This election is about a lot of things. It’s about the economy, it’s about health care, it’s about education, it’s about Iraq …. For me, though, what it’s really about is restoring America to what it once was and what it should be again. It’s about restoring our Constitutional rights. It’s about the appointment of at least one, if not three, Supreme Court Justices. It’s about the Military Commissions Act and the Patriot Act. It’s about FISA. It’s about Guantanamo Bay and whether or not America stands for torture.
I was looking through old editorial cartoons at Cagle this morning and came across one from 2004 that sums up this election, for me, perfectly:
Daryl Cagle, 2004
Decide what this election is about for you, educate yourself and then, please, use your vote wisely.
I don’t say this lightly. I say this with a joyful heart and tears in my eyes. Seriously. This isn’t hyperbole.
Judge Ricardo Urbina, Federal District Court
This man you see, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of Federal District Court, a Clinton appointee, is my new hero. He has ordered that a group of 17 Guantanamo detainees be produced before him for release. This is the first ruling of this kind in nearly seven years of legal wrangling over the rights of detainess at Gitmo.
All of these men, these detainees, are members of the Uighur Muslim minority from China and literally cannot return to China because they fear for their lives. They were in Afghanistan as political refugees and were swept into Afghan detention camps in 2001 in error. There is no other country which will accept them for fear of retribution from China, so they will be released to the care of other Uighur Muslims living in the US.
This case was brought before Judge Urbina under the ruling by the Supreme Court which restored the detainees habeas corpus rights and it comes after the government has admitted that it has no evidence that these men are a threat to the United States. Judge Urbina challenged the government’s assertions that he has no right to free these detainees and warned against any further delay tactics. He also made clear that no other agencies (immigration, for instance) should try and arrest the men upon their release.
I am thankful for Judge Urbina’s courage and wisdom and I fervently hope that other Judges follow his lead in future habeas corpus cases brought on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainees. Don’t go crazy: there are certainly a few at Gitmo who may need to be brought to further justice. But there are many who should be freed or, at the least, released to their home countries. Judge Urbina has opened the door to this process and, for this, he is my new hero.
I know, y’all must think I’m the angriest chick on the planet. But I read this shit and get so mad and then I come here and unleash it all on y’all. I truly, truly hope that it makes you angry, too, and that you then share your anger with someone who shares their anger and on and on. Maybe then something will change.
So you know we’ve talked about Guantanamo Bay and, specifically, the cases of Omar Khadr and Mohamed Jawad. As a refresher, remember that in June the Supreme Court ruled in the Boumediene v. Bush case that Guantanamo Bay detainees do have a right to habeas corpus. While hailed as a victory for the detainees, realists understood that the Bush administration would continue to use every possible option to keep these cases out of court. An article in the New York Times this morning bears this out.
According to Vijay Padmanabhan, a former State Department lawyer with responsibility for detainee issues who left in July to teach at Cardozo Law School:
The legal issues that are being raised by the administration are going to take longer than the remaining time of the administration. It is part of a broader strategy which is not to make difficult decisions about Guantánamo and leave it to the next president.
So let’s see, the Bush administration has screwed the next administration into a massive national debt, an $800b+ economic rescue plan for a sinking economy, some sort of agreement on our long term presence in Iraq (details tba), and Gitmo. And in the meantime, these detainees, many of whom have been there for five years or more (Khadr has been there for seven), are stuck in legal limbo, even after the Supreme Court restored their rights. It’s pure insanity and not what we are about … or should be about … as Americans.
I have MSNBC on in the background and John McCain is giving speech in MO. He just caught my ear with this:
We will stop sending $700b a year to countries that don’t like us very much.
What about Iraq, John? They don’t like us very much. As recently as March, 61% of Iraqis said that our presence in their country was making things worse. So let’s stop sending them money, and troops, and weapons. Let’s spend that money here and bring our troops home before any more of them die.
