previous dreaded day in late 1963.

This is the reason so many yet think that getting at the now fully available truth about the JFK assassination is as relevant today as it was the day it happened. See for full details.

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By elizabethe, April 12, 2009 at 2:14 pm Link to this comment

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  What’s going on in Afghanistan is not prevention, is it?  I see inflamatory illegal invasive involvement that is “war” not “peace” and the best immediate remedial action is to declare peace as the goal, and U.S. withdrawal.

The ending of this hypocrisy and horror story of inhumanity would “begin” by intending to stop it, as real, not hypocrisy.

How to is to get Obama out of office, as NOT VALIDLY elected, and demand the VALID CONTEST for AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY where incumbents CAN be voted out of office by challengers presented nationally to the public.

I voted for the best, and cynics who love two party corruption of what is currently tyranny of incumbents and not democracy, said, “oh, he cannot win—but they no longer cared about his running, because the two party corrupt tyranny had taken complete control to the point that it was assumed the Democrats were the ONLY valid choice that would get rid of BUSH…and what replaced BUSH was WORSE…the illegal occupation of Afghanistan is not proper world policy or world order and is not protecting safety…it is completely corruption without any ceiling…it is time to end the corruption and force the required view of American Politics.  ONLY HONEST CONTESTS and HONEST WINNERS ON MERITS OF THE CHANGE WANTED can be held as valid.

Two incumbents:  McCain and Obama - both war corrupt red ink military increases without conscience certainly not for America or the world safety or peace.

Four challengers:  Baldwin, Barr, McKinney, and Nader—four peace candidates for honest hope, change, and peace as real, and policy to go with it, and law and order, and budget in the black and end the military increases red ink, and end the corporate corrupt “bailouts” that used to be simply “corporate welfare” but is reaching new heights, thanks to Bush and worse than ever, Obama the FRAUD PRESIDENT with HOUDINI power via the mainstream media railroading warmongers as if wanted as the only choice possible for America to VOTE!

Americans need to insist on democracy, it can only happen if the majority of the people stand up against the corruption and demand the incubments face their four challengers for CHANGE, HOPE, and PEACE and net the real PEOPLE’s sovereignty at the ballot box.

I am Buddhist, and try to “MYOB” (mind my own business) but daily citizen activism is required for American democracy.  When the majority maintains the activist level required to unseat the corruption, we will have our country ON TRACK.

HOPE for PEACE by taking ACTION!  Demand the Democracy Debates DUE 2008 results for Presidential Honest Leadership ON TRACK for REAL CHANGE!

We are a majority registered outside the two parties…of 167 million only 62 million are in the combined two parties at the registration level.  No way are they the “rule” the best is supposed to be the majority rule voted result.

The best can win, it is required!

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By KDelphi, April 10, 2009 at 11:32 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie, youre correct.

It is puzzling to me, however, why it seems that so many uSAns cannot seem to get over the idea of “world leadership”, as in “they are waiting for us to retake leadership”. I dont see much evidence for this. People seem to like Pres.Obama, and that is good. But, that doesnt mean that they trust US “world leadership” (ie Empire) nor desire it.

The UK is still around, and, from what I know, not a bad place to live—-certainly no worse than here.

All that rises must fall, so, why seems it so particular with thee, US?

Despite vowing to “listen” and “change” , the idea that the US must remain the sole superpower seems to be undisputable, if one is to work in DC.

It is not so, and, I believe that we wil be forced to accept it very soon.

We have to make choices—-we can maintain Empire, or , we can provide decent lives for our citizenas, and work with allies. We just cannot afford both, nor, do many of us WANT to run the world.

How is anyone so certain that Leadership is always a postion to be desired? This country was not supposed to be founded to be an Empire—-to the contrary.

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By Anarcissie, April 10, 2009 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

You don’t need a deep conspiracy theory to understand why Obama is keeping Bagram open and re-invading Afghanistan (or why Kennedy invaded Vietnam).  Such actions are the necessary outcome of the belief in empire.  If you want to maintain empire then you must pursue the works of empire, which are murder, mayhem, terror, torture, robbery, destruction, famine, imprisonment and slavery.  If you find that sort of thing repugnant, you must get out of the empire business.  But if Mr. O had wanted to get out of the empire business, he would never have been allowed to become president.  There is nothing “inexplicable” about any of this.

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By Rontruth, April 10, 2009 at 6:06 am Link to this comment

Let’s take a little journey back into Obama’s immediate past. Let’s say since February, 2008. That is when primary candidate Obama took Sen. Ted Kennedy through a little, but very historic Piece of real estate: Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas. Why he did that is not clear. Perhaps to show some chutspa during the campaign, or gain Kennedy Democrats to his side, whatever.

That should have, in many people’s minds, have been a clear statement that his administration, if elected, would be one that dared the powers that be, whether within the military-industrial complex that, in real fact, was behind the coup de-‘etat that took President Kennedy’s life Nov. 22, 1963 over Castro’s Cuba or Vietnam and his last policies leaving them both to their own devices, choosing rather to work behind the scenes to try to negotiate between warring factions within countries outside the USA.

In short, JFK wanted, and worked hard for, PEACE. He mistakenly thought he had the power to decide these things. He was WRONG. Those with the real power took executive action when their allies in organized crime and the CIA sent assassins to several cities, eventually ending up in Dallas, Texas where the local political situation was better suited that Mayor Daley’s Chicago.

I think Obama once had deluded dreams that he could finish the work toward world peace that John Fitzgerald Kennedy once had. I think Obama, like Kennedy who was, as Obama is, independently wealthy,  felt he could stand up to those whose political donations had mostly gone to John McCain, because,  like Kennedy, he didn’t owe them anything.

