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Candace Gorman

H. Candace Gorman is an attorney specializing in civil and human rights

January 9th, 2013 8:02 PM

Guantanmo Is Still Open

Hey folks -- Guantanamo is still open. My client and 166 other men are now entering their twelfth year of being held without charge or trial and there is no end in sight for their plight.

Is someone to blame for this?

Could it be Barack that is to blame? This New Year’s Eve seems to have been a big day for Barack Obama. As he signed the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act -- the NDAA -- keeping Guantanamo, for all intents and purposes, open for another year -- he issued a “signing statement” -- the way George Dubya Bush used to do quite often -- but in this signing statement, the president lamented about how his hands are tied in closing Guantanamo. But of course he went ahead and signed the NDAA anyway, tying his own hands (and allowing him to tie ours, or detain us, or if necessary in his opinion, presumably torture or kill us) and then he flew back to Hawaii to finish his vacation. So certainly Barack cannot be to blame, right? After all, his hands are tied!

What about Jeh Johnson? The general counsel for the Defense Department these past four years, also lamented about the state of things -- a few days after his retirement, effective New Year's Eve -- and of course after the president already signed off on the new and improved NDAA.  Jeh suggested, that the president really shouldn’t have signed the NDAA (that, among other things, funded Jeh’s own department after all) -- and, oh yeah, for good measure Jeh also said that the president should just end the war against al-Qaeda. So certainly Jeh can’t be to blame either can he? I mean Jeh proudly spoke up --  immediately after he retired.

In addition to insuring that the gulag stays open, Mr. Obama has also provided us with one of our history’s most inept attorney generals, Eric Holder -- certainly Mr. Holder is afraid to do anything about the men languishing at Guantanamo -- and while Mr. Holder can’t seem to exactly get a handle on the Justice Department -- he has at least allowed it to become a full time mouthpiece not only for corporate America but for the military. So how could we blame him?

So maybe it’s our courts? All too many of our judges have been co-opted into shutting down our basic freedoms -- it was bad enough when the DC federal District and Circuit Court both decided that we lawyers representing men at Guantanamo would not be allowed to see all of the “evidence” against our clients -- and even the limited “evidence” that we are allowed to see cannot be shared with our clients. And of course the DC Circuit has not found one Guantanamo detainee whose habeas corpus petition should be granted. Now the use of secret evidence, that only the judges and the government can see, is becoming a regular occurrence in the courts across this country in all kinds of cases -- just as many of us had predicted would happen. It seems that when you allow “second class justice” into the system anywhere, pretty soon, you’re going to have it everywhere. It didn’t take too long either -- since the day Guantanamo opened -- January 11, 2002 -- pretty much coincides with the beginning of the end of the rule of law in our country for all of us. So maybe it is the courts that are to blame? 

But most people don’t really want to blame anyone -- officials, civilians, alleged conservatives, alleged progressives, like our media they are all just keeping quiet -- hoping that those in the general uninformed population here in the good old U S of A who thought Guantanamo should be closed will just go on thinking that Obama did in fact close the gulag back when he said he was going to close it -- three or four years ago. I can’t tell you how many times I give talks and people come up to me and say “but I thought Obama closed the place”…sigh. And the others -- the ones that think holding people indefinitely without charge or trial is not only our “right” but our “duty” -- they hate Obama because they think he closed Guantanamo -- they liked having that prison outside the law that showed just how tough we are.

So, as Obama (and the nation) move on to what is essentially the fourth term of the GW Bush presidency we have learned a few things: first, nobody in “power” even bothers to pretend anymore to give a damn about the rule of law and those of us who still want to believe that the rule of law means something in this country are just in denial. And second, nothing has changed under Barack, maybe because change could possibly wake up the sleeping populace and no one who makes it into a position of power wants that…because who knows what would happen then?

Whether it be Barack, Jeh, Holder, and/or our judges -- maybe they are really just doing what "we" want, anyway.  Maybe it has been “we the people” who have hated us for our freedom all along, which is why we seem to be so happy to give it away? Maybe we are to blame? We didn’t really want change did we? And if we did want change, we certainly picked the wrong man for the job.

Lest I still need to remind anyone that Barack Obama is not "The One " to do anything to change things, let me reiterate that he is simply in no position to stand up to the forces of the status quo -- if he even wanted to change things (and all the evidence points to Barack being quite delighted with the whole program anyway).  We do have to admit that Barack came in with probably the least actual meaningful life experience of any President in American history (if not any non-hereditary world leader, ever)... I mean, let's think about this... he didn't have a real  job most of his adult life -- his name was on the letterhead of a prominent civil rights firm in Chicago but he was never seen in a courthouse (and apparently never learned negotiation skills), he was a state senator who didn’t show up a lot of the time and only knew how to "compromise" and vote “present” -- then he became a U S senator and in his brief tenure voted along the same lines as so called moderate republicans, and then of course, in lieu of "a job" or "a career," he was apparently paid a million dollars to write a book -- about himself -- while the U of Chicago pretended he was on their faculty calling him a "senior lecturer" which, evidently, didn't involve too much troublesome "teaching" or "research" or anything that required, you know, effort.   No, Barack Obama is simply in no position to offer anything resembling “change”…and anyway -- change from what exactly? Seeing as it has been Barack’s own program for the last four years that has gone out of its way to out-Bush Bush. 

So as my client begins his twelfth year of being held at Guantanamo not only without charge but without rhyme or reason; as we begin our twelfth year with the so called “Justice” Department filing everything under seal and claiming “state secrets”; as we begin our twelfth year of having our telephones and email monitored by our government; as we begin our twelfth year with the courts consistently telling us that the constitution is an illusion -- and that any one of us could be held in exactly the same lawless way as the men at Guantanamo and we have absolutely no redress against the government; as we begin our twelfth year of being told we are afraid and we must continue to be afraid because paranoia is patriotic ...  as we begin our twelfth year of all of this while the planet consistently warms up by some consistent fraction of a degree C without fail every year -- exactly as the harshest global warming models predicted -- and the carbon level in our atmosphere keeps going up, ice caps melt, and we destroy the ability to live on our planet apace -- so we sit by as our freedoms seem to be boiling away in the same pot as the proverbial boiling frog that sits there not quite noticing that the temperature keeps going up and will soon be lethal.

And as we slink along -- now a pariah on the world stage (even Russia, birthplace of the gulag, refuses to allow people with ties to Guantanamo to enter its country) it just might be necessary to remind "the progressive movement" that "our government" has been captured by the corporate (and military) interests that it was once supposed to be a bulwark against -- and really it comes down to we the people once again to do something, if anything is to be done, and if, of course, we even want to. As the illusion of normalcy seems more important than any realization of reality, isn’t it time to stand up for ourselves while we still might have a chance? Or are we all just too damn comfortable with our powerlessness?

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