This story is about a week old at this point, but it goes in the “things everyone should know” category.
One of the most common talking points from right-wing pundits, especially on Fox News, is that whatever happens to the people in Guantanamo Bay is okay because all those prisoners are really bad guys â€” “the worst of the worst,” as the Bushies like to put it.
Let’s bracket for a moment the depressingly medieval notion that all human rights magically evaporate the moment someone becomes a “bad guy.” In other words, the right not to be tortured or abused isn’t actually a human right at all â€” it’s more of a privilege, that can be suspended as soon as the authorities decide you don’t deserve it anymore.
Even if that notion of a human rights toggle switch were acceptable for our supposedly civilized age, you still have to wonder what kind of cartoon universe the people who want to flip that switch live in â€” where human beings never make mistakes, and nobody innocent is ever falsely accused or falsely imprisoned.
At any rate, this new investigation from McClatchy should make it clear once and for all that human justice is indeed flawed.
Here’s the truth: There are innocent people in Guantanamo. Some of them were falsely accused by enemies, or rounded up in sweeps, or caught up in a case of mistaken identity. Maybe they just ticked off the wrong person on the wrong day. And the result was a ticket to imprisonment, abuse, and torture â€” with no court of appeal.
Akhtiar was among the more than 770 terrorism suspects imprisoned at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They are the men the Bush administration described as “the worst of the worst.”
But Akhtiar was no terrorist. American troops had dragged him out of his Afghanistan home in 2003 and held him in Guantanamo for three years in the belief that he was an insurgent involved in rocket attacks on U.S. forces. The Islamic radicals in Guantanamo’s Camp Four who hissed “infidel” and spat at Akhtiar, however, knew something his captors didn’t: The U.S. government had the wrong guy.
“He was not an enemy of the government, he was a friend of the government,” a senior Afghan intelligence officer told McClatchy. Akhtiar was imprisoned at Guantanamo on the basis of false information that local anti-government insurgents fed to U.S. troops, he said.
An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men â€” and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds â€” whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.
Go read the whole thing. It’s important.
On a related note, it’s interesting that we’re finally starting to see the words “Bush” and “war crimes” used in the same headlines at mainstream media organs.
At ABC News:
At USA Today:
Granted, these are blogs at ABC and USA Today, and they’re careful to attribute the statement to Taguba, and put the words “war crimes” in quotes.
But it still feels like a huge change in emphasis compared to a few years ago.