And, you will notice that, late last year during the conventions, a small group of four young, would-be assassins, with rifles and scopes, etc. were caught by Denver police, who promptly let them go after a few days. Then, there was the trip to Chicago in which Obama ended up going somewhere other than what the news media and others had been told. They went where Obama was nowhere to be found. He was met by the secret society of world decision makers, the Bilderberg Group. All other secret societies’ actions are dictated by the “Bilderbergers.”

You might say that Obama was being shepparded along his path to changing his original idealizm, from pro-world-peace to stopping the most glaring inhumane things at Guantanamo, but keeping the place where “the most sensitive detainees” are kept and, one presumes, variously tortured, to supposedly obtain “information.” The real question should be: What do the detainees know about the CIA-ties of Osama bin Laden and al Quada, and those CIA-connected politicians and others INSIDE the USA.

Some people have, for a long time now, smelled a conspiratorial cover-up going on ever since they learned, from the lips of Condi Rice that she and Bush and Cheney all had heard of the August 6, 2001 PDB and Memo, warning of imminent attacks on the US by bin Laden, when Bush took his month-long “vacation” to Crawford, Texas. Halliburton sure did make a killing with all those no-bid contracts, didn’t they?

Now, you might know, you know why Obama has relented on some aspects of his foreign policy.

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By clipper, April 10, 2009 at 5:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

President Bush tried everything to pressure Iran into another war, with the help of Israel, so now I pray, a catastrophe doesn’t occur,—-Iran Blamed, to have it happen. It is true as others point out, if not for oil, there would not have been a war in the Gulf, and we would not be in the Middle East, millions would still be alive, including our own, and billions our our money would be helping our country. I wonder if Obama is in the control of the Bush family???

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By dihey, April 10, 2009 at 4:34 am Link to this comment

The so-called “Bill of Rights” of our Constitution is more truly an enumeration of actions which the Federal Government and, by implication, State Governments are prohibited to inflict on persons.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of our Constitution is that it does not define the “persons protected against our Governments” as “American Citizens Only” nor does it anywhere say “Valid Within The Boundaries Of The United States Of America Only.” I know that such restrictions have been claimed. I think that such claims are false. The writers of the Constitution wanted to demonstrate to the world that America was to be different from the vile colonial Brits.

I firmly conclude therefore that our Constitution is valid not only at Guantanamo but also at Bagram.

Bagram incidentally is a prison where at least one inmate was murdered.

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By KDelphi, April 9, 2009 at 10:44 pm Link to this comment

When I still subscribed to Pres. Obamas’ “websites”, I got one the day after her annoucned closing GIMTO—that said something like “Closing GITMO—achieved” and another that said, “Stop war in Iraq—achieved”.


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By Steve E, April 9, 2009 at 5:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It took a little time but my suspicions have born a conviction that Obama is dangerous and misguided. My new nickname for him is simple “Slick”.

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By rolmike, April 9, 2009 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment

The all new Obambi Colo
has better coloring
more Caramel
is easier on the eyes
the Sheeples adore it
It’s not instantly toxic
But essentially the same!

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By Jason!!, April 9, 2009 at 11:07 am Link to this comment

EFF press announcement today:

“In Warrantless Wiretapping Case, Obama DOJ’s New Arguments Are Worse Than Bush’s”

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By NYCartist, April 9, 2009 at 10:40 am Link to this comment

“stench of hypocrisy” indeed.  Beyond “no change” to even worse more of the same.  Feh.  Much appreciate column by Ms. Cocco.  How few of the journalists will say when/how/where the Emperor is walking naked?

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By gibberjabber, April 9, 2009 at 8:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

highly recommend the following documentary, “Taxi to the Dark Side”, for a more in depth discussion on this topic.

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By photoshock, April 9, 2009 at 7:54 am Link to this comment

The ‘imperial presidency’ strikes again! We are no longer safe in our own homes let alone our country, the very idea of a Fourth Amendment, and the Fifth Amendment, are nothing more than pish-tosh nowadays.
It is for this reason that we are no longer safe from the very government that is supposed to uphold the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The government in all its glory and pomp cannot disobey the very thing that they swear to uphold and defend with their very lives if necessary.
I am not at all surprised at the Obama administration’s stance on the use of Bagram Air Force Base for the purpose of illegally detaining prisoners that have been secretly rendered from their
homes in countries far away from the fields of battle
and flown into a combat zone for the sole purpose of
justifying their indefinite detention, despite the Geneva Conventions and the morality of illegally holding someone against their will in an area of combat.
Candidate Obama made many promises to the people, but
when it comes to the fulfillment of these promises, watch out for the other shoe to drop, the shoe of despair and defeat of the ideals that have made this country so great. This is not a ‘war on terror,’ that is a sham premise that was foisted upon the American people to get them behind the invasion of a country that had nothing to do with ‘terrorist’ acts.
Iraq has been about solely one thing, the protection of natural resources that would otherwise end up going to China and India.
We are now at war, for the sole purpose of obtaining and protecting the natural resources that are left in
the world. Should this nation ever get off its dead ass and work out the problems of storing vast amounts
of energy, then maybe we could get rid of the need for and dependence on foreign oil and natural gas.
Given all these circumstances, I do not see the presidency as anything more than a puppet show for the corporatocracy that truly runs this country. But that is another rant for another time.

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By everynobody, April 9, 2009 at 5:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Marie; nice one and right on. Well done.

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By KISS, April 9, 2009 at 5:30 am Link to this comment

“Bagram detainees were taken there from third country” and we know that US citizens are not taken to those countries, as well? Not for one second do I believe that. I think we citizens are at a peril as great as under Bush.

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