Here’s another quote from the same speech:
It’s time to show the world again how Americans lead.
What about Guantanamo Bay, John? Is that how Americans lead? Keeping child soldiers detained for years on end, without the protections of international agreements, to which we’re a signatory, protecting the rights of child soldiers? Torture, John? Is that how we lead?
I can’t keep up. Now he’s talking about how he would lead without needing to take credit. What the hell was last week, then? What the hell was “suspending” his campaign to rush back to DC to help solve the crisis about if it wasn’t to take credit? Come on, John, do you really take us for a nation of idiots? Do you think we have collective amnesia? <sigh>
Remember Omar Khadr? He’s the Canadian citizen held at Guantanamo Bay, captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15 after allegedly throwing a grenade at American troops. Only by all accounts, he’s innocent. He has never been offered the protections of the international agreements set up for child soldiers.
Yesterday brought us some major news in the case of another child soldier, Mahamed Jawad. Jawad was captured in Afghanistan when he was 16 or 17 for allegedly throwing a grenade and wounding two US soldiers and an Afghani interpreter. On September 24, the prosecutor assigned to Jawad’s case, Lt Col Darrel Vandeveld resigned from the case. An article in the Washington Post quotes from Lt Col Vandeveld’s filing with the military court:
My ethical qualms about continuing to serve as a prosecutor relate primarily to the procedures for affording defense counsel discovery. I am highly concerned, to the point that I believe I can no longer serve as a prosecutor at the Commissions, about the slipshod, uncertain ‘procedure’ for affording defense counsel discovery.
As in Khadr’s case, there are significant questions surrounding Jawad’s guilt and, as mentioned, the US did not take any steps to protect Jawad as a child soldier. Vandeveld was trying to ensure that the questions in Jawad’s case, including whether or not Jawad was drugged before the attack and the alleged confession of two other Afghanis, were investigated. He was also trying to ensure that Jawad was offered rehabilitation, as guaranteed under international agreements on the treatment of child soldiers.
Both of these young men have been at Guantanamo Bay for startling long times: Khadr for 7 years and Jawad for 5. Both have been held without legitimate trials. For histories and updates on both these cases, visit Andy Worthington’s outstanding work.
Back in July, we talked briefly about Omar Khadr, the now 22-year old Canadian citizen who was first brought to Guantanamo Bay at 15. Andy Worthington at Alternet.org and AndyWorthington.co.uk has been keeping track of all kinds of things going on at Gitmo and has paid very close attention to Kahdr’s case.
In short, Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade which killed an American soldier in Afghanistan. The only problem is that reports essentially indicate that he didn’t. The US Government has not abided by international protections set up for child soldiers and has denied Khadr treatment and aid for several injuries and medical conditions. He has also, of course, been subjected to interrogation, torture, and solitary confinement, even after his case was thrown out and he should have been released.
This is just a brief summary of Khadr’s situation. There are many, many disturbing details and a review of his case history is enlightening and frightening. If you care at all about the abuses our Constitution is taking, the frightening Military Commissions Act, and the “war on terror,” which cannot be helped by our actions at Gitmo, please go read Worthington’s latest piece at Alternet.org and then study his blog.
OK, y’all, this is so late. I should have sent you to this link over a month ago. But, honestly, it took me until just a few minutes ago to finish reading all of it because it makes me so _ damn _ mad. Let’s all harken back to how I feel about the Military Commissions Act and understand that Gitmo was opened so that we could have somewhere to torture people. Please go read Naomi Wolf for background here. Now, once you have all of that under you for support, go to the Post and read this: General Accuses White House of War Crimes. Take some time, y’all. This is five pages of tough, honest reporting about how we’ve gotten to the place where we routinely torture sixteen year olds. The arrogance and non-chalance of some of the characters in this report is revolting. The only thing left to say is that everyone needs to read, learn, and then use his or her vote wisely. This is no joke, y’all.