The Patriots of Guantanamo
The Best Pension Deal in America
By Gar Smith
December 19, 2005
The Patriots of Guantanamo
The following article is a shorter version of an essay posted on CommonDreams on November 1, 2005. This statement was posted on the Global Research Web site in Canada, the Information Clearinghouse in the US and has appeared on Web sites in Saudi Arabia, Northern Ireland and Africa.
|Illegally detained prisoners at Camp X-Ray, the US prison at Guantanamo.|
There is a small band of men who are such firm believers in the protections of the Bill of Rights that they are willing to lay down their lives to defend these principles. They aren't soldiers or civil libertarians -- they are a group of "enemy combatants" confined in the gulag of Guantanamo.
All freedom-loving Americans should pause to consider the sacrifices of Fawzi al-Odah, Yousef Al Shehri, Abduhl-Rahman Shalabi, Mahid Al Joudi and 21 other detainees who are engaged in a withering hunger strike inside the prison cells of Guantanamo.
When Fawzi al-Odah was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, he was 25-years-old and he weighed a scant 139 pounds. Today al-Odah weighs 112 pounds. He has been on a fast since August 8 and now he is demanding that the feeding tube forced down his nose be removed so he can die and put an end to his suffering.
It is estimated that 540 men are imprisoned in Guantanamo without charges, without trial, without any hope of redress. Hunger strikes have been waged in Guantanamo since early 2002. The latest fast involved 76 prisoners. By late October, 26 detainees were still refusing food and 23 were being force-fed through tubes that, according to attorney Julia Tarver, have left some of her clients "vomiting up substantial amounts of blood."
Bill Goodman, Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York, says "the Guantanamo hunger strikers are willing to die unless they get humane treatment, including some small measure of justice.... Bloody force-feeding with dirty tubes is barbaric."
Against all odd, these almost completely powerless prisoners have successfully employed the tactics of nonviolent resistance to win recognition for those basic human rights and civil liberties that all Americans claim as their patrimony.
On October 25, CCR lawyers won access to the detainees' medical records but Tarver remains concerned about her clients, "some of whom are young boys who have spent nearly four years without charge, isolated miles away from their families, and are rapidly losing hope that justice will ever prevail for them." Tarver reports that her clients continue to be subjected to verbal and physical abuse, medical maltreatment and unsanitary conditions.
The Legal Limbo of an Unnecessary War
The US declared war on Afghanistan ostensibly because the Taliban government refused to turn over Osama bin Laden to the US. Washington unleashed a rain of bombs with the declared goal of toppling the Taliban. In the process, the US arrested hundreds of Afghan and Islamic fighters who took up arms to resist the attacks.
We now know that some of these men were just luckless individuals who were pulled from taxi cabs or marched from their homes to be handed over to US soldiers as "Taliban fighters" -- in exchange for tempting bounties of Pentagon cash.
Three British men released in February 2004, complained of being stripped, chained to the floor for 18 hours a day, placed in isolation and threatened with dogs. During their detention, they all confessed to crimes. They were only released after the British government proved that all three had actually been in Britain at the time of their alleged "crimes."
CCR President Michael Ratner cites the case as proof that coercive interrogation doesn't work: "You get people willing to say anything because they want the torture or the inhumane treatment to end."
"We're Going to Go to the Dark Side Now"
In the Post-9/11 world, Vice President Dick Cheney memorably told Meet the Press: "We're going to have to go to the dark side now."
As a resutlt, Ratner notes, the US is "no longer a country of law.... 'Taking off the gloves' means literally erasing the Constitution and the protections against torture."
The outlines of this inhumane treatment are now a matter of public record. Hooded interrogations. Stripping prisoners naked. Removing "comfort items" (like prayer rugs and the Koran). Exploiting phobias (like a fear of dogs). Employing painful "stress positions."
More than a year ago, the US Supreme Court ruled in the case of Rasul v. Bush that the detainees are entitled to legal representation before federal courts. But the White House, the Attorney General's office, and the Pentagon have chosen to ignore the ruling.
That is why the Patriots of Guantanamo have been forced to go on strike with their very lives. They are demanding that their suffering be investigated and the "facts be submitted to a candid world."
"Give Us Liberty or Give Us Death"
In 1776, America's Founding Fathers signed a document pledging their "lives and sacred honor" to the cause of securing "certain unalienable Rights." The Patriots of Guantanamo have neither pens nor parchment: They have been compelled to their pledge not with words but deeds.
When Patrick Henry thundered, "Give me liberty or give me death," his stirring words were rhetorical. Al-Odah's cry is dead serious. He has informed his US lawyers that he wants a judge to order the removal of the feeding tube that is keeping him alive.
Al-Odah's lawyer, Tom Wilner, insists that his client has the right to demand to die to protest his continued imprisonment without charges or any hope of a trial and release. Al-Odah is willing to die "if it will bring justice."
The Patriots of Guantanamo are insisting on nothing less than the same basic protections granted to US citizens under the Bill of Rights -- specifically, the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Ninth Amendments. Clearly something is seriously amiss when it is the "enemies of democracy" that are willing to die to defend the Bill of Rights while the men entrusted to defend the Constitution ignore and abuse these very laws.
