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My feet in the air: Congressional Recidivism, the Guantanamo Variations

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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 10:21 PM
Original message
My feet in the air: Congressional Recidivism, the Guantanamo Variations
Edited on Wed May-21-08 10:40 PM by sfexpat2000
My feet in the air: Congressional Recidivism, the Guantanamo Variations

I did hang on chains for five days. When the doctor come to check if I was okay, if I can survive or not, then they put me back down. And, if they say okay, then they put me back up again. -- Murat Kurnaz testifying before the Congressional Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights via satellite, May 20, 2008.


If they gave Emmies for CSPAN Theater, yesterdays hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee should have been a shoe in. The hearing, chaired by Mr. DeLaHunt (D-MA), managed to proceed as if no one in Congress nor any one in the American public has yet been made aware that innocent people have been detained at Guantanamo for years and that during their illegal detention, they have been subjected to abuse and torture. Its hard to keep it fresh after so many performances; it demands a sort of inverse sprezzatura to make old news look new, to make the habitual seem difficult, surprising, even exotic.

At one point, Mr. DeLaHunt called the hearing the end of silence. The End of Credulity seems a more apt title for anyone who has been paying attention these last six years and who desires never again to be insulted by a panel of representative grimaces or expressions of outrage from well meaning House members who apparently never watch their own re-runs on C-SPAN. Maybe Congress should have fewer hearings on the torture of innocents at Gitmo. Maybe they should start holding listenings.

Yesterdays hearing did have a new element disrupting the tedium of these Kabuki-like presentations. A young man who had been among the wrongfully detained for more than five years was testifying via satellite from the safety of Germany. The American public has been largely protected from the first hand accounts of those fortunates who have managed to process out of our prison camp in Cuba. He read a statement in measured, badly inflected English. He was at every point co-operative, respectful and more generous than I could have been had the American Government stolen five years of my life and deposited them in some hidden hell of isolation, abuse and torture.

Mr. Kurnaz was a religious tourist in Pakistan when he was taken off a bus by the Pakistani army and sold to the United States for $3,000.00. The evidence brought against him was that he had associated with a well known religious organization whose membership numbers in the tens of millions and which has no known ties to any terrorist organization. The better piece of evidence was that his traveling companion was a suicide bomber some two years after Mr.Kurnaz was already in custody. (This particular friend is alive and well back home in Germany and has never been charged with any such crime, let alone, has never blown himself to kingdom come. These facts never fazed the prosecutors at Gitmo.)

It was revealed during the hearing that both the American government and the German government were aware and had discussed Mr. Karnuzs innocence as early as 2002 -- after hed been beaten, shocked with electricity to his feet, and tortured with forced water inhalation in Kandahar for three months by American agents and sometime after hed been flown to Guantanamo Bay. So, for years after both governments knew to a certainty this was an innocent man, he continued to be caged, abused, threatened and tortured. For years.

Now, the problem with this story and, indeed, the problem with this hearing, and with all future hearings like it, is that this story is only a variation of many stories weve already heard many times. Mr. Kurnaz was, on his way to freedom after being cleared, shoved into a room and threatened by one last interrogator. He could either sign a statement saying hed never again fight with Al Qaida or he could plan on staying in the American prison camp for the rest of his life. Mr. Kurnaz didnt sign, again. Having never fought with Al Qaida, he couldnt swear hed never do it again.

His story is simply a variation of Sami al Hajs story. al Haj was detained for five years as well. The evidence against him was that he trained to work a camera. Mr. al Haj was a photographer with al Jazeera at the time of his kidnapping by American forces. For six years, his American captors tried to coerce him into declaring that al Jazeera was an Al Qaida front. Mr. al Haj never capitulated to that falsehood; instead, he went on a hunger strike for over four hundred days, preferring a clear path to death than the easier path to dishonor or to complicity with criminality. Sami al Haj was finally released, put on a 20 hour flight back home, during which time he was given no food, no water, and no medication. Upon his arrival, he was rushed to a hospital.

Weve heard Samis story, Murats story, many times.

So, its baffling to hear House members talk about the problem of Guantanamo. They speak of it in committee and on camera as if the closing of Guantanamo could be done if the right key were found. Turn it in the lock, were done, we wont speak of this again.

