Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Seumas Milne: Shaker Aamer and the dirty secrets of the war on terror

April 24, 2012.

The scandal of Britain's last Guantánamo inmate encapsulates the barbarity of a mutating conflict without end
More than four years after Barack Obama pledged to close the US internment camp at Guantánamo, over half its 166 inmates are on hunger strike, 16 are being violently force fed, and soldiers last week used rubber bullets against "non-compliant" prisoners. Guantánamo, along with Abu Ghraib, long ago became a symbol of the lawless brutality of George Bush's war on terror.

Set up on US-occupied Cuban territory, it was filled with supposed "enemy combatants" seized in post-invasion Afghanistan, the vast majority of whom were then held without charge or trial, brutalised and tortured. That was all supposed to have come to an end after Obama's election.

But instead of shutting this monstrosity, the camp is being rebuilt. Congress has played a central role in keeping Guantánamo open. But the president only tried to move it to Illinois, not end the scandal of indefinite detention without trial. And he's personally blocked the release of dozens of prisoners, even when they've been cleared.

That's at the heart of why the detainees are striking. Among them is Shaker Aamer, a Saudi-born British resident held without charge for 11 years, much of it in solitary confinement. As with half of the rest of the prisoners, the US authorities now accept that there is no case against him, and he was cleared for release six years ago.

Aamer hasn't seen his family since 2001, and has never met his 11-year-old son, Faris. He has refused food for 71 days, and his case is due to be debated tomorrow in parliament in response to a petition of over 100,000 names. But it now turns out that, uniquely among the prisoners, Aamer has been cleared for release to only one country: Saudi Arabia.

Despite the British government's claims to be lobbying for his return to London, the evidence suggests neither London nor Washington wants anything of the kind. As Aamer's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, puts it: "The sole reason to send Shaker to Saudi Arabia is to have him silenced, most likely by sentencing him to a long imprisonment after a sham trial."

The reason is not hard to find. Soon after he was seized, Aamer says he was assaulted and tortured (into falsely confessing links to al-Qaida) by US officials at Bagram air base in Afghanistan in the presence of MI6 officers – abuse that continued at Guantánamo. Even more dangerously, he was also present, along with British intelligence agents, when Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi was tortured at Bagram into alleging that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaida terrorists – bogus claims Bush and Colin Powell used to justify the invasion of Iraq.
 Read the rest here.
Comment: And the US and Britain wonder why they are so hated just about anywhere outside of their western allies.

Is it not interesting how the Boston Bombings - as horrific and unacceptable as it was - has in effect allowed the US to deflect attention from the hunger strike at Guantánamo?

I am not advancing a conspiracy theory or suggesting that there are sinister reasons behind the Boston bombing.

What I am saying is that the Obama administration can in effect deflect - even ignore - Guantánamo exactly because of the frenzied attention that is now focused on Boston.

And, for the same reason, Americans are even less likely to care about Guantánamo.

Meanwhile the US and its allies continue to massacre people in the name of the 'war on terror' without end and without hesitation.  And as Milne says in the conclusion the blowback is inevitable:
What is certain is that so long as the US and its allies intervene, occupy and wage war across the Arab and Muslim world – whether directly or by proxy, with daisy cutters or drones – such outrages (like Boston) will continue. It's the logic of a war of terror without end.

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