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November 17, 2005

Losing Face: An Update On Guantanamo

Hicks-Drawing400

I doubt one could find a better image to symbolize the legal and political netherworld we’ve created at Gitmo.  And, with the news this week of the existence of secret American detention centers scattered throughout the world (link), the metaphor only get richer.  (The false note, of course, is that the prisoner is white, and wearing Western garb.  Clever move, though, for the military to kick off the parade through Guantanamo’s kangaroo court with an Aussie.)

This is a courtroom illustration of David Hicks (the "Australian Taliban") who is one of the first Gitmo prisoners to face a military trial in Cuba.  Although the drawing is from 2004, it was circulated on Tuesday after a District Judge  shut down the proceedings pending a Supreme Court ruling (only a year off, mind you) on the legality of such tribunals.

So, as the world’s beacon of justice, where do we currently stand regarding Bush’s elect detainees?  Well, if you could assign roles to the figures above, you could say it was the judicial branch with a grip on one arm of the prisoner, with the legislative branch trying to lead him away with the other.

More specifically though, there seems to be three groups of players
involved. There is the Pentagon/White House, the Congress, and the
Supremes. Here’s how I understand the story line: Early this week,
Rummy’s legions were set to drop the gavel on Hicks and a group of
others. That’s before they got shut down. That seemed to leave the
Supremes with the last say — but not before conservative Senators took
control on Tuesday by virtue of an amendment to a Defense spending
bill. That resulted in a plan which eliminated all rights of the
detainees to due process in U.S. courts. No longer asleep on the job,
however, Democrats forced a compromise which tweaked the legislation to
add back some limited rights. (…I won’t even start with how McCain’s
anti-torture amendment plays in to all this.)

So, as it stands now, we’re left with a political and
jurisdictional tug-of-war along with some primarily right wing
legislation which, according to a WAPO editorial,
still leaves ambiguous the terms under which detainees are held; what
rights they possess as "enemy combatants"; as well as what particulars
should govern military trials.

Meanwhile, back in Cuba, the situation at Gitmo seems
to be rapidly deteriorating. Among the more notable events: there is a
controversy going on over medical professionals assisting in
interrogations (link); one prisoner just attempted suicide for the ninth time (link);
about 35 of the approximately 500 prisoners are on a hunger strike
(although that number has been estimated by some sources to be as high
as 200) with 23 reported to be in the hospital, some prisoners being
force fed, and one near death (link); and the U.S. is resisting a deadline to allow U.N. inspectors full access to the detainees (link).

… Believe me, it’s a lot easier to talk about the pictures.

(By the way, motivated by this image and the
insightful comments and discussion contributed day-in and day-out by
The BAG’s thoughtful readership, I was inspired to propose a special
lapel pin in honor of the father of America’s rapidly growing world
wide political prison complex. You can view it
here.)



(image: AFP/POOL/File.  Guantanamo, Cuba. 2004.  Circulated November 15, 2005. Via YahooNews)

  • Lisa

    It is shameful, these people should have had a trial years ago. Bush is violating the constitution and should be impeached for this and for lying about WMD. Now there are suggestions we are using weapons that cross the line.
    How much longer will the American people accept his lies?

  • mugatea

    The lapel pin is great, I bet Cheney wouldn’t use the backing so he could prick himself during meetings when his heart stops. (what heart?) The pin makes this mug yearn for the days of the Bag-toons. Nice work BAGman.
    DICK will resign before year end, probably the night before one of the holidays or a Friday afternoon – so that the press will be as thin as possible. He and his co-workers are f’n evil. And they used God’s name to get into power.

  • http://ruinsofempire.blogspot.com/ Rafael

    Powerful in its simplicity. A feceless system which only response to criticism is to shove the rank and file down the rabbit and the prisoner who is already down there waiting for what is to come.
    This pic should make the rounds around the net and the press for all to see.
    Do you have the source code or is this a scan?

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/fuming_mucker/ Darryl Pearce

    How do the POW/MIA flag-wavers and pin-wearers really feel about our unlawful combatants held in self-admittedly outside-the-law facilities?

  • electra

    Here is an interesting development: Former CIA Director Vice Admiral Stansfield Turner has called Cheney a “vice-president for torture” and said “torturing to get information was immoral, was not effective and encouraged potential enemies to do the same to Americans.”
    Perhaps he would wear a button?
    http://www.itv.com/news/index_1447362.html

  • itwasntme

    No better image could be imagined. Faceless victims, faceless jailers – that about sums up what this administration wants. Very powerful. I appreciate BAG for bringing it to us and promoting it as widely as possible. Naturally, here comes a criticism: instead of the words “vice pres..” might say “Bush/Cheney – Justice 2005″ or “Put your face here” or someting. I love the fact that the “detainee” is in western dress, because now, everybody is at risk; bloggers, emailers, terrorists, librarians, abortion clinic workers, etc. It makes it so ambiguous as to who, exactly, is being held by the military.

