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Shutting Down Guantanamo

Posted on Apr 24, 2007
AP Photo / Mark Wilson, Pool

Close to 400 detainees remain at maximum-security prison Camp Delta at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

(Page 3)

Harris:  We’re talking to Jumana Musa of Amnesty International about the suspension of habeas corpus in Guantanamo Bay, among other things.  Jumana, if we follow your line of logic and we follow our own humanity and hearts, we see that something is clearly wrong in Guantanamo Bay.  What would you like to see happen to right these wrongs? 

Musa:  I think our perspective has been pretty clear.  It’s never been—although we get accused of such, of being these mushy human rights groups that don’t understand security and therefore are off on a tangent.  I think the reality of the situation that people need to understand is this, and I’ve said it before: Never once have we said that nobody has ever committed a crime, that people who are truly al-Qaida that are actually plotting attacks and this type of thing are good guys and shouldn’t be detained.  From our position, anybody who would commit those kinds of acts has to be detained.  They should be charged and given a fair trial and, if found guilty, put in prison.  Granted, we are a human rights organization and, certainly, we don’t believe in recourse to the death penalty for many reasons, but the simple fact is that that is not the road the U.S. has gone down.  And the U.S. has made this so broad that we would love to see it narrowed back to the way things are supposed to be, which is this: If you’re at war with another country, you comply with the laws of war.  You don’t make up your own new rules and say, “We’ve decided that Geneva Conventions don’t apply to anybody, unilaterally, because I’m the president and I said so.  We’ve decided that rules against torture, if we don’t call them torture, don’t count.  We’ve decided.”  It’s that kind of unilateralism that has to go.

  What would be positive is an absolute return back to the laws and treaties that were already in place for the U.S., using the systems in place to try people.  You referenced the Military Commission. ...  They said they needed the Military Commission back because without military commissions you couldn’t try any of the people in Guantanamo.  What was very disingenuous about that is, the Department of Justice has touted over 250 terrorism convictions in U.S. courts.  We have tried people for the first World Trade Center bombing here in U.S. courts.  We’ve been able to deal with classified evidence here in U.S. courts.  We have laws that accommodate that.  We have laws that accommodate a lot of this.  So I think, if anything, going back to the legal system that was in place before the U.S. went down this road, going back to the laws that were in place before the Military Commissions Act and actually complying with them.  It’s not even making new rules, but complying with the laws and treaties the U.S. was already bound by before September 11th would go a long way towards fixing a lot of this.  So it would be closing Guantanamo.  It would be finally, absolutely, clearly renouncing the use of secret prisons, the use of a program ... what they call “extraordinary renditions,” the idea that you can pick somebody up and send them to a country where they may be likely to face torture, but you can get a promise so it’s OK.  It’s not OK.  And so if they were to rein themselves back in and follow the laws and treaties that were already in place, I think we would be miles ahead of where we were.

Harris:  Do you find it at all ironic that you’re requesting that the Bush administration follow the conventions set ... in Geneva so many years ago, and they violated those very conventions when Bush decided to go to war?  Do you really think that you’re going to be successful in this effort given your audience, given the Bush administration’s unwillingness to abide by those conventions, seriously?


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Musa:  Yes.  And the reason I say that ... again ... I never said it was going to be a quick or easy fix, but I’ll say a couple of things.  First, we have to be clear: We’re not an organization that’s partisan or promotes any one candidate, and the reason is, the next president doesn’t have to be Republican, doesn’t have to be somebody just like George Bush.  Republicans and Democrats alike can violate human rights.  I think our point about it is, this administration hasn’t been able to keep all their programs in place and they have had push-back, and they’ve had it from the other branches of government.  They wanted to say that none of the Geneva Conventions applied.  They just can’t say that anymore because the Supreme Court said it did, and they just can’t pretend that the Supreme Court didn’t speak, so there are checks on the system.  Congress passed laws, and they can’t say they don’t count.  They try to issue signing statements, but it’s important to remember that people have really questioned those signing statements that said, yes, I’m signing this bill with my understanding of the law, which, as you know, if you look at the Bush administration’s understanding of the law, it’s that the president doesn’t have to comply with it because he’s the commander in chief.

