A Life Sentence At Gitmo

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by Conor Friedersdorf

Glenn Greenwald reviews the case:

A 48-year-old Afghan citizen and Guantanamo detainee, Awal Gul, died on Tuesday of an apparent heart attack.  Gul, a father of 18 children, had been kept in a cage by the U.S. for more than 9 years -- since late 2001 when he was abducted in Afghanistan -- without ever having been charged with a crime.  While the U.S. claims he was a Taliban commander, Gul has long insisted that he quit the Taliban a year before the 9/11 attack because, as his lawyer put it, "he was disgusted by the Taliban's growing penchant for corruption and abuse."  His death means those conflicting claims will never be resolved; said his lawyer: "it is shame that the government will finally fly him home not in handcuffs and a hood, but in a casket."  This episode illustrates that the U.S. Government's detention policy -- still -- amounts to imposing life sentences on people without bothering to prove they did anything wrong.    

This episode also demonstrates the absurdity of those who claim that President Obama has been oh-so-eagerly trying to close Guantanamo only to be thwarted by a recalcitrant Congress.  The Obama administration has sought to "close" the camp only in the most meaningless sense of that word:  by moving its defining injustice -- indefinite, due-process-free detention -- a few thousand miles north onto U.S. soil.  But the crux of the Guantanamo travesty -- indefinite detention -- is something the Obama administration has long planned to preserve, and that has nothing to do with what Congress has or has not done.  Indeed, Gul was one of the 50 detainees designated by Obama for that repressive measure.  Thus, had Gul survived, the Obama administration would have sought to keep him imprisoned indefinitely without any pretense of charging him with a crime -- neither in a military commission nor a real court.  Instead, they would have simply continued the Bush/Cheney policy of imprisoning him indefinitely without any charges.

America is going to look back on this period with shame.

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