Wednesday :: Jun 18, 2008

Let's Make This Election About National Security


by Turkana

If John McCain wants to make this election about national security, Barack Obama should be thrilled. After all, the Bush Administration is the greatest threat to our national security, and McCain has supported it and enabled it. This little episode is a perfect example. Last week, McCain blasted the Supreme Court for ruling that the prisoners held at Guantanamo have actual legal rights. The prisoners McCain thinks it's okay to torture. Well, McClatchy reports this:

A McClatchy investigation found that instead of confining terrorists, Guantanamo often produced more of them by rounding up common criminals, conscripts, low-level foot soldiers and men with no allegiance to radical Islam — thus inspiring a deep hatred of the United States in them — and then housing them in cells next to radical Islamists.

The radicals were quick to exploit the flaws in the U.S. detention system.

Soldiers, guards or interrogators at the U.S. bases at Bagram or Kandahar in Afghanistan had abused many of the detainees, and they arrived at Guantanamo enraged at America.

The Taliban and al Qaida leaders in the cells around them were ready to preach their firebrand interpretation of Islam and the need to wage jihad, Islamic holy war, against the West. Guantanamo became a school for jihad, complete with a council of elders who issued fatwas, binding religious instructions, to the other detainees.

Got that? Not only is Guantanamo a violation of basic human and moral laws, it actually benefits the terrorists. But pretty much everything Bush has done does that. He's even succeeded in spreading international terrorism to Iraq, where it previously hadn't existed. As I've previously written:

(T)he collective wisdom of the more than 100 bipartisan foreign-policy experts consulted by Foreign Policy and the Center for American Progress to form The Terrorism Index led to this summary:
The world these experts see today is one that continues to grow more threatening. Fully 91 percent say the world is becoming more dangerous for Americans and the United States, up 10 percentage points since February. Eighty-four percent do not believe the United States is winning the war on terror, an increase of 9 percentage points from six months ago. More than 80 percent expect a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 within a decade, a result that is more or less unchanged from one year ago.

But, of course, if the Bush Administration actually gave a damn about national security, and catching the terrorists who attacked us, they'd have done something about it. Instead, their incompetence allowed Osama bin Laden to get away, when he could have been caught or killed, at the battle of Tora Bora. They disastrously shifted their focus from those who had attacked us to those who never had, and because of that, the Taliban are growing stronger both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while Al Qaeda has also regrouped and grown stronger in both countries. In fact, both countries are having to negotiate with the Taliban, and bin Laden, himself, is even now well-positioned to launch another attack. If this war actually was about justice and security, rather than profits, it would be correctly seen as the signature failure of the singularly disastrous administration. Bush is destroying the Constitution and violating international law, not to mention the basic laws of humanity and morality, but he has not made America safer, and he has not caught the people who committed the worst ever act of terrorism on American soil. It would be surreal, were it not so damnable.

In Afghanistan, the Bush Administration has been surging backward. The Taliban now control half the country. Some say the war in Afghanistan is lost. In October, the Marine Corps asked to move its troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, but in December, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said no; but he has, of late, been blaming our NATO allies for the problems in Afghanistan! And it just keeps getting worse.

How much worse? In January, Taliban militants attacked Kabul's main hotel, penetrating the Afghan version of the Green Zone. The NATO alliance in Afghanistan was collapsing. It seemed every day provided more proof that Afghanistan's "government" is no one's dream of freedom and democracy. By March, it once again was clear that the Afghan "government" isn't really a government, at all. The Bush Administration responded by doing what it always does. Blame others. Like our NATO allies. For its own failures. By mid-April, there was no longer any doubt: Pashtunistan is rising, and the western invention of Afghanistan is lost. As The Guardian reported, a couple weeks back, the nation is unraveling. At the end of a long, depressing article, there were these blunt facts:

12 per cent Level of female literacy (male literacy is 32 per cent)

33 per cent The number of Afghans who do not have enough to eat

8,000 Afghans killed in 2007 war

40 per cent The estimated unemployment rate

90 per cent The amount of the world's heroin produced in Afghanistan

40,000 The estimated total of amputees in Afghanistan from its continuing wars

And this month has seen a new wave of violence. It's now so bad that even oblivious Western "leaders" are beginning to doubt that the puppet Afghan "government" will ever succeed! Of course, the rest of us gave up on that fantasy months, if not years, ago. The only Bush Administration success in Afghanistan can be seen in the recent lament by the highest ranking U.S. Marine stationed over there, that the American public has lost interest. Which pretty well summarizes what the Administration and the corporate media have accomplished. Not in anything positive, in reaction to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but positive in having distracted the American people from the complete and disastrous failure to accomplish anything positive. And it keeps getting worse and worse.

The BBC, June 14:

Afghan security forces are searching for hundreds of prisoners who escaped a jail in Kandahar, Afghanistan, after Taleban fighters blew up the main gate.

An official in the southern city told the BBC about 350 Taleban militants had got away and 15 guards were killed in the truck bomb and rocket attack.

