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Gitmo May 21, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Politics.
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If you go to Huffington Post’s homepage quickly you might be able to catch a glimpse of this [now its actually too late, you’ll have to trust me]: Huge block red letters. Red as anything, red as blood, red as Japan’s rising sun, red as my living room lamp. The letters scream from the gossipnews website, “Obama Sending First Gitmo Detainee To US For Trial.” As evidence of the sites constant shouting and gossiping, I only provide: Should “to” and “for” really be capitalized? The NYT, WSJ, et. al. don’t capitalize these.

Underneath screaming words are three overly-dramatic pictures. From left to right: a picture of two high-security fences, equipped with the works (the fences are presumably at Guantanamo Bay, or Gitmo as some call it despite the lack of an “i” in the name Guantanamo). In the center is an old-looking photo of a youthful dark-skinned man with short curly hair. A youthful man? The face staring, with penetrating dark eyes directly into the camera can be better described as the face of a teenager. On my right is perhaps the strangest of the three photos. The statue of liberty with the empire state building towering in the background; from the angle of the photographer, the world trade center would have played a prominent part in the photo. I reference 911 because I think the editors at Huffington Post intended to reference it as well. Strange. (Likewise, why choose to show the youthful face with penetrating eyes in the enormous title? The detainee’s name is preferable, and it would at least be an attempt to restore dignity to someone in dire need of it).

The gargantuan title…screaming its words continued below the three photos, using no less than 23 words. Obama exclaims in block big-red letters that fears about moving terrorist suspects here are unfounded. They are conjured up by those seeking political advantage, the President said.

I strongly approve of Obama’s decision to move forward with the “Gitmo” problem; doesn’t the word “Gitmo” have a tinge of a slimy and slyish sound to it?; Isn’t it weird and creepy that the word “Gitmo” exists, and is recognizable by many people in the US, or world for that matter?

I approve of Obama’s decision…Obama’s move towards action rather than prolonged inaction is absolutely crucial on the “Gitmo” issue. The issue is overwhelming complex. I think there are about 240 detainees in Guantanamo. Something like 40 are believed to be innocent, including the 17 Chinese Uighur citizens currently being held in Cuba. They were dragged away from their rural families long ago (don’t know when, but does it matter?). The Chinese government will kill them if they go back to China. The 17 Uighur detainees do not want to become citizens of the United States, a foreign country whose government they severely mistrust. Even if these INNOCENT people were brought to the US, the Right would attempt to undermine Obama’s efforts by calling him weak on national security. He would be called “naive,” a word McCain used multiple times on the campaign trail.

An article in the NYT today said Obama’s solution would be a combination of actions including transferring prisoners overseas holding centers (see my earlier blog post on Bagram), transferring them to foreign governments, moving the rest to facilities to the United States to be either held longer, or tried in a military or civilian trials. Congress is obstinately blocking Obama’s plans to close the prison in solidarity (i th, denying money the President requested to help close the prison. Congress did pass legislation calling for a “threat assessment” on each prisoner, which will determine their actual threat to our national security if they were released. This is good. Decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis.

The article on the front page today says 1 in 7 of the previously released detainees have reverted to terrorist activities abroad. Although, it leaves the specificities of “terrorist activities” undefined. Contingent on what these released detainees are actually up to, this is a grave mistake. The “Gitmo” issue is so complex because a direct threat to our national interests are at stake.

But the threat to our national security is less than many people attempt to make it out to be. The FBI director said that moving detainees to American prisons would bring risks including “the potential for individuals undertaking attacks in the United States.” Despite that this quote barely manages to fit within the grammar rules of the English language, the truth of this statement is dubious. The fact is, our federal government can lock up, contain, and neutralize the most dangerous men in the world. I trust our federal government to not accidentally let a dangerous terrorist to slip out of its hands, and run free domestically. I seriously doubt this could happen, let alone the terrorist being permitted to “undertake attacks in the US.” Fear-mongering in this instance is incorrect, unacceptable, and hurts all of us in our push to move forward.

