Jumah Al Dossari has been rotting in Guatanamo for five years now without ever having been charged of an offense. The prisoner believes “he has been condemned to live forever on an island where there is no law,” his lawyer says, adding, “He may well be right.”
Al Dossari is forced to spend virtually the entire day in solid-wall solitary under conditions that make Devil’s Island look like a health spa on the Riviera. He was kidnapped illegally, transported halfway around the world, torn from his family and other living beings, denied sunlight, short-shackled, beaten, and told by his sadistic tormentors he will never get out. On three occasions he has attempted suicide, according to his lawyer Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, who told his story in the April 5 Miami Herald.
Al Dossari cannot believe a human being can be flung in prison with no evidence, but what does he know of how President Bush and Congress have torched our Constitution? Al Dossari’s fate differs little from 400 other Guantanamo captives and of tens of thousands of luckless U.S. prisoners around the world, the bitter harvest of illegal wars by an illegitimate regime.
In a new report published April 5th, Amnesty International called for the Guantanamo detainees either to be released from their “super max” high security cells or allowed to stand trial, a modest request under the circumstances. Amnesty said that Guantanamo prisoners exist for 22 hours a day in windowless cells never seeing daylight; that they are allowed to exercise only at night; that they suffer from extreme “sensory deprivation”; that they are denied proper access to human rights groups and independent medical doctors. Amnesty’s Kate Kelly branded Guantanamo “a travesty of justice,” substantiating the astonishing charges leveled by Colangelo-Bryan and others with first-hand knowledge of this horrific mortuary. Physicians for Human Rights reported in 2005, Guantanamo prisoners have been subject to “systematic psychological torture” producing “devastating health consequences,” likely the cause of many suicide attempts.
The miseries of Guantanamo are being spread far and wide by the “compassionate conservative” in the White House. According to the British “Observer” newspaper, the U.S. operates an “invisible” network of prisons stretching from Diego Garcia to Iraq to Thailand, and including prison ships on the Indian Ocean. The Washington Post reported that six days after 9/11, Bush gave the CIA “broad authorization to disrupt terrorist activity, including permission to kill, capture and detain members of al Qaeda anywhere in the world.” This order, appropriate for a Roman Emperor, has not the merest shred of legality. By the time of his 2003 State of the Union, President Bush could crow more than 3,000 suspected terrorists “have been arrested in many countries.” By early 2005, Human Rights Watch said the number of U.S. detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq had grown to 11,000. Today, the number being held globally may exceed 20,000.
The atrocities and murders at Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad, where an estimate 70 to 90 percent of the captives are said to have been arrested by mistake, have been well documented. At Bagram prison, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, prisoners have been treated just as badly. Some have been chained to ceilings for days and repeatedly beaten; some have been put in cold rooms so long their hands and feet became swollen, inflicting excruciating pain, and death. As at Abu Ghraib, some Bagram captives were just beaten to death. John Sifton of Human Rights Watch, concluded Iraq detainees are routinely beaten. Torture was “condoned and commonly used,” he said.
The U.S., of course, prefers to commit such crimes in secret. Reminiscent of the odious practices of Stalin and Hitler, the CIA illegally denies Red Cross access to its compound in Kabul, known as “The Pit,” and prisoners are kept “off the books,” also illegal. An official of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Shamsullah Ahmadzai, told The New York Times that while the Afghan police, courts, and prosecutors are all limited by law in how long they can hold criminal suspects, “The Americans are detaining people without any legal procedures. Prisoners do not have the opportunity to demonstrate their innocence.”
In Morocco, the “Observer” says, the government has obligingly locked U.S. detainees in the Al-Tamara interrogation center near Rabat. In Syria, the U.S. has consigned detainees for torture in Damascus. Egypt also gets a flow of alleged militants from the U.S. who are tortured in Cairo at Al-Mazra prison. The U.S. also houses prisoners in Baku, Azerbaijan, at a U.S. airbase in Qatar, and as far away as Thailand. Still other prisoners are alleged to be held in Poland, and some are known to have been tortured in Saudi Arabia. Aman, Jordan, is said to be the worst torture hellhole of them all.
A good number of these suspects were seized in Europe. The Italian government has arrest warrants out for a score of CIA agents for nabbing a suspect off the streets in Milan. On January 23 of last year, the Council of Europe put the number of illegally seized men on that continent at about 100. Swiss Senator Dick Marty told the Council: “I believe it is absolutely demonstrated that alleged terrorists or terrorist sympathizers were kidnapped, transported against their will across Europe, detained outside any jurisdiction, deprived of all rights, and sent to countries that, notably, offer no guarantees at all of the respect for fundamental rights.”
Amnesty has denounced the U.S. for its “two-faced strategy to torture,” that is, to deny it in public, as President Bush has done, and to practice it in secret, all the while seeking ways for its goons to elude criminal liability. Former President Jimmy Carter wrote in his “Our Endangered Values”(Simon & Schuster) that as many as 900 Pakistani boys, aged 13 to 15, were among the captives in U.S. prisons. Carter writes it has been established some children in U.S. custody have been tortured.
President Bush’s indifference to the treatment of U.S. prisoners such as Jumah Al Dossari, is just another aspect of his contempt for human life and law. After all, he is the man who scrapped nuclear and germ warfare treaties, violated the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the Nuremberg Principles, trampled the Charter of the United Nations, sold billions worth of arms to dictators, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraq civilians, bombarded the Middle East with illegal cluster bombs and uranium shells, threatened a small nation with the “nuclear option,” created a gigantic war machine bent on militarizing space to dominate every crevice of the Earth, and is spending his taxpayers into bankruptcy while offering thousands of their youth as human sacrifices on the altar of his wars of aggression. And that’s just for starters. Nowhere, though, does Mr. Bush reveal the depth of his degenerate character more clearly than by ordering the arbitrary arrest and torture of human beings. Concluding the chapter in his book on the Bush’s abandonment of America’s historic role as a champion of human rights, Carter writes: “Only the American people can redirect our government’s legal, religious, and political commitments to these ancient and unchanging moral principles.” Are you one of these people? Are you working for impeachment?
(Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)