As the movement for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for war crimes grows on an almost daily basis, how bitterly ironic is it that the White House would instruct its diplomats overseas to compare the military kangaroo court process at Guantanamo to the Nuremburg War Trials.
A four-page memo has been sent to all United States diplomatic missions instructing them to make the Nuremburg comparison in the event they were questioned about the legality of the death penalty requested by the prosecution in connection with the trials of the so-called Guantanamo Six.
There is no comparison. The Guantanamo trials will be held behind closed doors. The public will be denied the right to hear the evidence, or how that evidence was obtained. No television camera will record the examination and cross-examination of witnesses for the evening news.
Nuremburg, on the other hand, was open to the public and newsreel cameras. To the best of any historian’s knowledge, none of those on trial at Nuremburg were tortured in order to gain a confession. The accused were also presumed innocent until proven guilty, and as a consequence were offered legal rights and privileges they themselves had denied their victims.
No, not by any measure of comparison can the Gitmo trials be likened to Nuremburg.
A serious concern to human rights organizations, and apparently to Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband, are the unanswered questions regarding whether the confession of Khalid was obtained through the use of torture, specifically, waterboarding.
The tribunal, or military court, has been instructed to ignore any evidence that may have been obtained through waterboarding or other ‘extreme interrogation measures’ since the passage of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 – but information gleaned by torture prior to this may be considered by the court.
Sheikh Mohammed was reportedly waterboarded in 2002 or 2003. So his half drowned, muffled confessions will likely stand. Any confessions or statements obtained thereafter, were doubtless made with the possibly unstated but ever present implied threat of further torture.
Under these circumstances, anything Khalid said to his interrogators post-waterboarding is highly suspect and would normally be inadmissible in any court of law.
Despite a growing international outcry over these latest developments, while Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney remain in the White House, there is unlikely to be any measured or reasonable response.
Importantly, what is happening at Guantanamo cannot be considered in isolation. The well known detention center clinging to edge of a Caribbean island, that does not enjoy diplomatic relations with Washington, is essentially the front for a network of secret prisons that the United States maintains around the world.
The administration has admitted the existence of the secret prisons, but has offered little or nothing regarding the locations, the number of detention centers or the number of people being held. They are usually the victims of ‘extraordinary rendition’ – alleged suspects picked up off the street or snatched from their homes and simply made to disappear.
What happened at Guantanamo was a template for Abu Ghraib in Iraq. If you accept that premise, then allow your imagination to consider what happens at the secret prisons of the American Gulag where there is no law, no oversight, and no repercussions.
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