At the same time, the people would actually have to implement some of these things, such as interrogation techniques, that might violate not only what were existing obligations but these new laws, or these new rulings from the Supreme Court.  Those folks have their own personal interest, to the point that it’s not the Bush administration as a whole that would go on trial if somebody was held accountable for torture or other bad behavior of people in custody.  It would be that individual, and so that’s also a check on the system.  It’s what are individuals willing to do and are they willing to risk themselves?  And I think increasingly we’re seeing that people are not.  So, again, I’m not saying that it’s because this administration has somehow seen the light and decided that human rights are the way to go and they really like international law and the Geneva Conventions were so important.  That’s simply not the point.  The point is having an informed constituent, having an informed constituent who’s willing to speak, who’s willing to press their elected officials, having a judicial branch that’s willing to look at the law and not policy, and going from there.  And so I think to think that nothing will change would be to accept the president’s premise that because he’s the commander in chief he gets to make all the rules, and it just goes that way.  And we don’t believe that.

Scheer:  And I’m glad the Supreme Court doesn’t serve at the pleasure of the president because the chief justice and [Associate Justice Samuel] Alito, I’m glad they have their own minds and aren’t like the attorney general.  And on that point, are you saying the Supreme Court—?  Many people, I don’t think, know what the Supreme Court even does anymore, and you’re saying that with Alito and [Chief Justice John] Roberts, the justices, they are going away from the Roves and Bushes and they’re going more with their jurist minds and less of their political minds?

Musa:  I’m not saying that every Supreme Court justice is taking that position, but this Supreme Court that’s currently sitting is the one that considered the Hamdan case.  When the decision came down last June, granted, Chief Justice Roberts didn’t sit in on that decision, rightfully so because he actually was on the appeals court that had made—the federal appeals court at the time that made the decision that was appealed to the Supreme Court.  But it was a 5-to-3 ruling, so five justices said, “We don’t accept these commissions as they were set up.  We think they’re unlawful.  We think that the president exceeded his authority.  And Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to these detentions.”  And that’s what they said.  I know sometimes people say there’s no way this court—they’re too conservative.  It was this court.  Five justices said so.  I know someone tried to say, oh, but that’s so slim.  That’s not the point.  A ruling is not about how big is your majority; it’s about, do you have a majority?  And that’s what the majority of the court said.  What will they say next time around?  I don’t know.  But the simple fact is, that’s what they said this time around.  I think it’s a clear indication that there are people who sit on this court who recognize that we have these obligations, that these are important obligations, and that the United States needs to uphold them.

Scheer:  Also, historically, the Supreme Court, no matter what political position you are, the law of the land and certainly the Constitution of the United States, are upheld overall.  Hopefully this court will help you guys out.  Again, thanks for talking to us today.

Musa:  Absolutely.

Scheer:  It was great and good, informative.  And hopefully ... and what’s your website again, just for the Truthdiggers out there who want to dig with the Amnesty International USA?

Musa:  It’s, and if you want to sign up for a denounce-torture campaign, we’re actually going to be doing a lot of work on this, especially in June, working to restore habeas and end extraordinary renditions, and we’d love it if you joined us.

Scheer:  Thank you very much.

Musa:  Thank you.

Harris:  Jumana Musa, human rights attorney for Amnesty International.  You have homework to do, audience, because she’s told us about some things that are just not right in Guantanamo Bay, and public awareness is always king.  Be sure to visit the website.  One more time, Jumana?

Musa:  Click on “Shut Down Guantanamo.”

Harris:  For Josh Scheer, for Jumana Musa, this is James Harris, and this is Truthdig.

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By 1drees, December 4, 2007 at 4:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Shutting Down Guantanamo!”

Why so its doing so good all dissenters are there and i think its such a good scheme that it should be expanded to include all of mainland America too, and what about the extra jails made & furnished right after 9/11 do you guys want to waste them?

BTW glad to see Lefty is here and ANS AS USUAL is being told to shut up for utter sheer propaganda (AS USUAL)

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By The Angry Independent, May 14, 2007 at 4:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gitmo may actually be expanding….

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By cann4ing, May 13, 2007 at 5:38 pm Link to this comment

Point Blank.  The information about the CIA/FBI agents did not come from the Seaton Hall study.  That information appeared in an independent piece by Jane Mayer appearing in “The New Yorker” last year entitled “The New Paradigm.”  The information was provided directly to Ms. Mayer by former White House and Justice Department lawyers.  I can’t see how furnishing that information to Ms. Mayer could possibly “further” their careers—not in a Bush administration were honesty amounts to a bad career move.

But you have evaded my central question.  I am asking you to assume that the Seton Hall study is indeed accurate.  “If” it is accurate, would you still support Guantanamo?  If so, I am truly interested in hearing why?

