Saturday, February 14, 2009

Time Is Of The Essence - Close Gitmo Now

You know, sometimes it amazes me that the Obama transition team, widely hailed for getting its act together quickly and being well-organized and efficient, is now dragging its feet on a number of truly life-or-death issues relating to torture and Guantanamo. They have begun their review of the detainee case files there - but it is completely unclear as to what the conditions are at Guantanamo now. If Lt Col Yvonne Bradley's account is true, the prison guards should be behind bars for the way they are STILL treating detainees. If they're still operating under Bush policy, these abusive guards are now, simply enough, criminals (seriously, this is pretty cut and dry)- and we should be able to read about their arrests in the papers. So where are those stories? When will the Obama administration's so-called commitment to transparency and accountability include letting us know if detainees are being treated humanely? When do the human rights monitors go in - or when is some type of team dedicated to investigating prison guard misconduct announced, assembled, and put to work? There is no reason why the situation at Guantanamo should be so vaguely presented to Americans. Saying "give Obama time, it's only been x number of days" is an inadequate response.

While Obama & co. fiddle around in Washington, their legal representatives in the Justice Department have taken recent steps elsewhere that suggest the review of Guantanamo detainees will not result in real, fair criminal trials for detainees. Is the same Obama DoJ that wants Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. dismissed for state security reasons going to allow fair trials of Gitmo detainees? At present, the logical answer to that question is no. Get ready for that fight.

The key to ending torture is not waiting on Obama. Hell, in two years, he will be facing a Republican opponent and readying for re-election. He will doubtless be challenged on each of his anti-torture policies, and it seems likely (based on today's GOP, anyway) that a Republican administration open to "coercive interrogation" will be presented as an alternative to whatever he does. We aren't out of the woods yet. What we need to do is push for legislation that is more effective than Obama's executive orders. There must be a concerted outcry each time Obama reverts to Bush policies, like unnecessarily invoking the state secrets privilege.

We can and should support Obama when he is right. But right now, he is going too slowly to be right - we must press him to be faster. Some Obama supporters may not yet feel comfortable protesting his administration - but trust me, he needs the pressure and our country needs to keep the torture/war crime discussion in the forefront.

Greg Bruno has a Gitmo overview here.

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