Talk is cheap; actions speak volumes. And it seems Barack Obama is compiling quite a volume for himself at America's flagship concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay. As Andrew Wander reports, conditions for prisoners at Gitmo have grown worse since Obama took office: Guantanamo conditions 'deteriorate'.
Of course, Gitmo is by no means the worst pit in America's worldwide gulag, which Obama has kept wide open for business, while fighting strenuously in court to retain all of Bush's authoritarian powers over the lives and liberties of anyone the president arbitrarily deems a suspected terrorist. And of course, he hasn't, uh, closed Gitmo, as he made a solemn promise to do within a year of his inauguration. But whether he eventually gets around to the PR show of shutting down this one camp, the fact that his administration has imposed an even harsher regime on its denizens of limbo is, literally, atrocious.
This works on the domestic front as well, of course. For example, you can't have even a hollow and perverse gesture at health care reform without condemning poor women to die in back-alley abortions. Somebody has to pay, in blood and suffering, for every attempt at amelioration in the system; that's the modern American way.
Within days of Obama's inauguration and subsequent announcement that he would close Guantanamo, prisoners say authorities introduced new regulations and revoked previous privileges at the prison.
"They took away group recreation for prisoners in segregation, which was the only time we saw anyone," Mohammed el Gharani remembers. [Gharani "They took away the books we had from the library. They even sprayed pepper spray into my cell while I was sleeping, so I'd wake up unable to breathe."- Advertisement -
Gharani says he was beaten so badly by guards that he is still suffering pain today.
..."I am in the very same cell, wearing the same uniform, eating the same food, yet treated much worse compared to mid-2008," [a current] prisoner writes. "We are unable to understand the goals of the policy of more restrictions and inflexibility."
Gharani was released in June 2009, after being held in American captivity since he was seized in Pakistan in October 2001 -- at the age of 14. He was originally charged with being a top money-man for al Qaeda, after an American-hired translator mistook Gharani's talk about vegetables as evidence of his wide-ranging financial operation. As the Boston Globe reported back in 2006:
He was .. interrogated using a translator from Yemen who spoke a different dialect of Arabic than was spoken in his native Saudi Arabia, according to Gharani's lawyer.
"The word 'zalata' in Yemen means money, but in his Saudi Arabian dialect, it means tomato," said Smith. "They asked him, 'When you went to Pakistan, where did you get your zalata?' and he tells them all these different shops where you could buy tomatoes in Karachi. They write them all down, thinking that this 14-year-old kid is a big financier who was able to get money from all these different places."
Later, they accused him of being part of a London "cell" run by an extremist cleric -- in 1998. The fact that Gharani was 11 years old at that time, and had never been to London, did not prevent him from being held captive for almost eight years -- a cruel and unusual punishment no matter what the conditions were, much less with the abuse that he endured.
And still it goes on, as Wander reports:
According to the letter [from a current prisoner], prison authorities inflict "humiliating punishments" on inmates and prisoners face "intentional mental and physical harm".
"The situation is worsening with the advent of the new management," the prisoner writes, noting, like Gharani, that the new rules were imposed in January this year. Conditions, he says, "do not fit the lowest standard of human living".