My support for Obama’s decision ultimately derives from this: the need to move forward and put the Gitmo issue behind us. Let’s not forget, Bush created this legal quagmire. The rest of us, Obama and US senators included, have the moral responsibility to quickly improve the situation. Difficult decisions will have to be made on an individual basis. I do not support releasing dangerous men in America or anywhere in the world. But many are not dangerous, several more can be tried in a civilian or military court, these actions must be taken. As for the truly dangerous detainees, a first step is to transfer them to high-security prisons with ample food, water, and otherwise humane conditions. (Why do we continue to occupy Cuba? This fact may even be ridiculous of a policy than the Cuban embargo, and it is a blatant violation of Cuba’s sovereignty.) Providing humane conditions is a minimal but necessary action. Each day this continues our reputation abroad is damaged — and that is a certain harm to our national security interests.

P.S. Thanks to Salman Rushdie for his manic, descriptive, and eccentric writing style, which I love, and which I have miserably attempted to imitate. All should immediately buy his indescribably-good book, Midnight’s Children and read it.

New York Times – April 3, 2009 April 3, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in World Affairs.
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There are some great articles in today’s New York Times, especially in the international section. First of all there are two articles about the G-20 summit. One clearly summarizes more or less how the meeting went,  and what the countries pledge to do. It looks like Obama did well, winning high praise from Angela Merkel. “He pushed very hard to come to concrete solutions and to have a fruitful discussion,” she said. Economists and other experts from MIT and Harvard were quoted in the article. For the most part they believe the meeting was a success, especially for Obama. However, they did have some reservations, and suggestions of how the G-20 could have improved. As an indicator of the overall success, stock markets around the world spiked, reflecting the investors’ optimistic response to the meeting. For more on this topic check out these two articles: $1.1 Trillion is Pledged and Obama Ties U.S. to World.

A third article that I found very interesting was about a recent terrorist attack in a West Bank settlement. The article was captivating because it addresses the attack, and the recently sworn-in (and right-wing)  government’s response. Here is the article.

Perhaps the most interesting article reported on a recent decision from a federal judge about the legality of detaining prisoners in Bagram, America’s Afghan detention center with twice as many detainees as Guantanamo. It details many interesting facts, some of which follow:

– “The importance of Bagram as a holding facility for terrorism suspects captured outside Afghanistan and Iraq has increased under the Obama administration”

– “The United States is holding about 600 people at Bagram without charges and in spartan conditions.”

– Some analysts expect Judge John D. Bates’ decision to be appealed by the Obama Administration because the ruling “gravely undermines the country’s ability to detain enemy combatants for the duration of hostilities worldwide.” Yet other experts praised the decision as “a very good day for the Constitution and the rule of law.”

The article provoked this idea in my mind: what if we detained people that we believed to be dangerous, but instead of torturing them, we educate them? After a few weeks we allow them to have some contact with the outside world. Instead of dark, clammy detention centers where brutal torture takes place, the prisoners are allowed outside. And, eventually (maybe 6 months after internment begins) Habeas Corpus must be granted to all detainees, by US and international law. In other words, we change the goal of the detention centers from torturing in order to elicit intelligence, to instead focusing on rehabilitation of the indoctrinated “terrorists.” Torture is not proven to be productive to our ultimate goal of reducing terrorism; in fact, in some cases, it has been proven to be counter-productive to this aim. Does torturing exacerbate the problem, more than it mitigates it? If so, we should totally re-think our means of achieving a more peaceful world, with less hate and terrorism. My plan would obviously cost more money to run the prisons, but maybe it would be money better spent.

Thoughts on my idea? Is it incredibly idealistic?

Everyone should check out the article. Here is a link to the article. And here is a link to the wikipedia page for reported Bagram torture abuse.

The wikipedia page shows the 15 US soldiers who have been charged with crimes related to torture and abuse of prisoners in Bagram, only from 2004 – 2006. This stuff goes on, but not everyone is aware of it.