During this particular hearing, Mr. DeLaHunt suggested that some abstract we needed to reread the Framers some Franklin, some Jefferson, some John Quincy Adams. As if we had the leisure to sit in a quiet room and read while some miles away, men are dying a little bit more every day as their wives are marrying other men and as the world is erasing them from the global database.

Ms. Jackson-Lee remarked that the hardest hill to climb was the problem of recidivism ignoring for an insane moment that of all the Gitmo detainees, only a small handful have been found to be fighters with the Taliban. Fewer than ten of the hundreds of teachers, janitors, children, journalists, cooks and shepherds that have been our guests, bought at about $3K in our tax dollars a head, all these years.

Mr. Rohrabacher was very candid. He said of our European allies, Why wont they take these people into their custody? and he makes a good point, right there.

The problem of closing Guantanamo isnt about closing Guantanamo at all. Its about repatriating these men. The problem is releasing innocent people who have been illegally detained and tortured to some nation where they will not be able to seek reparations from the American government and, more clearly, from the Bush government.

Clive Stafford Smith was one of the group of human rights attorneys that testified to the committee yesterday. He detailed how one of his 80 Gitmo clients, cleared of all accusations, had been accepted to return to Somalia. His testified that our State Department would not speak to him. And thats the hold up. At State.

If the State Department will not facilitate the repatriation of detainees cleared of all accusations that would be over 88% of the human souls imprisoned at Gitmo -- these men will languish there until George Bush and his government are out of power and most likely, until he and his crew are clear of any possible prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mission accomplished.

So, the problem isnt really one of closing Guantanamo. The problem is, in reality, that the Bush Administration has used strappado against our Constitution, that she has been hung up by her wrists, left turning in the wind and in plain sight for the world to see. No matter the carefully choreographed hearings that well-meaning House members attend with their best C-SPAN face, the American people know it. The world knows it. The most beautiful legal structure ever to describe and to prescribe the welfare of a civil society the world has ever seen has been kidnapped, tortured and hung. Feet off the ground, once, and for years now.

Any reasonable person should have understood, when they saw the footage of the prisoners captured in Afghanistan, flown to Cuba and marched into Gitmo hooded and shackled, our government was very far down the road into abusing human rights and human bodies. Rumsfeld called these random souls sold to us by bounty hunters the worst of the worst. That was a lie.

The flight from Afghanistan to Gitmo was a rendition flight and it was done in plain sight. We were all complicit from the moment the cable channels aired that film. We can never say we didnt know what was happening to theses teachers and photographers and janitors and children and grandfathers and tourists bought with our tax money for the Pentagons terror parade. The Bush government made sure we all saw it. They inoculated themselves by implicating the public as the crime was in progress.

The remaining 275 Guantanamo detainees will continue to be abused in confinement until George W. Bush is safely out of office and so, beyond prosecution. Thats also on all our heads. And on the heads of every Congressional committee that has played and replayed their stale surprise and outrage where human decency and due diligence was needed to redress these ongoing war crimes. It may just be more tidy for this Congress to wait until the Democrats get a real working majority before they truly deal with the lost souls in the Guantanamo prison camp. Political neatness trumping human rights is that the new American M.O?

Gentlemen and gentle ladies, human rights organizations have been protesting these detentions since 2002. Your feigned surprise in the year 2008 in the absence of reparative action is a failure to execute your oath of office so immense as to be beyond describing in the English language, in any language for that matter. If you expect that your constituencies will be satisfied with performance art instead of job performance, you are very much mistaken.

Were cutting the Constitution down from where you have left her swinging, feet in the air. Were going to resuscitate, to take care of her. Were going to make sure that she is released into more diligent hands than yours. And we will work to make sure the innocent people you have abandoned for years in that hellhole get justice. Make no mistake, we can only surmise our own turn at injustice, abuse, and abandonment at your hands is next. And we will not have that.

