x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Guantanamo will remain open after Bush leaves office

Ignoring proposals to transfer detainees elsewhere, President Bush's decision not to close the much-criticised prison camp means his successor will have to find a way to bring an end to this legal black hole. As the McCain campaign sinks in the polls, interviews of Sarah Palin supporters expose some of the racial fears and prejudices that underlie opposition to Barack Obama in some quarters of the white population.

"Despite his stated desire to close the American prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, President Bush has decided not to do so, and never considered proposals drafted in the State Department and the Pentagon that outlined options for transferring the detainees elsewhere, according to senior administration officials," The New York Times reported. "Mr Bush's decision followed a review of the implications of the Supreme Court's ruling in June that the 250 detainees at Guantanamo have the right to make habeas corpus appeals. "The ruling, Boumediene v Bush, undercut a core rationale for keeping the prison off American soil, raising expectations that Mr Bush might at last move to close it, a prospect he first raised in June 2006, when he said, 'I'd like to close Guantanamo, but I also recognise that we're holding some people that are darn dangerous, and that we better have a plan to deal with them in our courts'." In Foreign Policy magazine, Ken Ballen and Peter Bergen said: "When a federal judge ordered the release of 17 Guantanamo Bay detainees earlier this month, it was the first real chance in the seven-year history of the prison camp that any of the prisoners might be transferred to the United States. In making his ruling, the judge categorically rejected the Bush administration's claim that any of the released prisoners, who are all Chinese Muslims, were 'enemy combatants' or posed a risk to US security. The decision was temporarily suspended by the appeals court, but the judge was on solid ground. "Controversy over the Bush administration's policy to detain enemy combatants at Guantanamo has raged since the facility opened in 2002 - fueled primarily by the lack of legal protections afforded the detainees and allegations of their mistreatment. Often overlooked, however, is the fact that most of these detainees have never posed any real risk to America, for the simple reason that the vast majority of them were never 'enemy combatants' in the first place. Indeed, striking new data we have obtained show that, if anything, the 17 innocent Chinese men are far from exceptional." Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times reported on Darrel J Vandeveld, a lieutenant colonel in the US Army Reserve and the latest defection from the Guantanamo military tribunal system. "Vandeveld is at least the fourth prosecutor to resign under protest. Questions about the fairness of the tribunals have been raised by the very people charged with conducting them, according to legal experts, human rights observers and current and former military officials. "Vandeveld's claims are particularly explosive. "In a declaration and subsequent testimony, he said the US government was not providing defense lawyers with the evidence it had against their clients, including exculpatory information - material considered helpful to the defense. "Saying that the accused enemy combatants were more likely to be wrongly convicted without that evidence, Vandeveld testified that he went from being a 'true believer to someone who felt truly deceived' by the tribunals. The system in place at the US military facility in Cuba, he wrote in his declaration, was so dysfunctional that it deprived 'the accused of basic due process and subject[ed] the well-intentioned prosecutor to claims of ethical misconduct'." In The Guardian, Andy Worthington wrote: "One of Vandeveld's cases was that of the British resident Binyam Mohamed. Seized in Pakistan in April 2002, Mohamed was held for three months in a Pakistani jail (apparently under the supervision of US forces) and then effectively disappeared off the face of the earth from July 2002 until September 2004, when he arrived at Guantanamo. "The US government has never explained his whereabouts during this period, but his lawyers maintain that he was rendered by the CIA to Morocco, where he was tortured for 18 months, and was then rendered to Afghanistan, where he spent several months in a CIA prison near Kabul. They also insist that the main allegation against him - that he was involved in a plot to detonate a 'dirty bomb' in a US city - was extracted through the use of torture.' On Tuesday, The Guardian reported: "The US government today dropped war-crimes charges against British resident Binyam Mohamed, who has accused the American military of torture, and four other detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay. "The ruling may be a fleeting victory for the five detainees, however. The Pentagon said today that the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, US army colonel Lawrence Morris, has reserved the right to reinstate the charges at any time against the men. "Moreover, lawyers for the 30-year-old Mohamed expect the Pentagon to dismiss their entreaties to send him back to the UK, where he lived in London for seven years before his arrest. The US is expected to file new charges against Mohamed after the presidential election season."

