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Is Closing Guantanamo Just a Bait and Switch?

torture-abu.thumbnail.jpgNot something I like reading:

Clive Stafford Smith, head of a legal charity called Reprieve, called President Obama’s strategy "the Bagram bait and switch," where the administration was trumpeting the closure of a camp housing 242 prisoners, while scaling up the Bagram base to house 1,100 more.

"Guantanamo Bay was a diversionary tactic in the ‘War on Terror’," said the lawyer. "Totting up the prisoners around the world — held by the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti, the prison ships and Diego Garcia, or held by U.S. proxies in Jordan, Egypt and Morocco — the numbers dwarf Guantanamo. There are still perhaps as many as 18,000 people in legal black holes. Mr. Obama should perhaps be offered more than a month to get the American house in order. However, this early sally from the administration underlines another message: it is far too early for human rights advocates to stand on the USS Abraham Lincoln and announce, ‘Mission Accomplished.’"

Well, isn’t that something special.  And yes, it appears to be a hellhole:

Apart from staff at the International Red Cross, human rights groups and journalists have been barred from Bagram, where former prisoners say they were tortured by being shackled to the ceiling of isolation cells and deprived of sleep…

 …the Red Cross issued a formal complaint to the U.S. government in 2007 about harsh treatment of some prisoners held in isolation for months.

In general my feeling is that escalating in Afghanistan is a mistake for the Obama administration.  Bagram may well be their Guantanamo, and Afghanistan overall will be their… Afghanistan, actually.  I don’t think it’s going to even turn out as well as Iraq did, so to speak.

I often wonder if Putin laughs himself sick every evening watching the US do to itself in Afghanistan what the USSR did back in the 80s.  I certainly would if I were him.  Then I’d help the US, because when your enemy is destroying himself you help him along (and the US has repeatedly declared itself inimical to Russia, with its support of Georgia and its insistence on slapping missile defense down on Russia’s borders).

Afghanistan is going to be Obama’s bleeding ulcer.

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Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh was the Managing Editor of FireDogLake and the Agonist. His work has also appeared at Huffington Post, Alternet, and Truthout, as well as the now defunct Blogging of the President (BOPNews). In Canada his work has appeared in and BlogsCanada. He is also a social media strategy consultant and currently lives in Toronto.

His homeblog is at