More than 1,000 people are thought to have escaped, Kandahar provincial council head Wali Karzai said.

And just to make the news even more exciting:

A number of high-ranking Taleban field commanders are believed to be among those who escaped.

The New York Times, June 17:

The attack was little reported at the time. A suicide bombing on March 3 killed two NATO soldiers and two Afghan civilians and wounded 19 others in an American military base.

It was only weeks later, when Taliban militants put out a propaganda DVD, that the implications of the attack became clear. The DVD shows an enormous explosion, with shock waves rippling out far beyond the base. As a thick cloud of dust rises, the face of Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, a Taliban commander who presents one of the biggest threats to NATO and United States forces, appears. He taunts his opponents and derides rumors of his demise.

“Now as you see I am still alive,” he says.

The deadly attack demonstrates the persistence of the Afghan insurgency and the way former mujahedeen leaders, like Maulavi Haqqani, combine tactics and forces with Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups.

As a renewed sense of crisis grips the war here, fueled by reports on Monday that Taliban had overrun districts in southern Afghanistan after a huge jailbreak last week, these new networks have given the insurgents a broader pool of recruits and added power and sophistication to their attacks, American military officials say.

The Guardian, the same day:

More than 4,000 people have fled villages near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan after Taliban forces destroyed bridges and laid mines in a major show of force.

In anticipation of a Taliban attack, the Afghan army today flew four planeloads of soldiers to Kandahar from the capital, Kabul. Canadian forces have also moved in to the region.

Taliban operations on the outskirts of Kandahar marked the latest display of strength by the militants despite a record number of US and Nato troops in the country.

The Taliban push into Arghandab district - 10 miles north-west of Kandahar – came three days after a coordinated Taliban attack on Kandahar's prison that freed 400 insurgent fighters. The lush region filled with grape and pomegranate groves was never conquered when Soviet forces occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Thousands have fled the area, said Sardar Muhammad, a police officer manning a checkpoint on the east side of the Arghandab river. Police stopped and searched every person passing on the road. On the west side of the river, hundreds of Taliban controlled around nine or 10 villages, Muhammad said.

This supposedly was where the whole national security issue came from. September 11. Terrorism. Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Afghanistan. Not Iraq- Afghanistan! Where Bush has been nothing but a disaster. Where McCain has stood by and supported him. But getting back to that Guantanamo crime against humanity that has turned into a terrorist breeding ground, Jennifer Daskal and Stacy Sullivan recently wrote in Salon:

More than half of the 270 detainees currently at Guantánamo -- including many who are slated for release or transfer -- are housed in high-security facilities akin to U.S. "supermax" prisons. They spend all but two hours a day in small cells with no natural light or fresh air. Their meals are slipped through a slot in the door, and they are given little more than a single book and the Koran to occupy their time. Even their limited "recreation" time -- which is sometimes provided in the middle of the night -- generally takes place in single cell cages so that detainees can't physically interact with one another. None of these detainees have been allowed visits by family members, and very few have been able to make phone calls home.

As a result, many detainee lawyers say, their clients are suffering from serious and even dangerous mental health problems. Several have tried to commit suicide, some of them multiple times. Others have reported having visions and hearing voices. Some show strong signs of depression and anxiety disorder.

The Department of Defense does not allow any outsiders, including journalists and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, to speak with the detainees at Guantánamo, so it is difficult to get a full picture of the prison conditions and the toll they may be taking on detainee mental health. In addition, the DOD has generally prohibited attorneys from bringing in outside psychiatrists to evaluate the mental health of their clients, forcing attorneys to rely on "proxy" evaluations based on questionnaires the lawyers administer to their clients.

However, in a new report based on interviews with government officials and attorneys for detainees, as well as declassified notes attorneys took in meetings with detainees, Human Rights Watch has pieced together a physical description of the various "camps" at Guantánamo and the inhumane conditions that prevail within them. Titled "Locked Up Alone: Detention Conditions and Mental Health at Guantánamo," the report also documents the increasingly frequent complaints of mental health deterioration among the more than one dozen detainees profiled in case studies.

As Daskal and Sullivan conclude:

Continuing to house detainees in single-cell units 22 hours a day with virtually nothing to do all day long and no access to natural light or fresh air is not just cruel but may also be counterproductive. None of the detainees at Guantánamo has yet been convicted of a crime, and many are ultimately likely to be released. Warehousing them in such conditions may have a long-term damaging psychological impact. It could further compound legal problems with attempting to repatriate or bring detainees to justice. (Efforts to put some detainees on trial, as we've covered in Salon over the last several weeks, are buckling under the U.S. government's policies at Guantánamo.) And the ongoing treatment of these detainees over the long term is very likely to breed hatred and resentment of the United States.

Yeah. Perhaps.

You want to know how we can best protect our national security? End Republican rule of the White House. We simply can't afford four more years of the same failed ideology and strategy. Protect America. Vote Obama.

Turkana :: 12:08 PM :: Comments (8) :: Spotlight :: Digg It!