Racism on the campaign trail

WTOV9, a local TV station in the small American town of Steubenville in eastern Ohio, reported: "A controversial political clip airing on YouTube from the international news station Al Jazeera has Belmont County's Republican Party chairman speaking out. Al Jazeera conducted interviews last Sunday at the rally for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in Belmont County. "The clip is titled, 'Misconceptions of Obama Fuel Republican Campaign'. "One interviewee on the clip says, 'Obama and his wife, I'm concerned they could be anti-white. That he might hide that'. Another interviewee says, 'I'm afraid if he wins, the black will take over'... "[Belmont County's Republican Party chairman, Kent] Moore said last Sunday's campaign stop by Palin was meant to be a product of small-town Alaska meets small town Ohio. He said contents that are left out in this YouTube clip, such as what questions people were answering with these controversial comments, make it hard to know the views of these voters." In a follow up to its report, Al Jazeera showed the Ohio interviews to a number of African-American families to gauge their reaction and discuss the issue of racism in America. Sociologist and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson said in an interview with Der Spiegel: "If a black person stumbles rhetorically, he is viewed as incompetent and unintelligent. If, like Obama, he rises to elegant expression, there is doubt cast on his intentions, aspirations and motivations. If he ever got emotionally intense, Obama would be viewed as an 'angry black man'. There's an awful tough tightrope for Obama to walk, and there's little doubt that it's held taut by racial tensions." Providing a perspective on the presidential race from outside the United States, Roula Khalaf wrote in The Financial Times: "When asked if they prefer Barack Obama or John McCain, political leaders in the Arab world tend to give one of two answers: first, that anyone is better than George W Bush; and second, that it matters little because US policy will remain unchanged. "There is some truth to both reactions. It is hard to imagine a new White House wreaking as much havoc in the Middle East as has the Bush team. And it is reasonable to assume there are constants in US foreign policy - most notably the unflinching support for Israel - to which both candidates will abide.... "Still, there is cause to believe an Obama presidency would be a safer bet for the Middle East than a McCain one. "The Republican has, in spite of his experience, proved impulsive and his campaign has been driven by tactics rather than a coherent strategy." The Associated Press reported: "John McCain, his poll numbers sinking just two weeks before the election, questioned Barack Obama's readiness to respond to a major crisis that Obama's own running mate, Joe Biden, predicted he was bound to face early in his presidency. "McCain recalled his own experience as a Naval pilot preparing to launch a bombing run during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which Biden said tested a new President John F Kennedy. Biden said it was the kind of 'generated crisis' the 47-year-old Obama would face within six months of taking office. " 'America will not have a president who needs to be tested,' McCain said. 'I've been tested, my friends.' " CNN said: "Alaska Gov Sarah Palin suggested Tuesday that it would be Sen Barack Obama's policies that would spark the international crisis that Sen Joe Biden has said would be likely within months of Obama taking office. "At a fundraiser Sunday night, Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, said that after taking office, 'It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. ... We're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.' "He added that the Obama administration would need people to stand with it at the time because 'it's not going to be apparent initially ... that we're right'. " 'I guess we have to say, "Thanks for the warning, Joe," ' Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, told supporters during a rally in Reno, Nevada." CNN also reported: "Palin also apologised Tuesday for any misunderstanding caused when she referred last week to the patriotic values of 'the real America' and 'pro-America areas of this great nation.' "Democrats and others criticised Palin for seeming to imply that some parts of the country are more patriotic than others. "Palin denied that was her intention in an interview with CNN on Tuesday. " 'I don't want that misunderstood,' Palin said. 'If that's the way it came across, I apologise.' "The Alaska governor made the remarks at a fundraising event in North Carolina last week. " 'We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation,' she told the crowd."

pwoodward@thenational.ae