GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - The chief of the U.S. military [Admiral Mike Mullen] said Sunday he favors closing the prison here as soon as possible because he believes negative publicity worldwide about treatment of terrorist suspects has been "pretty damaging" to the image of the United States.
I just happened to watch the documentary The Road to Guantanamo on Sunday afternoon about the experiences of three young British men now known as 'The Tipton Three' who, due to circumstances beyond their control, ended up in Gitmo falsely accused of being al Qaeda 'terrorists'. They were eventually freed, having never been charged with anything but having endured the brutal interrogation regime the US military now infamously employs at Gitmo and elsewhere in its military gulags.
So, when I see a statement from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs stating that he wants to shut down Gitmo because it has damaged America's precious image, I can't help but ask why he didn't express any concern about the irreparable damage it's down to peoples' lives. There is no humanity to be found in the Bush administration. None.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — A US court Friday turned down a claim by four British former detainees that they were tortured at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, saying accused officials acted as part of their jobs.
Without addressing the details of the alleged treatment, the judge said the officials could not be made individually responsible for it under the terms of the suit brought against them, since they were doing their jobs.
"While the plaintiffs challenge the methods the defendants used to perform their duties, the plaintiffs do not allege that the defendants acted as rogue officials or employees who implemented a policy of torture for reasons unrelated to the gathering of intelligence," the ruling said.
They were just doing their jobs. Where have we heard that before?
...under the Nuremberg Principles, "defense of superior orders" is not a defense for war crimes, although it might influence a sentencing authority to lessen the penalty.
"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
The United States military adjusted the Uniform Code of Military Justice after World War II. They included a rule nullifying this defense, essentially stating that American military personnel are allowed to refuse unlawful orders.
But now, they don't even have to refuse illegal orders because the US judicial system allows them to get away with that defence unless they're acting as 'rogue' agents and CIA agents were granted immunity for torture with the passage of the Military Commissions Act (which Mr Anti-torture, John McCain, voted for). In which moral universe does this even make sense?
If the Joint Chiefs chairman is so damn concerned about his country's image, maybe he'd better take a good look at the people surrounding him in Washington and start questioning how it managed to get so bad. He can start with someone like the current Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell:
"You can do waterboarding lots of ways ... I assume you can get to the point that a person is actually drowning," McConnell said in the New Yorker article, which paraphrased him as agreeing that this would certainly be torture.
You just know there's a qualification coming after that statement though ...and here it is:
McConnell said he could not be more specific because "if it ever is determined to be torture, there will be a huge penalty to be paid for anyone engaging in it."
No doubt. If McConnell acknowledged the US was actually torturing people, someone, like his buddy Michael Mukasey at the justice department who can't even bring himself to admit waterboarding really is torture, just might have to do something about it. And that's exactly why every single lawsuit filed against the Bush administration on torture issues has either been explained away like the one I noted above or has simply been dismissed on grounds of 'national security' which has just become a coded phrase the Bush administration uses to cover up its war crimes.
If the US is so proud of its 'legal' interrogation techniques, why did the CIA destroy videotapes of those practices in 2005?
The US government, no matter who is running it once the Bush cabal leaves office, will definitely have a huge uphill battle restoring its image, credibility, and respect in the world. The place to start, however, would seem to be a tacit admission of all of the lives it has ruined through its torture, illegal invasion of Iraq and simplistic and sadistic neocon foreign and domestic policy stances that have amplified what have been longstanding, but often forgiven practices by successive US administrations. And, among the current crop of front runners in the presidential primaries, there is not one - not one - who would willingly stand up on the world stage, pledge to start with that sorely needed honesty and who would then follow through by destroying the culture within the government, intelligence agencies, and the military that has so corrupted the lives of millions around the world. 'Change' ought to be more than an empty campaign promise. And frankly, I don't care much if the US ever regains its exalted reputation in the world - so undeserved for so long - but, for the sake of those Americans who have fought against the military industrial and corporatist/capitalist pariahs for years on end - for those individuals - I do care.
Related: The Center for Constitutional Rights response to Friday's court case.
Amnesty International's Six years of illegal US detentions includes videos of protests held on Friday to mark the 6th anniversary of Gitmo.
Voice of America has more protest coverage.
Andy Worthington: Six Years Of Guantánamo: Enough Is Enough
Those concerned about the continuing imprisonment of child soldier, Omar Khadr, should contact Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs to push for his release because our minority Conservative government (Bush's newest poodle brigade) refuses to act on his behalf.