As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Binyam Back In England, Our Shame Remains

Binyam Mohamed is back in Britain today, the first Guantanamo detainee to be freed during the Obama Administration, and I'm guessing that release didn't include a gag order.

"It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways -- all orchestrated by the United States government," Binyam Mohamed 30, said in the statement released by his attorneys at a London news conference [...]

In accounts provided by his attorneys, Mohamed said that U.S. officials flew him to Morocco and that he was tortured there for 18 months. He said he was beaten and had his penis cut with a razor. He said he was then transferred to a CIA-run site in Afghanistan and was beaten there regularly before being transferred to Guantanamo in September 2004.

"The very worst moment came when I realized in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence," he said. "I had met with British intelligence in Pakistan. I had been open with them. Yet the very people who I had hoped would come to my rescue, I later realized, had allied themselves with my abusers."

Mohamed apologized for not appearing in person at the news conference, saying that for the moment he was "neither physically nor mentally capable of facing the media."

He said he wanted to speak out on behalf of the 241 Muslim prisoners he said were still being held at Guantanamo and the "thousands of other prisoners held by the U.S. elsewhere around the world, with no charges and without access to their families."

"While I want to recover, and put it all as far in my past as I can, I also know I have an obligation to the people who still remain in those torture chambers," he said. "My own despair was greatest when I thought that everyone had abandoned me. I have a duty to make sure that nobody else is forgotten."

He added, "I am not asking for vengeance; only that the truth should be made known, so that nobody in the future should have to endure what I have endured."

Indeed, it appears there is credible evidence that Binyam Mohamed has been tortured within the past several weeks, based on recent medical examinations. And yet the United States Pentagon released their own report saying that Guantanamo met with all legal obligations under the Geneva conventions, and most news organizations just uncritically ran with that. It's the ultimate in self-exoneration - the Pentagon, which committed the atrocities, says there are no atrocities being committed. Done!

These allegations that Binyam Mohamed was brutalized at Guantanamo in the last several weeks -- while the Obama DOD was "concluding" that conditions there comported with the Geneva Conventions -- are coming from highly credible sources. The Obama administration has the obligation to make available an official in a position of real authority to speak on the record and attempt to reconcile these seemingly irreconcilable stories. The pledge to end the brutality and secrecy of the Bush detention regime was one of the centerpieces of Obama's campaign. One would think, on their own, they'd be eager to address these allegations in a forthright and candid way.

Meanwhile we're still getting these reports of ex-Gitmo detainees returning to the battlefield. Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who is an excellent reporter, does frame this in terms of the prison camp detention turning a low-level Taliban fighter into a hardened killer. But context is important. The right is having a screaming fit, making it sound like terrorists are going to be released into the bedrooms of children, and stories like this, despite their logic, are not helpful (by the way, it was BUSH who released this individual, and Bush whose concentration camp at Guantanamo led this individual back into indiscriminate radicalism). Moreover, the White House is doing themselves no favors by evading responsibility for what may be an extension of Bush-era crimes at Guantanamo, either at home or around the world.

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