Heat by Rob O’Neill

Camp Redemption?

Aww for fuck’s sake! Come on! You have got to be joking? Camp fucking Redemption!

Yes folks, the US is renaming Abu Ghraib following the prisoner abuse scandal. If I start reading that name being used seriously in the press I am going to be physically sick.

But it seems at least half of the prisoners kept there for so long without any access to legal processes were innocents. Rightists, staunch defenders of democracy and individual rights that they are, like to characterise any detainees as terrorists or insurgents, but it is pretty clear many are just taxi drivers or their passengers or other innocent types who get swept up indiscriminately after some incident and then incarcerated for months in understaffed prisons because Donald Rumsfeld still won’t admit he cocked up and didn’t supply enough troops for the occupation.

They are now planning on releasing around 2,300 of these terrorist taxi drivers back onto the streets.

Speaking of incompetence, apparently George Bush was personally appraised of the Red Cross reports raising concerns over prisoner treatment – according to Colin Powell. Further, the man who railed against constraints against swift engagement of potential enemy targets himself turned down three opportunities to kill the man who cut off Nick Berg’s head.

Why? Because to do so might weaken the case for the invasion of Iraq. Another example of where he appears to have put US security interests second to his desire to invade.

The story gets worse in its details. As far back as June 2002, U.S. intelligence reported that Zarqawi had set up a weapons lab at Kirma in northern Iraq that was capable of producing ricin and cyanide. The Pentagon drew up an attack plan involving cruise missiles and smart bombs. The White House turned it down. In October 2002, intelligence reported that Zarqawi was preparing to use his bio-weapons in Europe. The Pentagon drew up another attack plan. The White House again demurred. In January 2003, police in London arrested terrorist suspects connected to the camp. The Pentagon devised another attack plan. Again, the White House killed the plan, not Zarqawi.

I was having a chat with an Egyptian Christian the other day, fascinating chap on several fronts, but he very pointedly described Iraq as greater Iran. He was referring to the fact that rather than hemming in terrorism and fundamentalism (two different things for the benefit of those who like to blur all sorts of lines), it had created a whole new lawless zone. Terrorism heaven and you don’t even have to get martyred.

The US is releasing quite a number of people they once described as “hard-core terrorists” from Guantanamo. And, inevitably, we are hearing stories of what went on inside.

The latest involves the beating of Australian David Hicks. John Howard (Do you remember before 9/11 when no one could name the Australian PM?) has tried to discredit these claims, which didn’t come from Hicks himself but from a fellow detainee. Why hadn’t Hicks raised these complaints earlier, he asks?

Well, he has been held incommunicado, John. His lawyer has been gagged about conversations he has with his client. On the other occasions, Red Cross visits and the like, who can really say what the circumstances were? Guantanamo isn't exactly transparent.

There are rumours the other Australian terrorist, Mamdouh Habib, who was kidnapped in Pakistan, may be released to terrorise the streets of Sydney once more.

His is an interesting case of making the rules up as you go along. The kind of thing that destroys any chance of a fair trial.

Mamdouh Habib's arrest, unlike that of David Hicks, is the story of a man travelling in a country not at war, and without warning being arrested, transferred, and treated as an illegal combatant, despite the fact that he was never any kind of combatant.

After being arrested on a bus heading to Karachi in Pakistan, where he was booked to return to Australia, his two Germen companions were released within weeks, due to strong diplomatic pressure from their government. Habib however, was unlucky, because the Australian authorities left him stranded, and refused to demand a fair trial, access to a lawyer, or to extradite him to Australia. What is worse is that after 14 months in prison, the Australian government has still not demanded these things, and he sits in Guantanamo Bay, his fourth country of incarceration, still without being charged, or convicted.

Because he was arrested in Pakistan, transferred to Egypt, and only ever spent time in Afghanistan as a US prisoner when transferred from Egypt, he has no claim to the Geneva Convention. Likewise, having never fought or carried arms, he cannot possibly be treated as an illegal combatant.

He should have some interesting stories.

Of course while all this Abu Ghraib stuff is going on the US Supreme Court is considering matters of jurisdiction over Guantanamo. I wonder what impact these endless examples of lack of process, mismanagement and lack of accountability will have on its deliberations?

By the way, some email from the site has been blocked by my work's spam filter so apologies to those who think I'm ignoring them. I'm changing the address to point to my hotmail account.

Coming soon: Being Gordon King