US Torture–It’s Not Over Yet
Washington’s Wars and Occupations:
Month in Review #58
February 28, 2010
By Rebecca Gordon, War Times/Tiempo de Guerras
February was not a good month for U.S. torture victims or their supporters. A British court released documents detailing the tortures suffered by Binyam Mohamed, whom the U.S. had shipped to Morocco for months of torture. The Obama Administration responded by threatening to stop sharing security information with Britain. The Justice Department overruled its own Office of Professional Responsibility’s conclusion that John Yoo and Jay Bybee, authors of the famous 2002 “torture memo” had violated professional standards. And the Administration has failed to keep its promise to shut down the prison at Guantánamo.
Within days of his inauguration in January 2009, President Obama issued executive orders intended to close down the U.S. prison in Guantánamo and put an end to this country’s use of torture. Unfortunately, it has proven to take more than a presidential order to put an end to a practice with such a long history and entrenched infrastructure.
More than a year after Obama’s executive order, Guantánamo remains open, and close to 200 prisoners remain in limbo there. These “illegal enemy combatants” as the Bush Administration named them, have never had trials or been convicted of crimes. Over the years, plans to try them in military tribunals (later sanitized as “commissions”) have dissolved as U.S. courts repeatedly ruled such proceedings unconstitutional. Among the unsung heroes of this shameful period are the military lawyers who insisted on fair trials for Guantánamo’s prisoners.
Why are these men still in Guantánamo? At least in part because they have nowhere else to go. Some cannot be repatriated to their home countries, where they face new persecution at the hands of their own governments. Members of Congress and local government officials have prevented others from being housed in U.S. prisons. A few have been taken in by other countries, like the 13 Uighurs who have settled in the Pacific island nation of Palau.
Guantánamo prisoners’ suffering–beatings, short-shackling, forced nasal tube feedings, incessant loud noise, sleep deprivation, and the special torment of total isolation–have been documented in the heroic reporting of journalists like Andy Worthington and scholars like Peter Jan Honigsberg.
These short-hand descriptions of torture barely touch the true horror of what has been done to human beings at Guantanamo. For example, the Center for Constitutional Rights has described “forced tube-feeding” as the daily full body restraint of a prisoner, while tubes the diameter of a human finger are shoved up a nose or down a throat, after which as much a liter and a half of