Readers may understandably be concerned by my continued dissent on the new
war counter-terrorism operation in Iraq and Syria – which has no chance to roll back a Sunni insurgency that will endure as long as Iraq is still kept as a unitary “state”, huge chances that blowback will bring terror to the US again, and has only token Sunni support in a region where the Shi’a-Sunni war may well continue for years or decades. But I have long argued that we should look at Obama’s long game in assessing results. And with two years to go, the long game can begin to be assessed.
The results in foreign policy? A new open-ended years’ long war in Iraq and an indefinite continuation of thousands of troops in Afghanistan. These were not wars, it turns out. They were operations in which the United States became permanently responsible as a neo-imperial power for two more failed states. More to the point, as ISIS has managed to become the new al Qaeda, Americans have returned to their 2002 mindset, with a new Congress looking as if it will be dominated by Republicans, who are all-too-eager for ever more wars against ever more non-threats to the United States. The last two years of Bush were more hopeful for some kind of unwinding of this war machine. But now a liberal Democrat has given them bipartisan legitimacy – and fueled the fires for a Cheneyite comeback.
Gitmo, of course, remains open. More to the point, even as war criminals have been given total immunity, the Senate Intelligence Committee report remains bottled up, as the CIA is allowed to doctor, redact and openly challenge it, while the president sits back and lets Denis McDonough protect the war criminals we once had some aspiration to at least expose. James Clapper has been revealed as a liar to the Congress and suffers no consequences; he admits he failed to anticipate ISIS’s breakout, and the president retains full confidence in him. John Brennan runs an agency which actually spied on its Congressional over-seers, lies about it in public – and retains the president’s full confidence. And now we discover that a real current issue of mistreatment of detainees in Gitmo is being covered up:
The Obama administration has asked a federal judge to hold a highly anticipated court hearing on its painful force-feedings of Guantánamo Bay detainees almost entirely in secret, prompting suspicions of a cover-up.
Justice Department attorneys argued to district judge Gladys Kessler that allowing the hearings to be open to the public would jeopardize national security through the disclosure of classified information. Should Kessler agree, the first major legal battle over forced feeding in a federal court would be less transparent than the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay.
That’s precisely what we supported Obama for, isn’t it? That allegations of abuse of detainees in Guantanamo Bay be kept completely secret – and that no one will ever be held accountable for it. The actual videotapes of the force-feeding – critical evidence to allow anyone to judge whether these methods are indeed a form of torture – are barred from any public viewing.
The videos exist – just as they did of the brutal water-boarding of terror suspects conducted by a lawless CIA that then destroyed the tapes – again with total impunity. The lawyer for the detainee alleging inhuman treatment has the following to say:
“It’s obvious what is really going on here: the government wants to seal the force-feeding trial for the same reason it is desperate to suppress the tapes of my client being hauled from his cell by the riot squad and force-fed. The truth is just too embarrassing … The Defense Department says force-feeding isn’t torture? Bring it on, I say. Release my client’s force-feeding tapes, and let’s let the American people decide for themselves. DOD [the Defense Department] know full well that if Americans saw the real evidence they would side with the Navy nurse who refused to force-feed my client, and condemn this daily violation of medical ethics.”
But this president won’t allow it. The administration has even ordered a media ban on any reports of hunger-strikes – understandably conducted by prisoners with no recourse ever for a fair trial, release, or anything but a lifetime in legal and political limbo. If this were happening under Bush, it might be prompting an outcry:
The government’s desire for secrecy in the hearings is consistent with the military’s attempts to break the hunger strikes through a media blackout. Guantánamo officials no longer release formerly public information about how many of the 149 detainees are on hunger strike, going so far as to ban the term from its lexicon in favor of “long-term non-religious fasting.”
“Long-term non-religious fasting.” Orwell would be proud. Obama should be ashamed.