by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 10, Safar, 1437)
Five Yemeni prisoners held at the notorious US torture camp at Guantanamo Bay were finally released on November 14. According to a Pentagon announcement, the five were flown to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). None of the five Yemenis was ever charged with a crime. They just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time: in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan in October–November 2001 when the US launched its murderous attack on Afghanistan, driving the Taliban from power. Yet the Yemenis spent 13 years in the notorious camp at Guantanamo Bay on the Cuban island illegally occupied by the US. Dozens of other Yemenis are still languishing there with little hope of release in the near future.
It is revealing that the five Yemenis were not sent to their own country ostensibly because the US considers Yemen to be “unstable.” True, it is currently being bombed back to the Stone Age by the US-puppet regime in Saudi Arabia with US-supplied weapons. If the men are innocent — as the US itself has admitted — why hand them over to another country even if the UAE has accepted them for resettlement?
The men arrived in the UAE on November 14. They were identified as ‘Ali Ahmad Muhammad al-Razihi, Khalid ‘Abd al-Jabbar Muhammad ‘Uthman al-Qadasi, ‘Adil Sa‘id al-Hajj ‘Ubayd al-Busays, Sulayman ‘Awad bin Uqayl al-Nahdi, and Fahmi Salem Sa‘id al-Asani. Officials in Abu Dhabi said the men will not be under house arrest but will be closely monitored and would have to report to the police every day.
Their release brings the Guantanamo prison population down to 107 from its peak of 775 inmates. The notorious camp was first opened in early-2002 to hold prisoners from Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan. Many Afghans and Arabs were arrested by Pakistani security officials and handed over to the Americans. The former Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf proudly admitted in his book, In the Line of Fire (ghost written for him by Humayun Gauhar), that he and his fellow officers collected millions of dollars in bounty from the Americans.
One of the most shameful episodes was that of Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. He was arrested by the Pakistani authorities and in violation of all diplomatic norms, handed over to the Americans. Mullah Zaeef gives an account of this very troubling episode in his autobiography after his release from Gitmo in 2005. The book is titled, My life with the Taliban (2010). He recounts how Pakistani military officers not only handed him over to the Americans, but also stood by as the Americans stripped him naked at Bagram. He says he wished he had died rather than being humiliated in such a disgraceful manner.
Over the years, the Americans realized that most of the prisoners were completely innocent. Top officials in the Bush regime, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, also knew this. The Washington warlords refused to release them because this would have undermined their push to wage war against Iraq. The Times of London revealed this in a report dated April 9, 2010.
The British daily said it had obtained documents that quoted Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to then US Secretary of State Colin Powell. Colonel Wilkerson, who spent 31 years in the US military, was certain about the detainees’ innocence. His boss, who resigned in protest over being lied to about Iraq’s non-existent chemical weapons, concurred with him. Powell was asked to make the case for war before the UN Security Council in February 2003. Despite the Security Council refusing to authorize war, the US went ahead with its invasion in March 2003 devastating Iraq to the point that it still lies in shambles. The US attack on Iraq led to the horrors of Abu Ghraib and the rise of the takfiri terrorists that are currently rampaging through the Muslim East.
Guantanamo Bay may have receded in the memory hole but it still holds 107 prisoners of which Yemen has the largest number: 64. Interestingly, 40 of them have been approved for release but the US says it does not know where to send them. There are 59 prisoners who the US says it would not release. Of these, 28 cannot be prosecuted because there is no evidence against them. Similarly, of the dozen or so prisoners the US put on trial before a military tribunal — kangaroo court in the words of several American lawyers — only three were convicted. The Canadian-born Omar Khadr was one of them. He was forced into a plea deal in order to get out of the hellhole.
Captured in Afghanistan in July 2002, he was shot twice and badly wounded, bullets piercing through his frail body. Khadr was only 15 when the Americans grabbed him. He miraculously survived despite his gaping wounds. He was a child at the time of his capture and should have been rehabilitated under the Law of the Child. Instead, the Americans first held him at the notorious prison at Bagram outside Kabul before shipping him to Gitmo. While his wounds were still raw, the Americans started to interrogate and torture him. Three months later, he was flown to Gitmo shackled to the floor like an animal. He was denied food, water, medicines or visits to the washroom for the duration of the 15-hour flight.
For young Omar, Gitmo turned out to be even worse. Every American soldier thought he was doing his patriotic duty by torturing the young boy. He was held in stressful positions, deprived of sleep for 21 days and made to mop the floor with his body when he urinated on himself. Even dogs were set upon him, their claws digging into his raw wounds, tearing them anew.
Successive Canadian governments also turned a blind eye to his plight, with the Harper regime being the worst of them all. He stubbornly refused to ask for Omar Khadr’s repatriation despite the plea bargain under which he was to serve one more year in Gitmo and then be transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of his eight-year sentence.
Khadr’s lawyers fought tenaciously in court and won every battle. He is now out on bail and living with his Canadian lawyer, Denis Edney and his wife Patricia who have taken Omar as their own son. Harper had warned that Khadr was a threat to Canadians. The people of Canada did not buy into this canard; instead they turfed Harper out of office on October 19 after a long and nasty anti-Muslim campaign.
Khadr, and more recently the five Yemenis may be out of Gitmo but the notorious camp is still open and holds 107 prisoners. Obama had promised to close it during his first election campaign in 2008, citing its damage to US reputation abroad. The day after he was sworn in as president (January 21, 2009), Obama signed an Executive Order #13493 to close down Guantanamo Bay in one year. Later, however, he backed away on his pledge due to strong opposition from Congress and other warmongers.
As recently as November 10, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) urged the US to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. Its 280-page report said Washington should either charge the remaining detainees or free them. Prisoners could not be held indefinitely without charge or trial, the OSCE report stated.
The continued existence of Gitmo is the best proof, if proof indeed were needed, of America’s lawless nature. If Americans wonder why the world hates them, they should just remember two names: Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.