[pjw] REPORT BACK/FACTS: Guantanamo, 17 years later

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Sat Jan 12 13:50:42 EST 2019

Hello PJW supporters

Last night at the "Close Guantanamo-- Still America's Shame" action, the 
12-foot-tall Tower of Peace was visible to thousands of Portlanders 
driving past Pioneer Square for 90+ minutes during rush hour.* Over 15 
people participated in the rally/march and handed out roughly 150 fact 
sheets. About half the crowd wore orange jumpsuits to remind people of the 
dehumanization imposed on the inmates by the United States. Many 
passers-by in cars honked their horns and gave thumbs up, and pedestrians 
thanked us for being there. Several grassroots media folks including PSU 
students and the famous Joe Anybody came by to document the event. (We 
hope to post some stills in the coming days.)

Below is the text from the fact sheet we handed out, which as noted 
yesterday can also be seen at:


Feel free to share widely, particularly if you have connections to any of 
the national organizations who held vigil in Washington, DC yesterday.

Thanks to all locally who helped, especially Amnesty International Group 
48, Portland Peaceful Response Coalition for hosting us, and the PJW 
members who came.

Hope to see folks Monday at the Iraq Affinity Group meeting.
dan handelman
peace and justice works iraq affinity group

*- though many now say rush hour is all day in Portland any more.


Still Americas' Shame
(January 11, 2019)

January 11 marks exactly 17 years since the U.S. opened its notorious 
detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Although at one point roughly 
770 prisoners were held, just 40 people remain in indefinite detention in 
this legal no-man's land (Public Radio International, 12/11/18). 
Twenty-six --nearly two thirds--are considered "forever prisoners"  which 
means most have life sentences without having faced trial (Washington 
Post, 12/21/17). Three of the 40 have been cleared for release, but 
President Donald Trump refuses to allow it 
(closeguantanamo.org/Prisoners). Only four have been successfully 
convicted of crimes, while nine prisoners have died (Reprieve.org, 
8/19/18). Many have been exposed to harsh conditions that have been 
described as torture, including the force feeding of hunger strikers. Many 
of these techniques were confirmed in the 2014 Senate report on post-9/11 
CIA "interrogations."

As President-Elect, Trump pledged to "load [Guantanamo] up with bad 
dudes." In November 2017, he suggested the man who killed eight people by 
driving into them with his truck in New York should be put there as an 
"enemy combatant" even though he wasn't captured on a field of battle 
(BBC, 11/1/17).

Reprieve notes: "The vast majority of detainees in Guantanamo (86%) were 
not captured by US forces. Instead the Government filled the prison with 
people they bought for bounties. The US flew planes over parts of 
Afghanistan and Pakistan offering $5,000 for any 'suspicious person.' This 
amounted to approximately seven years' average salary for most people in 
the area, encouraging them to turn over innocent men in exchange for a 
life-changing amount of money. Since then, it has turned out they got it 
wrong most of the time. It didn't even take long for those in charge to 
see their mistake-- as early as 2002, Guantanamo's operational commander 
complained that he was being sent too many 'Mickey Mouse' detainees."

An art show at John Jay College in New York featuring paintings and other 
art by detainees at Guantanamo made headlines in 2017. Many of the 
paintings were based around the ocean, despite many of the prisoners never 
having seen the ocean. When a hurricane came in 2014, the guards 
temporarily took down tarps that had been blocking their views (New York 
Times, 9/15/17). Once the paintings became internationally recognized, the 
US declared no more art would be shared, and the detainees no longer 
legally owned them (NY Times, 11/27/17).

Guantanamo has been referred to as "the most expensive prison on earth," 
with the Miami Herald reporting in 2011 that it then cost $800,000 per 
year per inmate, climbing to an estimated $11 million per person in 2018. 
"This means that it costs $29,000 per prisoner per night to keep 
Guantanamo open - far more than any federal prison" (Reprieve.org). 
Overall, the cumulative costs from 2002 to today are well over $3 billion.

Amnesty International (AI), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), 
and others continue to call for the prison to be shut down, with CCR 
noting in 2014 that the (supposed) end of combat operations in Afghanistan 
"should guide the closing of the prison and bring a swift end to years of 
indefinite detention without charge or trial."

Today (Jan. 11, 2019) in Washington DC, AI, CCR, Code Pink, Witness 
Against Torture and others had a mid-day rally. Rally promotional 
materials say the goals are: "to close Guantanamo, and call for a stop to 
cruelty, fear, racism, islamophobia and lies."

Continuing to hold people in an off-shore prison without prosecution is an 
unacceptable violation of human rights, which is inspiring people to take 
action against the United States in acts of so-called "terrorism." It is 
making us less safe, not more secure. If we want to "make America great 
again," it is far past time to shut Guantanamo prison down.

This fact sheet prepared by Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group

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