  • The BAG

    Raphael,
    I mostly created the “logo” as an “inside” gift to my readers. However, if it provides motivation and/or moral support, I’m happy for it to spread far and wide. You can copy the jpeg, or you can link to it at: http://bagnewsnotes.typepad.com/VP-Prisoner-Logo.jpg
    (As customary in the ’sphere, I only ask it be accompanied by a link-back to The BAG.)

  • black dog barking

    Feel the fear. The relatively diminutive (alleged) unlawful combatant requires two burly escorts. Both escorts maintain close physical contact with their charge. David Hicks might be Hannibal Lector class dangerous.
    The physical security may be over done but understandable — better to prevent physical damage now than later try to repair it. The legal caution isn’t. What threat does this guy pose that can’t be handled by our established system of justice and its two centuries of practice? Can he really afford OJ’s lawyer? Or Ken Lay’s?

  • http://ruinsofempire.blogspot.com/ Rafael

    I appreciated. I think I’ll port it to both my Blog and DKos, maybe send a link to Juan Cole. Time to fight for what’s right.
    Which brings me to another point, I’m not an American (in the strictest sense of the word, would take to long to explain) but I admire the founding principles of the country and after living several years in the U.S. I have found that many Americans are caring, good natured and hard working people. Because of this, they have problems seeing the nations weakness and historical tragedies, of which theabove is a clear example.
    They view the world thus:
    “We are Americans and therefore everything we do is right.”
    As oposed to say:
    “We do (should) do the right thing because we are Americans.”
    I thought it was something that needed to be said.
    Thank You.

  • ummabdulla

    Great picture – but I’m curious: Was David Hicks really clean-shaven and wearing a suit for his court appearance?
    Guantanamo is a name known all over the world now, and it’s not exactly helping with the “hearts and minds” campaign. (Anybody heard from Karen Hughes lately, by the way? I read that she was one of the few people George Bush was still speaking to.) The UN experts on torture have just rejected an invitation to visit Guantanamo because they wouldn’t be allowed to speak to detainees privately. Not that there’s anything to hide, of course… And Rummy just said that other groups who visited have been happy with conditions there.
    There are teenagers who’ve been in there since they were 12 or 13, and there were frail, elderly Afghan men who were released a while ago, after it took several years to determine that they weren’t a dire threat.
    From what I’ve read, the ones on hunger strike are having tubes pushed through their noses roughly and without anesthetics.
    Captain Yee, the Muslim chaplain who was first held up as a poster boy for the wonderful treatment of Guantanamo prisoners, and later arrested and held in solitary confinement, was apparently complaining about the treatment of detainees, so he was considered too sympathetic to them and branded a traitor. (Those charges were dropped later.) An Arabic translator there was also accused and charges were later dropped; one of his crimes was supposedly giving a prisoner a piece of baklava.
    Many of these prisoners were just rounded up and traded to the American military for the financial rewards, but presumably some of there were actually there fighting the Americans. So they’re either innocent or prisoners of war (yeah, I know that technically they aren’t because they were’t wearing uniforms, or something like that); they should sort them out and settle their cases, and then bulldoze the place. And then they should give it back to Cuba and get out of there.

  • mad

    Faceless prisoners, tortured legalities, tortured boys and men. BagMan refers to Guantanamo as a “legal and political netherworld.” Maybe so- I see it as war crimes.
    “War Crime: a crime (as genocide or maltreatment of prisoners) commmitted during or in connection with war- usually used in plural” This is the complete definition from Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Seems pretty clear.
    “War Crime: ……….It comprises such acts as mistreatment of prisoners of war or civilians……” This is the relevant language from Wikipedia.
    War Crimes and Torture have become part of the American approach to projecting power. Each of us shares in the ownership, unless we forcefully speak against it.

  • Marysz

    David Hicks wears a suit and has had a haircut. He (probably at the advice of his lawyer) is trying to make a respectable impression. He looks as if he’s put on weight–his suit looks a little tight. I read that many of the inmates at Gitmo have put on weight (at least the ones not on hunger strikes). After all, they don’t get a chance to exercise. Since the sketch artist couldn’t draw the features of Hicks or his army escorts, s/he spent time on details–the camouflage on the soldier’s uniforms, the whistle hanging off one soldier’s pocket, Hicks’ fussily parted hair. All three men’s bodies end at their torsos; the artist had some room to at least indicate their legs, but chose not to. The background consists of halfheartedly drawn curved gray lines. The lines enclose this triumvirate and stress their commonality instead of their differences. The guard on the right holds his left hand out in a kind of supplication. These men, soldiers and prisoners alike, are immobilized in a faceless nether-world.