Today, America's moral standard is being weighed in the dungeons of Guantanamo. The hunger strikers are not simply fasting for their rights -- they are fasting for all of us. Their demands should be our demands. And, if they aren't, what guarantee do any of us have that their fate might not one day be our own?
The Best Pension Deal in America
You've heard of me but we've never met. I've been part of America's political landscape for around 60 years. You might call me one of the original Baby Boomers. Like other boomers, I'm at the age when I can expect to look forward to retirement and the enjoyment of my government pension. But I'm not your typical Boomer.
|Meet Mark. Mark-53 is a 1-megaton hydrogen bomb. US taxpayers spent millions on Mark's "career" from 1962, through his lengthy retirement. Too bad taxpayers don't get the same kind of retirement package as these "Welfare Bombs."|
Unlike most of today's aging seniors, I've been receiving a government pension since the first day I showed up for work. Heck, I've been pulling down a cushy government pension since the day I was born.
And, get this: I've never actually worked a day in my life. For my entire career, I've done noting but sit around, radiating the serenity that goes with being part of a select, pampered minority. There are currently around 4,225 others that share my Federal job description and are drawing down big bucks -- even though we're officially classified as "inactive." Thanks to Congress, the population of our little off-the-clock but very much on-the-dole clan is set to double by 2012.
And here's the beautiful part: I've never been required to contribute one red cent to cover the cost of my upkeep and my generous pension. Since the day I was born, I've been living off the taxpayer. All my creature comforts are covered by the government. I'm a government employee and proud of it.
As you may have guessed, I work for the Defense Department.
Talk about Social Security! I receive free housing for life. Growing up, my appetites were fueled by costly taxpayer-supported imports and billions of dollars are still being spent to satisfy my highly refined tastes. I'm currently relaxing at a sprawling gated community in sunny New Mexico where armed police guarantee that my safety and security are second-to-none. I have 20,000 government specialists assigned to safeguard my health and wellbeing. I get flown around the world free on government planes. The US Air Force is spending a fortune on "Avionics Midlife Improvements" to the B-52H, just to accommodate my special needs.
10,000 of Us Are on the Federal Dole
I'm not alone: There are more than 10,000 like me. But don't call us freeloaders. Although we don't get the publicity we deserve (because of security issues, the Pentagon likes to keep our branch of the service under wraps), we're proud to be members of the Armed Forces. We've been called "responsive," "enduring," "effective" and "flexible." Our services are so highly regarded that, each year, Congress routinely votes to renew the budget that supports our services. More often than not, Congress even increases this budget.
Since the mid-1990s, the funds dedicated to supporting our life-style have doubled to $6.5 billion. That factors out to $650 million for each one of us, making us the highest-paid members of the military.
It may seem strange that you never see our pictures in the newspapers, but then you never see photos of CIA agents, either. When you think about it, we're much more powerful than the CIA so it's probably better that people don't know what we look like. Terrorists would love to get their hands on us but that's not about to happen.
We are on perpetual pension but, believe me, we're worth the expense. After all, we help guarantee that the US retains its position as the world's preeminent superpower. In return, the government provides for all our earthly needs.
Of course, I can't be expected to go on like this forever. The sad fact is, I'm growing old, and Washington knows it. While many Americans are concerned about the rising costs of prescription drugs, I'm a member of a little-known Federal plan that covers all my survival needs. In addition, the government recently embarked on a costly "life-extension program" to prolong my vitality and "significantly enhance" my skills. Over the next decade, many of us are scheduled to benefit from "life-extension" operations that will guarantee that we retain our youthful vigor at least through 2030.
During the Clinton Administration, there were calls to kick us off the Federal dole. It was argued that our services were no longer needed; that we were actually more trouble than we were worth. Some critics warned that our increasing age made us unreliable, even dangerous. Others complained that our abilities were outmoded and unsuited for 21st century military missions that required more finesse. Lt. Gen. William Odum (ret.) complained that we had become too dangerous and costly to maintain. "From a professional's perspective," Odum stated, "it's damn hard to work up any excitement about them."
Fortunately, we still have a lot of friends in business and academic circles. Even Clinton was forced to compromise with our defenders. He declared a hiring freeze to keep our numbers from growing but he agreed to continue generous government subsidies to cover our upkeep. He called this a "stewardship" program but we all knew it was really "pork-barrel" politics.
Years ago, we used to have to prove ourselves in regularly scheduled tests but critics put an end to this, claiming that we were "harming the environment." In the end, this only made our work easier. These days, we no longer have to move a muscle. The government has created sophisticated computers that can "simulate" our work. These simulations give us passing grades and we don't even have to break a sweat.
All in all, it's been a good life. We may have lived in the shadows, without publicity or glory, but we know our services have been respected.
As some of us begin to enter our twilight years, it's occurred to us that we've never paused to thank our fellow Americans for all the trillions of dollars lavished on us over the past 60 years. So, on behalf of myself and the rest of our unsung brigade of quiet warriors, I'd like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation.
Thank you, America. Thanks for all you've given us and all you've done to make our days comfortable and secure.
Oh! Forgive me: I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Mark.
Mark-61. I'm a nuclear weapon.
(One last thing. I've got a good thing going here and I don't want to rock the boat so, please, don't go painting signs telling Washington to "Get the Bombs off Welfare.")
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