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By cann4ing, May 13, 2007 at 2:16 pm Link to this comment

I know it may come as somewhat of a surprise to some but Point Blank and I had a rapprochement of sorts elsewhere on this web site.  While he and I are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, I felt there was no alternative when another individual posted a comment referring to Point Blank as a “murdering scumbag.”  As a fellow Vietnam veteran, I had his back, just as I suspect in similar circumstances, he would have had mine.  (Perhaps it is difficult for those who don’t share our experience, but when your survival is dependent on efficient cooperation with your brothers-in-arms and the bullets start to fly, politics kind of lose their importance.)

With that, Point Blank, while I suspect I cannot persuade you to see my point of view, I would hope that I can get you to at least tone down the level of rhetoric.  I would appeal to the progressives on this site to do the same, so that, if we must disagree, we can do so in a more respectful tone.

I do have a question for Point Blank.  I know you have expressed your admiration for Guantanamo.  I know too, that you dismissed the Seton Hall study showing that the vast majority of detainees had never committed a hostile act and that only 8% were al Qaeda as “crapola.”  (You did not state a position about the FBI and CIA agents who returned from Guantanamo, reporting essentially the same thing to Alberto Gonzales and David Addington).

I would ask you to make a basic assumption—assume that the Seton Hall study is accurate.  Would that make any difference in your support for Guantanamo?  If not, I would greatly appreciate (sans expletives) for you to explain why it would not make a difference.

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By Verne Arnold, May 12, 2007 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

Yes, I agree.  This has been an especially “energetic” exchange between respondents. 
It is always interesting to note the lack of civility at times.
Degrees and other ego enhancing claims not withstanding; it is apparent one party loses it and resorts to expletives and the other party remains articulate with reason at the fore.
A good debate is always informative and interesting; to wit, “The Devil and Daniel Webster”, wonderful story.
A bully never wins!

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By Expat, May 12, 2007 at 7:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ouch!  Point Blank is losing it to emotion and expletives rather than reason and the art of debate…this is the rudest and meanest exchange I’ve seen on this website.
Did we miss our nappy?

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By Allan Scheer, May 9, 2007 at 6:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As is usually the case, and more so regarding this article , is that in my opinion the comments are more entertaining than the articles themselves.

I would add that in America, the people have the luxury of knowing everything that the media decides to put out there. It is just a shame that the rest of the world does not have that luxury. They see our “dirty laundry ” , but theirs stays under the bed.

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By cann4ing, May 6, 2007 at 9:01 pm Link to this comment

Tell me something, Point Blank, is insanity a prerequisite to an MS in psychology?  Your degree didn’t shake you of your military penchant for four-letter words.  By the way, I was eleven bravo; a grunt, not that this would make any difference to your warped mind.

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By cann4ing, May 6, 2007 at 3:25 pm Link to this comment

Re comment #68483 by Point Blank.  Like everything else you have to say, your “assumption” that I had “never served a day in the nation’s armed forces” is flat-out wrong.  I spent the better part of 1968 serving in a mechanized infantry unit (4th Infantry Division) in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.  Been there, done that.  When and where did you serve? 

In addition to a law degree, I hold both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science.  From your writings, I assume that you probably did not get past high school.  I am certain that you do not have a clue as to the war crimes your fascist friends in the Bush administration have committed at Guantanamo, at Abu Ghraib and throughout a vast network of CIA-run secret prisons where torture has been the order of the day.  You certainly have no inkling of the fundamental principles of our Constitutional system, especially those little matters about innocent until proven guilty, the rights each “person” has against self-incrimination and to due process of law.  I stress the word “person” because the Constitution does not limit these rights to citizens.

I suspect that you are one of those brain-dead, chicken-hawk neocons who, never having had to experience the horror of war, is more than happy to hide behind the flag as he sends someone else off to die in a useless war.  If you really are that gung ho, go sign up and head off to Iraq.  Age or infirmity won’t matter.  The gang of criminal war profiteers within the White House and the military-industrial complex will accept any warm body to act as canon fodder.  The oil cartel and Halliburton will thank you, that is unless you get wounded and are foolish enough to expect them to pay taxes in order to see that your broken body is taken care of at Walter Reed.

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By cann4ing, May 6, 2007 at 9:08 am Link to this comment

In comment #68379, Point Blank tells us, “Why should we…give a damn just how those cowards are treated as ‘they’ do not give a damn how ‘they’ treat others.”  Perhaps “Point Blank” should re-title his handle, “Pointed Head with a Blank Spot for a Brain.”

