'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Life and Times of Binyam Mohammed (Part 1) 

The consequences of the so-called "war on terror" as personified in the gruesome experience of Binyam Mohammed:

Mohammed arrived in Britain in 1994. He lived in Wornington Road, North Kensington, and studied at Paddington Green College. For most of this time, said his brother, he rarely went to a mosque. However, in early 2001 he became more religious.

The Observer has obtained fresh details of his case which was first publicised last summer. He went to Pakistan in June 2001 because, he says, he had a drug problem and wanted to kick the habit. He was arrested on 10 April at the airport on his way back to England because of an alleged passport irregularity. Initially interrogated by Pakistani and British officials, he told Stafford Smith: 'The British checked out my story and said they knew I was a nobody. They said they would tell the Americans.'

He was questioned by the FBI and began to hear accusations of terror involvement. He says he also met two MI6 officers. One told him he would be tortured in an Arab country.

The interrogations intensified and he says he was taken to Islamabad; then, in July 2002, on a CIA flight to Morocco. His description of the process matches independent reports. Masked officers wore black. They stripped him, subjected him to a full body search and shackled him to his seat wearing a nappy.

In Morocco he was told he had plotted with Padilla and had dinner in Pakistan with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the planner of 9/11, and other al-Qaeda chiefs. 'I've never met anyone like these people,' Mohammed told Stafford Smith. 'How could I? I speak no Arabic... I never heard Padilla's name until they told me.'

During almost 18 months of regular beatings in Morocco, Mohammed says he frequently met a blonde woman in her thirties who told him she was Canadian. The US intelligence officer told The Observer this was an 'amateurish' CIA cover. 'The only Americans who historically pretended to be Canadian were backpackers travelling in Europe during the Vietnam war. Apart from the moral issues, what disturbs me is that, as an attempt to create plausible deniability, this is so damn transparent.'

According to Mohammed, he was threatened with electrocution and rape. On one occasion, he was handcuffed when three men entered his cell wearing black masks. 'That day I ceased really knowing I was alive. One stood on each of my shoulders and a third punched me in the stomach. It seemed to go on for hours. I was meant to stand, but I was in so much pain I'd fall to my knees. They'd pull me back up and hit me again. They'd kick me in the thighs as I got up. I could see the hands that were hitting me... like the hands of someone who'd worked as a mechanic or chopped with an axe.'

Later he was confronted with details of his London life - such as the name of his kickboxing teacher - and met a Moroccan calling himself Marwan, who ordered him to be hung by his wrists. 'They hit me in the chest, the stomach, and they knocked my feet from under me. I have a shoulder pain to this day from the wrenching as my arms were almost pulled out of their sockets.'

Another time, he told Stafford Smith: 'They took a scalpel to my right chest. It was only a small cut. Then they cut my left chest. One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute watching. I was in agony, crying, trying desperately to suppress myself, but I was screaming... They must have done this 20 to 30 times in maybe two hours. There was blood all over.'

In September he was taken to Guantanamo Bay where he has been charged with involvement in al-Qaeda plots and faces trial there by military commission. Stafford Smith said: 'I am unaware of any evidence against him other than that extracted under torture.'

As you might have guessed, the physical toll of such abuse is extreme:

During a medical examination at Guantanamo about 10 days ago, a British doctor who'd been sent to assess Mohamed's fitness to travel reportedly found him suffering from bruises, organ damage, stomach complaints, malnutrition, sores on his hands and feet and severe damage to ligaments, as well as emotional and psychological damage.

Mohamed was on a hunger strike from late December until shortly before he was released and was being force-fed through tubes.

One of his lawyers, Clive Stafford Smith, alleged that Mohamed's abuse had continued at Guantanamo Bay until recently.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is still proceeding with plans to expand a detention facility at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, so that so that it can increase the number of people imprisoned there from 700 to 11,000.

Conditions appear to be as bad, and possibly worse, than those experienced by detainees in Guantanamo:

According to the few lawyers representing prisoners there at the request of relatives, many Bagram detainees were turned over to U.S. authorities by former enemies or neighbors who wanted to settle an old score or collect a bounty from the U.S. -- a contention supported by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International; news reports from the Associated Press, The McClatchy Company newspapers, and Time magazine; and even former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf's recent memoir, In the Line of Fire. Yet those imprisoned have no way to prove-or even to claim-their innocence.

Conditions at the detention center are atrocious, according to lawyers, news reports, and organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the London-based group Reprieve. Ruzatullah's habeas petition alleged that Bagram detainees are crowded together in wire-mesh cages without toilets or running water and "are regularly tortured and abused, including being starved, severely beaten, forced into painful, contorted body positions, 'waterboarded,' exposed to extremely cold temperatures, and sexually humiliated." In December 2002, the Pentagon has acknowledged, U.S. soldiers beat two Bagram detainees to death. Although officers allegedly involved in the deaths were prosecuted -- five were convicted, but none received a sentence of more than three months in prison -- the Pentagon vehemently denies accusations of systemic torture or abuse at Bagram.

In one publicized instance, a woman has been held in solitary confinement there for 4 years. No one knows what has become of her. And we aren't likely to find out, as the administration has just argued in court against granting anyone incarcerated there the right of judicial review.

Similarly, the administration also authorized the continuation of renditions. But don't worry, incoming CIA director Leon Panetta is going to make sure that these detainees aren't going to be subjected to torture like Mohammed. Hence, in the new Orwellian world of Obama progressivism, given the prohibition of such practices in his executive order, we can obviously conclude that there's no need to provide them with access to the courts either.

Let's just say the obvious: Obama is smarter than Bush, and doesn't want to undertake travels abroad with his family under a cloud of war crimes charges after leaving the White House, so he's creating a paper trail to create a defense of plausible deniability. After all, you wouldn't want them to be afraid to enjoy themselves in Madrid, Barcelona, Paris or London, would you? A few weeks after he leaves office, the media will then feel free to expose the horrors of what he permitted on his watch.

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