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

Friday, February 20, 2009

Binyam Mohammed Going Home

This is the least we can do.

A former British resident held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be flown home early next week, marking the first transfer of a Guantanamo detainee by the Obama administration, according to a source involved in the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the subject.

The British government had pressed the new administration to make the case of Binyam Mohammed a priority. The release of the Ethiopian native could come as early as Monday, the day Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is scheduled to visit the military facility with top Justice Department officials who are leading a review of the cases of the approximately 245 detainees held there [...]

Mohammed was recently visited by British officials, including a police physician who persuaded him to end a hunger strike. Officials in Britain have said Mohammed faces no charges there and will be released upon his return.

The question is whether there will be a gag order on Mohammed, like David Hicks, or whether he will be allowed to tell his story in his own words, the way Mohamed Barag Fashmilah did to devastating effect in the Huffington Post yesterday. Either way, Bashmilah and Mohammed are symbols of the same disease - a failure to account for the past and unburden the sins of the Bush era.

My physical symptoms are made worse by the anxiety caused by never knowing where I was held, and not having any form of acknowledgment that I was disappeared and tortured by the U.S. government.

I believe that acknowledgment is the first step toward accounting for a wrongdoing. The American public needs to face what has happened to those of us who were disappeared and mistreated in the name of their national security, demand accountability for those who committed torture and other crimes, and acknowledge the suffering of those who became victims. Today, a group of concerned Americans called on President Obama to take the first steps to do just that, by demanding that he establish an independent commission of inquiry into the treatment of detainees in the "War on Terror."

President Obama himself recently said that "democracy requires accountability and accountability requires transparency." If he establishes this commission, it would break the silence about what has happened and signal a real commitment not only to changing the practices of the past but also to ensuring that they do not happen again. Both the American public and the victims of these past policies need to understand what the CIA did in the name of U.S. national security. We need to find out where we were all held and who is still missing. And we need justice for the crimes that were committed in violation of our most basic human rights -- rights the United States has always claimed to uphold and defend. President Obama's recent order to the CIA to shut down its secret prisons was a significant step in the right direction, but it did not resolve the unfinished business of establishing accountability and restoring transparency.

The American public deserves to know what was done to people like me -- and I deserve to know why I lost nineteen months of my life -- all in the name of protecting their security. It gives me faith to see that Americans are standing up for my rights and calling for the truth to be exposed. It is my hope that the President will not only establish this commission, but that he will also direct the relevant authorities to investigate and prosecute those who broke American laws in ordering the torture and disappearance of people like me. Truth and justice are not in opposition; both are necessary, and both are the right of all Americans and the victims harmed in their name.

Absolutely. At the very, very least, we need Patrick Leahy's Truth Commission so we can discover the truth and build reforms. However, the Church Commission didn't work to stop a rogue President from attacking the rule of law again. So we need to have real accountability in the form of prosecutions, not clown shows where the likes of Alberto Gonzales "cooperate" the way he cooperated with the Senate Judiciary Committee as Attorney General ("I don't recall, I don't recall.") If the monsters aren't shown the consequences of their wrongs, they will return to do more damage.

...the flip side of the Mohammed release is the terrible case of the Uighurs, who have done nothing wrong but who are not able to get released. An appeals court blocked their transfer to the United States this week.

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