Where the media can't even take you.
Professor Marc Falkoff of Northern Illinois University (and editor of Poems from Guantanamo - all proceeds benefit the Center for Constitutional Rights)acts as legal representation to 13 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. He has been able to go where the media and even the United Nations has not been allowed. Rutgers Amnesty International invited Falkoff to speak about his experiences.
The experience was nauseating, and as someone who grew up in love with America, it made me embarrassed as an American. I took five pages of handwritten notes. I'm just posting them as I took them as I can't handle making sense of them (scroll down a bit for conditions, that's later so that you can first understand why I feel as it do).
Of the men in Guantanamo :
770 have been through Gitmo.
Of that 10 have been charged with a crime.
1 has been convicted
3 have been reconvicted.
Only 5% were captured on the battlefield.
Only 8% have been accused of having any Al Quaeda affiliation.
One was picked up in Cairo, another in a university dorm.
Yes of all of those, the vast majority have been charged with NO CRIME!!!
I bet you didn't know that.
The Democratic congressmen didn't.
----The Democrats are in power, they don't even know what's going on at Gitmo. When they passed the Guantanamo Treatment Act many senators said they had "known" these men had been convicted of heinous crimes.
- Many of the men at convicted haven't been convicted of anything, and there is no real evidence held against some.
*Some are dangerous, but most are what they say they are - students, shepherds, men seeking medical treatment (hence country hopping).
*The government has stripped them of their governmental rights
- they are no longer guaranteed their "day in court"
*What role does the law have in policing the government?
*It took three years for lawyers to be allowed to go down there (it is all pro bono)
- lawyers are not allowed to tell the prisoners the evidence held against them
- the military is under orders not to call them prisoners (instead detainees) as to not invoke the Geneva Convention
*Many were deemed not to be "enemy combatants" but were forced to have their cases reviewed and reviewed until the those classifying them would eventually submit and call them enemy combatants.
*The military contends that even if the majority were exonerated in court they would still be considered "Enemy combatants" and held.
*Since the vast majority of prisoners were not captured in uniform, they are not POWs so the law of war does not apply, but the US is calling them "enemy combatants (which doesn't mean anything) and is claiming the Geneva Convention does not apply.
*Prisoners are not allowed to be told of Supreme Court decisions relating to Guantanamo
*Courts will not allow layers to bring doctors (courts claim there is adequate if not superior medicate care) - a prisoner coughing up blood was not allowed to go to the infirmary
*Prisoners can be moved w/o notification to the lawyers, often to Saudi Arabia or Jordan to be tortured.
*Almost all court documents have been taken from the prisoners b/c the men who committed suicide had lawyers representing them .
*Judges are no longer allowed to intervene on prisoner's behalf
*When prisoners committed suicide out of desperation the US govt called it a "political move."
*Hunger strikes are called a "voluntary fast," suicide is called "politically motivated self-injury"
*Most prisoners are afraid to commit suicide fearing it would be viewed as cowardice and they would go to "hell"
*Letters to or from families are used as leverage so many stop writing
* Kept prisoners in open air cages (open to tropical wind and sun) with only two buckets (one for water, one for feces).
*Guantanamo Bay has its own sub-climate -- its awful.
*as punishment, guards would remove prisoners pants so they couldn't pray
-would shave their beards
- would smear "menstrual blood" (really red ink, but the prisoners don't know) on their chests
- would remove mattress and make prisoners sleep on steel
*Riot police can beat a prisoner senseless with weapon if prisoner accidentally steps or TRIPS over a colored line while food is delivered
*According to the military's own logs, Detainee 063 was tortured. All information gathered during torture is assumed true. It was later found out that Detainee was not guilty of what he was accused as the true person they were looking for was later found.
*770 men have been sent through Guantanamo, 440 have been sent home or to third countries. The US govn't refuses to admit it has made any mistakes. If these men are really the worst of the worst -- as Cheney said, these men had to be blindfolded and gagged for the 20+hour plane ride to Gitmo so they wouldn't gnaw through the wires, how is it that they are no longer a danger?
Mitt Romney said that he wants to double the size of Guantanamo Bay. That scares me. A lot. We are imprisoning innocent men who are just trying to live their lives. We are scaring them and angering them and torturing them. How can we be proud to represent that, or support those who are doing that?
As Falkoff said about himself: "His fighting for what America is all about. He is fighting for the soul of America." He hangs a flag outside his house and supports a country under our constitution.
He is called a traitor, but I believe he is a patriot. I only wish we all could be so brave.