As Donald Trump announces the reversal of an Obama-era executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, he can look back on a year that saw zero releases from the Cuba-based American military torture camp. Certainly in keeping with his pro-Guantanamo, pro-torture (‘and a hell of a lot worse’) election campaign promises, but lagging behind Obama and Bush, who released 200 and 500 inmates from the camp throughout their respective administrations.
Trump’s first year Guantanamo highlights include a prisoner celebrating his 70th birthday by spending his 12th year in Guantanamo without any charges filed against him, and a chief defense counsel for military commissions at Guantanamo receiving 21 days confinement in his own trailer. General John Baker was farcically incarcerated in the prison he administrates for allowing three attorneys to dismiss themselves from a case after they discovered they were being spied on, which was apparently beyond his own authority.
Trump’s promise to fill the camp full of ‘bad dudes’ was hardly successful, as the population remains at 41 just as when he took office, and over half of these do not have any charges against them – meaning from at least a legal perspective they can’t really be classified as the ‘bad dudes’ which Trump claims to target. No inmates were prosecuted in Federal Court, in fact only one Guantanamo inmate has ever actually gone through the American Federal judicial process, way back in 2011.
The Military Commission judicial process set-up by George Bush in 2006 instead continues to provide legal authority in the prison. Even these Kangaroo Courts, which deny prisoners of their most basic civil and legal rights, have only succeeded in convicting three inmates, none of which occurred during the Trump era.
Needless to say, Gitmo is a military project designed to circumvent rather than pursue justice. It was a quick fix to a military rush in George Bush’s loins that enabled the US to quickly purchase prisoners from human rights-abusing but US-aligned countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and torture them ceaselessly in the dim hope that they might spit out some vaguely useful information to the War on Terror.
Most inmates were innocent, but by playing the numbers game and repeating the process with 1000 individuals who were tipped-off by foreign intelligence agencies as having some radical contacts, the US certainly extracted valuable information.
The survival of Guantanamo Bay through the Presidency of former civil rights lawyer Barack Obama was difficult to defend. The decision of Donald Trump to reverse Obama’s extremely overdue decision to wind-down the interment facility is nonsensical if he argues its purpose is to bring justice to the ‘bad dudes’. You could count on one hand the number of successful convictions under Gitmo’s belt.
The talk of ‘national security’ and ‘bad dudes’ is in reality a dog-whistle or insinuation of the real reason why Guantanamo has thrived for 16 years now: the US is reliant on torture to achieve its militaristic objectives overseas. Everything else is just smoke and mirrors to shroud this uncomfortable subtext.
Although the vast bulk of US interrogation is handled in US ‘black sites’ in the Middle-East and Africa – African sites such as Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti or the Temara Interrogation Centre have largely replaced old favourites like the Afghanistan Salt Pit, or Abu Ghraib, which closed down in 2014 after pictures of Iraqi prisoners on dog leeches saturated every corner of the internet – having a base extremely close to, but not on, US territory remains a useful tool to have in the game of ‘enhanced interrogation’.
A sabre-rattling, contrived-troop-worshipping-to-cover-up-his-own-draft-dodging commander in chief such as Trump could never resist the opportunity to keep pushing the Guantanamo cart along the road. Rest assured that Pakistani shop-keepers and Yemeni bakers will continue to suffer sexual humiliation and water-boarding as long as we live, in service of democracy.
The President’s golfing-buddy Sean Hannity has nearly lasted a decade reneging his promise to be waterboarded.
Trump’s chief propagandist Sean Hannity has also succeeded in pushing a Guantanamo cart down the road, specifically his pledge to be waterboarded live on air to show how comfortable and not in any way torture-like it is to have water forced down your breathing passages to simulate the sensation of drowning.
Nine years have passed since he made that pledge, without producing the goods. He reportedly lost his shit when pressed about it back in 2013, so if anyone reading this happens to be a big deal in lowest-common-denominator, knuckle-dragging conservative media can you please do us a favour and call Sean Hannity.
Everyone is famously refusing to call Sean Hannity.
Amity Underground | Guantanamo Bay