It is one thing for a President to prolong a war begun by his predecessor, even though he has made statements decrying the hostilities in the first place. There could be practical or strategic reasons why it was not possible to return all the troops home immediately after the new President’s oath of office was administered.

It is quite another thing to prolong an ongoing atrocity that violates almost every Constitutional principle upon which this nation was founded. I personally consider such action to be reprehensible and worthy of condemnation not only in courts of law but in the court of public opinion whether sitting in this country or elsewhere throughout the world.

I speak of course of that abomination known as Guantanamo Bay prison which is maintained on the island of Cuba by the United States Government. You know, the ruling body for the nation in which we reside and that most of us hold dear, proclaiming our allegiance to our Constitution even if we frequently differ on what that document means.

In case you’ve forgotten, (and shame on you if you have), the prison at Guantanamo Bay was established by President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks as citizens of other countries were captured and accused of being international terrorists.

At its peak that facility housed over 1000 men…and boys…accused of terroristic acts or threats or having some direct connection with persons who were terrorists.

Now the prisoner count stands at 172. Most of the original prisoners have been returned to their home countries or other nations willing to accept them. A few have been tried before military tribunals with mixed results.

But almost all of those prisoners at one time or another faced torture by their interrogators, ostensibly to procure either confessions or valuable information regarding terror activities by whatever groups they belonged to.

But there is a series of ironies and inconsistencies that mark even the establishment of such a prison regardless of the abhorrent activities taken place there.

First, these captured men have found themselves under the umbrella of the so-called “War On Terror” . The problem with this war is two-fold. First it is not a war against enemy nations or states but rather a collection of groups professing enmity for the United States or other nations who sometimes combine their hate with acts of violence.

These “terror” groups are barely cohesive within themselves let alone as a symbiotic force to be reckoned with by their targets.

So we have a war…and we have prisoners…but we do not have Prisoners of War.

Neither do we have prisoners facing prosecution for their acts of murder and destruction in our nations criminal courts. But consider what terrorists actually do, regardless of motivation, and they are CRIMINAL  acts, just like the murders at Columbine High or at Luby’s Cafeteria or at The Texas Tower in Austin committed by Charles Whitman.

Moreover they are exactly like the Oklahoma City bombing, the Unabomber mail bombs and murders, and the perpetrators of the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

Those criminals were prosecuted in our federalcriminal court system, afforded all the rights of any person accused of a crime afforded by our Constitution. Upon presentation of sufficient evidence each of them was found guilty by a jury or entered a plea of guilty and were dully sentenced for their crimes.

Timothy McVeigh was executed for the Oklahoma City bombing and the other felons are currently serving sentences in U.S. federal prisons. There are other convicts in our system also convicted of what some would term terroristic acts, but are crimes.

The prisoners at Guantanamo have not been given the rights as are accused criminals under our Constitution. But neither are they given the rights set forth for Prisoners of War in various international treaties and in common practice.

President Obama, although inheriting the problem, has done absolutely nothing to correct these injustices. Instead, his administration has announced plans to try the remaining prisoners before military tribunals set up at Guantanamo.

Military Tribunals are a fine idea…if you are prosecuting members of the military. That is what Courts Martial are designed to serve. But these prisoners are certainly no members of our military, let alone the army of a supposed enemy nation.

Then, in light of these logical and moral inconsistencies, ironically this abominable example of the height of Constitutional violations and rank injustice is taking place on a small island in the Caribbean Sea the government of which has been at diplomatic odds with our country for over a half century with one of our major indictments of the reigning Castro regime being that it systematically violates human rights.

Pot…meet Kettle.

Now the New York Times has just published a series of articles chronicalling the abuses of Guantanamo such as suicides of the prisoners

to harsh and undoubtedly illegal and inhumane interrogation techniques:

The best-documented case of an abusive interrogation at Guantánamo was the coercive questioning, in late 2002 and early 2003, of Mohammed Qahtani. A Saudi believed to have been an intended participant in the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Qahtani was leashed like a dog, sexually humiliated and forced to urinate on himself.

These stories highlight the the facts that the techniques themselves are flawed  while the intelligence gleaned from them is also flawed and wildly unreliable.

From that same story comes a tale of an accused terrorist brought to Guantanamo in 2003 but eventually released because the information leading to his”arrest” was dubious at best.

Dubious information: Some assessments revealed the risk of relying on information supplied by people whose motives were murky. Hajji Jalil, then a 33-year-old Afghan, was captured in July 2003, after the Afghan chief of intelligence in Helmand Province said Mr. Jalil had taken an “active part” in an ambush that killed two American soldiers. But American officials, citing “fraudulent circumstances,” said later that the intelligence chief and others had participated in the ambush, and they had “targeted” Mr. Jalil “to provide cover for their own involvement.” He was sent home in March 2005

Though interrogation methods are harsh, if not tortuous, somehow the interrogators do not seem to always be getting true and valuable information. One detainee, Mohammed Alam Shah, captured in 2001, convinced his jailors that he was simply trying to rescue his brother from the Taliban when caught.

Military analysts believed him. Mr. Shah, who had been outfitted with a prosthetic leg by prison doctors, was “cooperative” and “has not expressed thoughts of violence or made threats toward the U.S. or its allies,” according to a sympathetic 2003 assessment. Its conclusion: “Detainee does not pose a future threat to the U.S. or U.S. interests.”

So in 2004 Mr. Shah was sent back to Afghanistan — where he promptly revealed himself to be Abdullah Mehsud, a Pakistan-born militant, and began plotting mayhem. He recorded jihadist videos, organized a Taliban force to fight American troops, planned an attack on Pakistan’s interior minister that killed 31 people, oversaw the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers, and finally detonated a suicide bomb in 2007 as the Pakistani Army closed in. His martyrdom was hailed in an audio message by none other than Osama bin Laden.

All these new York Times articles are based on leaks of secret documents that were originally obtained by Wikileaks but the Times acquired them from another source. Here is background on that.

The paper does give some disclaimers because it has not been able to verify every fact and some information may be superceded by later developments. But the entire document repository is on line here.

The federal government has already issued a press release in response to the revelations.

Here is a related story on a former detainee.

I do not expect anyone to have sympathy for terrorists, or other criminals for that matter. What is important to pay attention to here, though, is that none of the prisoners at Guantanamo have been convicted of any crime. Indeed none have been charged and indicted for any crimes as they would be and should be under normal circumstances pursuant to our Constitution.

I would hope none of you would countenance the detention, torture and other abuse of any person not even accused of a crime let alone properly charged, tried and convicted.

I do hope that you agree with me that this abomination should end immediately. This is not a case of Bush hate since he instigated this fiasco, nor a case of Obama hate because it’s just another matter of business as usual in contrast to his campaign vow to institute change.

No, this is a case of basic right and wrong. Whether your moral code is grounded in your religion of choice or whether you are more apt to apply the “smell test”, one should acknowledge what a mistaken course our government has taken in this matter.

But if you do apply the smell test, I think you’ll find that this smells like shit.

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