The U.S. terrorist prison at Guantanamo continues to be the central character in an absurd play.
Discerning U.S. policy is made no easier by news released today from a variety of sources. President George Bush, in a news conference this afternoon acknowledged that controversies at the prison had damaged U.S. reputation abroad and should be shut down.
Also today, The Guardian reported that journalists were expelled from Gitmo after an article in The Charlotte Observer reported on military conversations the brass would have just as soon not seen in print.
As if that were not enough, this afternoon Salon ran an extensive article: “Interviews with high-ranking military officials shed new light on the role Rumsfeld played in the harsh treatment of a Guantánamo detainee.”
Bush Admits Problems
Reuters reported that the president admitted that Gitmo makes it difficult for the U.S. to claim the high ground on human rights issues. He said, "No question, Guantanamo sends, you know, a signal to some of our friends — provides an excuse, for example, to say, 'The United States is not upholding the values that they're trying encourage other countries to adhere to’.” But he also said that there was no plan for relocating prisoners. Some are considered dangerous and need be dealt with by the courts, and there’s a fear that if others are sent back to their countries, they could be arrested and tortured.
There was no information about the obvious implication that many detainees are not dangerous although they’ve been held for years without charge.
Another problem Bush cited is an upcoming Supreme Court ruling about the proper forum for hearing these cases. The Court is expected to rule within the next few weeks on whether prisoners charged of war crimes can be tried before special military tribunals. Of the 460 prisoners still held there, 10 are scheduled to be tried before these tribunals. “According to the Pentagon, 287 detainees have left Guantanamo. That includes 192 who have been released and 95 who were transferred to the custody of other governments,” Reuters reported.