WorldVoices: The Guantánamo Files

[Editor’s Note: WorldVoices—a recurring feature on the WorldPolicy blog—links to opinion and analysis of current events from English-language news sources around the globe.]

By Eleanor T. West

On Monday, The New York Times published over 700 classified military documents from Guantánamo Bay Prison in Cuba, which were originally leaked last year to WikiLeaks.  The assessments of the detainees were written between February 2002 and January 2009.  New details about the conditions of prisoners in Guantanámo have revealed that many of the presumed dangerous detainees were in fact innocent.  Additionally, the documents display the use of contradictory and inadequate intelligence by the U.S. military. 

The release of the documents has left many questioning why President Obama has allowed the prison to remain open. While no new prisoners have been sent to Guantanámo since 2007, 127 men are still detained there.  In March 2011, Obama permitted military trials in Guantanámo to resume despite his original order to cease new military charges against detainees. To date, the current administration has been unable to rectify the overt mishandling of Guantanámo.  

An editorial in the Khaleej Times examines Guantánamo’s effect on the United States’ image.

The fact remains that Guantanamo is to date a living reminder of how the US-led war on terror has been mismanaged and even exploited. It is particularly significant now as US-led military efforts in Afghanistan enter a decisive phase against the Al Qaeda affiliated insurgency.

It may be time to finally close this dark chapter that unfortunately remains in existence due to the inability of the Obama administration to break the shackles of the administrative bureaucracy and the neo-con’s powerful lobbying. Unless the wrongs are righted and apologies made in the case of innocent men who have been wrongly treated, the US will continue to face growing hatred.

An opinion piecein Russia’s Pravda accuses the U.S. media of misreporting the threat posed by detainees in Guantánamo.

Post-9/11, The New York Times became the lead misreporting source about Guantanamo detainees, largely characterizing them as dangerous terrorists threatening US security.

Under Professor Mark Denbeaux's direction, Seton Hall University School of Law's Center for Policy & Research (CP&R) published 17 "GTMO Reports," including profiles of detainees held, allegations against them, and discrepancies in government (and media) accounts, characterizing innocent men as dangerous.[D]enbeaux's reports refute virtually everything from official and major media sources, exposing their deception in detail. They show the vast majority (perhaps all) Guantanamo prisoners were and still are innocent or "low-value" detainees, posing no terrorist threat to America or other nations.

In other words, even the DOD knew they incarcerated innocent men and children, America's media going along with the ruse, notably The New York Times, the lead source of US propaganda.

In an opinion piece in Al Jazeera, Daryl Li explores what is left out of the Guantánamo documents.

1. “Threat assessment” is a game with no winners: Although these assessments would be considered “analytical” rather than “raw” intelligence, one can see very little analysis in them at all. 

2. Torture.In the fantasy world of secret documents, the first inconvenient truths to disappear are the allegations of detainee torture and abuse. The “detainee assessments” do not discuss the interrogation tactics or conditions of detention to which prisoners were subjected.

3. The farce of prosecutions: [F]or all but a few dozen detainees, the government does not have sufficient evidence to file charges even before its own kangaroo courts, let alone normal civilian tribunals.

4. The other prisons:As horrific as Guantánamo is, the incredible degree of scrutiny it has received also makes it probably the least terrifying part of the global network of extraterritorial prisons created by the US in the wake of 9/11. As important as they are, the Guantánamo documents provide only a narrow view of one node in this complex network.

5. The role of client states: The single most underappreciated fact about the “Global War on Terror” is the importance of repressive client states in doing most of the dirty work. In many ways, the most important files from the “Global War on Terror” are sitting in the secret police headquarters of U.S. proxy regimes in the Muslim world.

An editorial in The New York Times discusses what actions Obama must take to repair the United State’s reputation.

The torture has stopped. The inmates’ cases have been reviewed. But the detention camp in Cuba remains a festering sore on this country’s global reputation. Hampered by ideologues and cowards in Congress, President Obama has made scant progress in healing it.

The administration should make its assessments of the remaining Guantánamo detainees public to the extent possible and free lawyers for detainees to fully communicate their clients’ side of the story. The disaster at Guantánamo Bay is now Mr. Obama’s problem. He should not compound Mr. Bush’s mistakes in his efforts to correct them.

Writing in Eurasia Review, Andy Worthington considers the blight of Guantánamo on both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Politically, it appears that President Obama has decided that Guantánamo is too toxic to touch. That is a disgrace, as it shows him to be a man lacking in firm principles, after all his fine talk about the importance of justice and the law, when he was a Senator, and it is also a tragedy for America.

I won’t hold my breath hoping for enlightenment, but these documents released by WikiLeaks deserve to be read widely, and to be acted upon decisively by Americans who care about justice and the rule of law, because, with Guantánamo still open, they reveal the unjustifiable triumph, from beyond the electoral grave, of the Bush administration, whose actions, whatever their supposed justification, took the country to a wretched and disturbing place that still needs to be abandoned and repudiated as a thoroughly unacceptable aberration from the principles on which the United States was founded.



Eleanor T. West is an editorial assistant at World Policy Journal.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user The U.S. Army.

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