  • http://ruinsofempire.blogspot.com/ Rafael

    The jail binds the prisoner and the jailer, the chain binds the master and the slave….

  • gleex

    Or you could say that they are “offering” the path that they are strong arming them down. The choice is a false one, as there is but one choice. I don’t mean this fellow per se, so much as all of the detainees including the ones who are innocent.
    The real concern that I always think of… what happens to these people? I mean its disgusting to think of snatching someone up and holding them for 10, 20, 30…years. Give them all a god damn trial and some rights. If they are guilty do it out in the open like they afforded those god damn nazi’s. I mean its been in the news, they knew back then that history could not look back and ask questions since it was all on the record. Do not mistake what I am saying, if they are guilty then give them a fair trial and hand down a sentence. At some point they will get their (1st is it?) conviction, and it might be one of the more evil people on the planet…but it is not about them its about us, the law, and the legitimacy of what we are doing.
    I have no qualms about affording some secrecy since the war is on-going, but that does not mean a 3 person military tribunal with the POTUS being above the law and handing out sentences like Stalin.
    This picture also cracks me up in that it is so clean and polished. Pressed suits and uniforms to hear evidence obtained via torture.
    Also I often wonder what some of these people will say if they are released in 20 years, and what a nasty stain it will be upon us. It makes me think of people like the Birmingham-6, guilty, there crime:
    “For being Irish in the wrong place
    And at the wrong time”
    the Pogues:
    There were six men in birmingham
    In guildford there’s four
    That were picked up and tortured
    And framed by the law
    And the filth got promotion
    But they’re still doing time
    For being Irish in the wrong place
    And at the wrong time
    In Ireland they’ll put you away in the maze
    In england they’ll keep you for seven long days
    God help you if ever you’re caught on these shores
    The coppers need someone
    And they walk through that door
    You’ll be counting years
    First five, then ten
    Growing old in a lonely hell
    Round the yard and the stinking cell
    From wall to wall, and back again
    A curse on the judges, the coppers and screws
    Who tortured the innocent, wrongly accused
    For the price of promotion
    And justice to sell
    May the judged by their judges when they rot down in hell
    May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds
    And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads
    While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
    Kicked down and shot in the back of the head
    I have often been moved by sadness listening to that song, and that was long before it was my country being run by the whores of an empire. Injustice with people life and liberty is sickening and intolerable. That is while I side with the 10 commandments when it comes to the death penalty. Imagine sitting in a cell rotting for 20 years and knowing for each of those 7,300 days that you are innocent. Or that some sicko made 30 pieces of silver for serving up your innocent ass.
    Images are great, but I wonder who it is we will be compared to in history. In what company are we putting ourselves?

  • ummabdulla

    Thanks for the background, Marysz. It’s interesting…

  • jt from B.C.

    Great suggestion not just for the VP, or Gitmo but for so many contemporary scenarios
    A quote I thought appropriate to these faceless ones
    “ The Executioner and the Accused are a Society of Victims only the Executioner doesn’t know it.” ——–Albert Camus.
    Fidel is scrap-booking this drawing on another page of: Why Cuba has never cashed any US Government cheques which have been payed yearly for the “perpetual lease of Guantanamo”. (could there be things worth more than money ?)
    umbadulla yours is a good suggestion but until Gitmo it is no longer required as a ‘naval coal fuelling port’ a prison, or a ‘lily pad’ this Empire will remain on Cuban soil.

  • fotonique

    One picture is worth 9,618 words.
    From The Country of the Blind, by H.G. Wells:

    “THIS,” said the doctor, answering his own question. “Those queer things that are called the eyes, and which exist to make an agreeable depression in the face, are diseased, in the case of Nunez, in such a way as to affect his brain. They are greatly distended, he has eyelashes, and his eyelids move, and consequently his brain is in a state of constant irritation and distraction.”
    “Yes?” said old Yacob. “Yes?”
    “And I think I may say with reasonable certainty that, in order to cure him complete, all that we need to do is a simple and easy surgical operation–namely, to remove these irritant bodies.”
    “And then he will be sane?”
    “Then he will be perfectly sane, and a quite admirable citizen.”

  • fotonique

    Hicks’ face, although younger, is no secret.
    The Age has another courtroom drawing—marked “APPROVED” in the lower right corner—showing the defense team and his parents, but Hicks and all others are blanked out.
    His courtroom suit (and the orange one) were supplied by the U.S. military.

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