If “they” refers to the detainees in Guantanamo, it may interest the Blank Spot for a Brain to know that, per a Seton Hall study, he is referring to a detainee population 55% of whom have never committed a hostile act and only 8% of which were allegedly connected to al-Qaeda.  The vast majority, 86%, were captured either by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance at a time when the U.S. was offering huge bounties for “suspected” terrorists.  As revealed by Jane Mayer in “The New Paradigm,” published in “The New Yorker,” David Addington (Cheney’s chief of staff and the principle architect of the torture memos and the Kafka-like military tribunals) and Alberto Gonzalez were well aware of this, for the JAG and CIA officers sent to Guantanamo to find out why no useful intelligence was being extracted returned, reporting that “more than half the detainees…didn’t belong there.”  Their pleas were callously ignored.  A perplexed administration official questioned the logic.  “How could you deny the possibility that one or more people locked up who shouldn’t be there?  There were old people, sick people—why do we want to keep them?”

The answer lies in the fact that the real purpose of Guantanamo was never to punish those we believe are a threat to this country.  Guantanamo exists because it embodies a living example of Addington’s concept of the “New Paradigm,” an extension of the “Unitary Executive” to the point of unlimited, dictatorial power.  As one administration lawyer, quoted by Mayer, noted:  “Torture isn’t important to Addington as a scientific matter, good or bad, or whether it works or not.  It’s about his philosophy of Presidential power.  He thinks that if the President wants torture he should get torture.  He always argued for ‘maximum flexibility.’”

In their efforts, Addington et al can always rely upon numbskulls like Point Blank who are incapable of distinguishing between a murderous follower of Osama bin Laden and a peaceful farmer.  To him there is no such distinction, only the ubiquitous “they.”

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By detectivediana, May 5, 2007 at 11:33 am Link to this comment

Close Guantanamo now. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I recommend the documentary-film “Road to Guantanamo.” You’ll get a glimpse at what life is life in the detention camp.

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By nonsequitor, April 30, 2007 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment

#67290 by Point Blank on 4/30 at 11:29 am

‘Sick? You bet!’ very point.

well get it all out, you will feel much better for it, mind the 4000 word limit. smile

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By nonsequitor, April 30, 2007 at 11:56 am Link to this comment

#67236 by Point Blank on 4/30 at 5:31 am

you are one sick blank-point.

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By nonsequitor, April 29, 2007 at 11:33 pm Link to this comment

#66859 by Point Blank on 4/27 at 5:35 pm

to blank point:

Go to Iraq or Iran and try your “holier than thou” crapola and see how long you keep your head.

do you know this or are you just shooting blanks?

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By Jualt R Christos, April 29, 2007 at 10:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I applaud musician Patti Smith for her song Without Chains, which focuses on Murat Kurnaz, one of hundreds or more held without charges at Guantanamo.  While I can sympathize with our government’s desire to protect citizens from potential or actual terrorists, I think that the situations of these people should have been handled faster.  Some remain without charges, without representation, held indefinitely, incommunicado, some in solitary.  And while they are held in a military facility outside of the U.S. to “legally” be outside of rights afforded to U.S. citizens, I think that it is those rights which “we” were seeking to defend…  Unless we protest against this situation, then anyone at any time can be grabbed, and bundled off without charges, without communication, without representation, simply because of an alleged suspicion…  Now that to me could be a form of terrorism…

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By Hammo, April 28, 2007 at 10:09 am Link to this comment

There are much better ways to conduct intelligence gathering than kidnapping, torture, kangaroo courts and other approaches of the Bush-Cheney administration.

We may win the battle but lose the war in the international community, and within ourselves due to this kind of ethical corruption.

Thoughts on this in:

“Modern consciousness research, World War II lessons combine to win hearts and minds, war and peace”

American Chronicle

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By Michael Boldin, April 27, 2007 at 10:35 am Link to this comment

This administration and its supporters claims these people in Guantanamo don’t have rights -

They claim that THESE people are somehow less human that you and I are. Really a disgusting position, in my opinion!

The reality though, even though they make this claim, all people are born with the same inherent rights.

It’s the Constitution and Bill of Rights which makes this clear - and limits what the government can do (or try to take away) when dealing with people.

The Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to American people. It doesn’t apply to foreigners. It doesn’t apply to people at all.

It applies to the government. Period.

For more on this important issue, read the following:

“To Whom Does the Bill of Rights Apply?”

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By dale Headley, April 25, 2007 at 11:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Guantanamo is the blister on the pox that has invaded the American conscience and turned a justice-oriented society into a nationally chauvinistic bully for all the world to fear.

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By QuyTran, April 24, 2007 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment

If Dick Cheney is still saying that al-Quaida was connected to Iraq…so we can ask him that to whom he’s connected ? His answer is : Halliburton (huge)
benefits sharing without paying taxes !

The King is draft dodger. The Vice-King is taxes dodger. Both is the same !

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