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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2005

June 20, 2005

MIAMI - Last week, Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, went on TV to refute charges by the respected human rights group Amnesty International that the Bush Administration is running, in their words, `the gulag of our time’ at Guantanamo, Cuba.

Hunter’s ludicrous performance reminded me that my father, who dealt with many politicians when he was chairman of Elgin Watch Co, always called congressmen `used car salesmen from Biloxi.’ Hunter is from California, but the shoe still fits.

The San Diego Cicero waved a banana and chicken leg at viewers to illustrate Guantanamo’s haute cuisine, declaring its inmates have, `never eaten better. They’ve never been treated better…courtesy of the American taxpayer!’

Those lucky, lucky 540 Muslim inmates at Gitmo, lounging and basking in the Cuban sunshine. There must be a really long waiting line in Karachi for Gitmo vacations.

One wonders if Hunter plans to spend his next vacation there. It’s a great, all-inclusive resort, with programs like sleep deprivation, intense noise assault, cigarette burning, water torture, beatings, humiliation, religious insults. Deluxe wire cages are even included in the package. And what food!

Not to be underthought, VP Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld also rushed to Gitmo’s defense. Cheney advanced the masterful thesis the concentration camp had to be kept open because it held `bad guys.’ Rumsfeld claimed America’s gulag must stay open because taxpayers had invested US $100 million to build it and spend $90 million annually to run this penal Bushworld.

The third member of this see, hear, and say no evil trio, Senate Majority leader, Republican Bill Frist, added: `to cut and run because of image problems is the wrong thing to do.’ Brilliant, Bill. In an earlier time, you might have advised: `Mein Fuehrer, ignore all that stupid criticism of our concentration camps. Stand firm!’

Fortunately, more and more decent Americans are finding the Guantanamo gulag an outrageous violation of everything the nation stands for. Former President Jimmy Carter, who has become the country’s conscience in a time of growing totalitarian impulses, demanded Guantanamo be closed, as have a growing number of legislators, including the Republican Party’s most courageous senator, Chuck Hegel.

If for no other reason, the Us Naval base at Guantanamo should be closed because it is an ugly reminder of American imperialism in the 1898 Spanish American War. After defeating Spain, the US annexed Cuba, installed a tame president (sounds like Iraq and Afghanistan) who granted a naval base on Cuba’s coast to the US in perpetuity.

So Guantanamo is a constant reminder of American imperialism to Cubans and Latin Americans. To Muslims everywhere, it has become a symbol of the Bush Administration’s war against Islam and hostility to real democracy and independence in the Islamic World.

Americans are being told all Guantanamo inmates are mad-dog terrorists. Not true. Most were rounded up in Afghanistan by local warlords offered $10,000 or more per head by the US for `terrorist’ captives.

Some are Pakistanis who were visiting Afghanistan for religious or family matters. Some had joined Taliban forces to fight the Russian-backed Afghan Communist Party known as the Northern Alliance – not against the US. Others were jihadis preparing to fight Uzbekistan’s brutal Communist regime or battle Indian occupation of Kashmir. Only a handful of real anti-US al-Qaida members are there.

Senator John McCain, himself a former POW, is right to call for speedy trials of Guantanamo’s inmates and an end to their indefinite jailing. But the last three years has shown that people charged with terrorism are unlikely to get fair trials in post-9/11 America or the lawless enclave of Guantanamo.

A military defense lawyer testified to Congress this week his superiors warned that if he represented a prisoner at Gitmo, `only a guilty pleas would be accepted’ – shades of the USSR.

ABC News was just revealed the US Navy’s General Counsel, Alberto Mora, warned in 2003 that interrogation methods being used by the US against Muslim prisoners might expose senior officials to `liability and criminal prosecution.’

Guantanamo violates the Geneva Conventions, international and US law. In the rest of the secret US gulag in Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Diego Garcia, even worse crimes are being routinely committed against those suspected of anti-US activities. This is a criminal enterprise.

Those involved in it should be prosecuted – starting at the top.

The White House says Taliban and jihadi fighters were `illegal combatants’ deserving no mercy or legal protection. Then what of the 20,000 plus non-uniformed US and British mercenaries operating in Iraq and Afghanistan called `civilian contractors,’ and non-uniformed US Special Forces.

The US has joined Israel, Russia, and India as major violators of the Geneva Conventions, a cornerstone of international law. When I proudly served in the US Army the Geneva Conventions protected me from barbarous behavior in the event of my capture. I hold these conventions to be sacrosanct and those who violate them to be felons.

Guantanamo, just 90 miles from here, is not a problem of image, as many claim. It is an arrant violation of every American value. It’s worthy of KGB. Close this disgrace now.

Published at Bigeye.com since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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