Moral Low Ground


Wikileaks “Revelation” of Innocent Guantanamo Detainees is No News to Those in the Know

Today’s revelation that 150 innocent men were imprisoned in the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba may come as a surprise to some. But to those who have been keeping a close eye on the prison since it opened, this “news” is anything but.

British journalist and author Andy Worthington, possibly the world’s foremost authority on all things Guantanamo, said the classified American documents leaked to the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks (allegedly by jailed US soldier Bradley Manning) “confirm what people who’ve studied Guantanamo for years have always maintained.” In an interview with Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman, Worthington pointed out that some of the information in the leaked files “has come out in Pentagon documents that have been released over the years officially,” chiefly that “there have only been a very small number of genuine terrorism suspects at Guantanamo and the rest have included large numbers of innocent people.”

Many of you believed former President George W. Bush when he declared with typical cocksure certainty that every last GITMO detainee was a hardcore terrorist; the “worst of the worst.” Many even believed Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Richard Myers when he asserted that Guantanamo detainees were so hardcore that they would “chew through a hydraulics cable to bring a C-17 [transport plane] down.”

Even before the current leak of classified US documents proving innocent men, who ranged in age from a 14-year-old kidnapping victim to an 89-year-old with dementia, were locked up for years at Guantanamo, American officials of all ranks were trying their best to draw attention to this grave injustice.

Erik Saar, a US Army translator at Guantanamo, says that “at best… a few dozen” of the hundreds of GITMO detainees were real terrorists.

Brandon Neely, a former military policeman at Guantanamo, described his experiences serving as a guard at the concentration camp:

“When I initially learned of my deployment to Guantanamo and the purpose we were going for, I was ready to go and face the world’s most dangerous men; these terrorists who had plotted and killed thousands of my people on [9/11]. I was ready to seek my own personal revenge on these people in whatever manner I could. Then came the day when these ‘world’s most dangerous men’ arrived. Most of them were small, underweight, very scared and injured. I was expecting these people to come off that bus looking like vicious monsters.”

The first prisoner Neely saw had one leg. They called him “Stumpy.” One sad specimen after another exited the arrival bus. “Those were the worst people the world had to offer?” Neely asked himself. “Not what I expected!”

The Pentagon’s own documents prove that 55% of Guantanamo prisoners did nothing to harm the United States. Only 8% were suspected terrorists. Nine out of ten were sold to US troops in order to collect bounty payments as high as $5,000 per head, a staggering sum in a country where the average Afghan earned around $800 a year.

Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, who was former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, says many GITMO detainees “clearly had no connection to al-Qaeda and the Taliban and were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pakistanis turned many over for $5,000 a head.” The colonel says innocent men have been imprisoned in Guantanamo for many years.

Wilkerson, a 31-year Army veteran, claims President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld conspired to cover up the detention of innocent men at Guantanamo in order to protect their plans to invade Iraq. “[Cheney] had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were innocent,” said the colonel, “If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.”

Another reason, decidedly less sinister, for holding innocent men for extended periods was the hope that they would provide a “mosaic” of intelligence on real bad guys. These detainees were pawns in a sick game of connect the dots. Only problem is, these “dots” had wives and kids back home; many of them were innocent men whose lives would be forever changed by their treatment at Guantanamo. Some would indeed become real terrorists once they were released. And can you blame them? What would you do if a foreign country wrongfully imprisoned and tortured you for years on end, even while knowing you were innocent?

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