Elizabeth Ferrari
San Francisco




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Solly Mack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 10:26 PM
Response to Original message
1. Oman...that is so what I constantly rant about
"...managed to proceed as if no one in Congress nor any one in the American public has yet been made aware that innocent people have been detained at Guantanamo for years and that during their illegal detention, they have been subjected to abuse and torture."

and they do...time and time again...treat the already known like it's the first time it has come out

K&R

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Luminous Animal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 10:32 PM
Response to Original message
2. Thanks for this...
For the past 6 years, I've felt like a broken record. I am utterly flabbergasted how often I've had to tell the same people over and over... we are torturers.
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Luminous Animal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 10:38 PM
Response to Original message
3. By the way, ACLU blog's torture symposium this week
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 10:40 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. Thank you. n/t
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Luminous Animal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 10:47 PM
Response to Reply #5
8. You are welcome!
One very good reason to get this primary over with is to get people focused on substantive issues.
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Solly Mack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 10:40 PM
Response to Original message
4. I hope many, many read this
and give it the many, many recommends it deserves

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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 10:42 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. I watched the hearing last night. Recorded it and watched it again
and again like you watch a horrible accident. But the real horror was, it's no accident. Not at all.
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Solly Mack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 10:44 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. and you have to watch...just have to
because it all seems unreal and all too real...and the head spins from the vastness of it all
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magellan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 10:50 PM
Response to Original message
9. When are they going to hear enough
...and DO something?

I have to tell you, the only thing that enrages me more than the torture that's been carried out by our gov't is the absolute lack of meaningful response from our gov't.

kick, god dammit.
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The Magistrate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 10:53 PM
Response to Original message
10. Excellent, Ma'am!
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countryjake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 11:53 PM
Response to Original message
11. Is anybody out there?
I saw this fellow, Murat Kurnaz, on Sixty Minutes not too long ago and all I could think, is anybody out there listening to this poor kid? I knew that Vanessa Redgrave and others at the Center for Constitutional Rights had been trying to get him out of Gitmo for years (There's a letter from him thanking her for her efforts while he was imprisoned, up at YouTube) but seriously, what does it take to get all of these damn venerated legislators to sit up and take notice of what more than half the world already knows?

"The End of Credulity", indeed!

You've hit another out of the ballpark with this piece! I sure wish I'd seen that hearing on CSPAN.

"Stale surprise"...perfect description!

Recommended a thousand times over!
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-21-08 11:58 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. I want to work with Stafford Smith. He has a project going.
He's very good at speaking up -- took on Rohrabacher without batting an eye or changing his tone.

http://www.reprieve.org.uk/
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countryjake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-22-08 12:19 AM
Response to Reply #12
14. Hey, thanks for that link!
:yourock:
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Kaleko Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-22-08 12:09 AM
Response to Original message
13. The trivialization of evil -
awesome in its scope. Outrage is reserved for calling a spade a spade.


Mindnumbing. America, the zombified marches on.
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-22-08 07:53 AM
Response to Reply #13
15. Rohrabacher is the ranking member on that committee.
Even when confronted with irrefutable evidence of horrible wrongdoing, he kept saying "IF we made a mistake, we should admit it".

Unbelievable.
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Solly Mack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-22-08 07:59 AM
Response to Reply #15
16. I love you! That "IF" - and plenty use it - really lets me know that
nothing will be done about it all -if it can be prevented. When I hear that "IF" from politicians I snarl....because it promotes the lie that war crimes aren't happening...that it's just a matter of opinion....and we don't really know

The language used...in terms of IF it happened ....speaks loudly.

I sent your essay to some friends. I hope that was OK. I usually ask first.








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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-22-08 08:20 AM
Response to Reply #16
17. Nothing is going to happen while Bush is in office.
I got the idea that Nadler was really angry but, it seems to have already been decided.

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Solly Mack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-22-08 08:25 AM
Response to Reply #17
18. Not sure my sanity, and I really mean that, can take it
if he walks

I've been told I need to disengage and detach myself....but I don't know how



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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-22-08 03:41 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. I've been demoralized for months re impeachment. Whatever.
We can do what we can.

It does give me a lot of hope, though, that many people are still trying to pay attention even though we have been thoroughly discouraged from paying attention by the corporate media. It's a feat, when you think about it. Good for us. :)

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countryjake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-22-08 02:41 PM
Response to Original message
19. Kick!
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countryjake Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-23-08 04:46 PM
Response to Original message
21. Link to video of this hearing, with the Murat Kurnaz testimony...
GITMO Detainee Torture Hearings in Congress
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...
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