Announcing: Trip to Mexico!

gitmo-protest
Announcing: Trip to Mexico!

For a long time, I have thought about the injustice of the indefinite detention of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I have wondered what I might be able to do, to at least bring attention to this.
Of course, the goal is to see this prison, this aberration of USA policy, CLOSED! But understanding my limitations, and the perverse attitude of the Republicans in Congress, and unfortunately, even some Democrats, and the President’s reluctance to go ‘all-out’ to fulfill his campaign promise, I am looking to simply do all I can, in my own small way, to work toward this goal.
What this has to do with a trip to Mexico, I will explain. I know they speak as if Cuba has been opened up for Americans, as if all restraints have been lifted. Not so. One goes to Cuba, from the USA, with a mandatory return date listed in the paperwork. We can’t just freely go there to stay as long as we please, and to do whatever we like. We have to fill out on paper, or on online, a form stating what we are doing there. It must be something within a number of government-controlled categories. None of these categories includes conducting protests against the prison and Naval base at GITMO. I know, there have been those who have gone there and done just that, and I applaud these efforts. But they go, and return in a few days. I want to continually protest these things, over a very long time. I want to actually dedicate my remaining life to trying to get these prisoners either freed (most have never been charged with any crime), or, in the few cases where there have been charges leveled at a prisoner, to get them a fair trial, a definite verdict and sentencing.
I feel this is very important. This indefinite detention policy, holding prisoners without charge, and doing it after they admit to having tortured these people, most of whom, I am convinced, are innocent; this represents a major shift in American policy. Our government is acting illegally, according to all international law. It sets a precedent that may be repeated elsewhere, especially since the USA sets itself up as a beacon for human rights worldwide. I mean, if we demonstrate that torture and indefinite detention are suitable treatment for people against whom the government cannot even find enough evidence to build a case, then what limits are there left in the world? If this is judged to be acceptable, then what would be unacceptable? We have justified the cruel prison camps of the Vietnamese during the war, the gulags of Stalin, the concentration camps of the Nazis; we cannot claim to be one bit better than any of these.
So, here I go. I’m leaving in mid-October, to move to central Mexico, to establish a personal base, from which to conduct trips to and from Cuba, where I will set up a one-man protest against the GITMO prison AND against the unjust presence of the Naval base there (it should be vacated and returned to the Cuban people). I said “one-man”, but all would be welcome. Also, I will bring attention to the fact that Congress has resisted until now, the lifting of the trade blockade against the Cuban people. This embargo must be lifted immediately. It is the height of hypocrisy to pretend to be warming to Cuba, in our international relationship, and still holding this blockade over them, costing a poor nation more than they can afford, millions of dollars.
From my rented home in Mexico, I believe (I speak hopefully) I’ll be able to travel back and forth to Cuba easily and inexpensively, being unimpeded, and be able to perform my non-violent campaign of protests. My plan is simple. I will post myself, with signs announcing my purpose, nearby the American embassy in Havana. I will wear an orange prison jumpsuit, similar to the uniform of the detainees, and will pray and meditate, a living physical witness to those in the U.S. embassy. Also, I will explore the possibility of protesting at the perimeter of the Naval base. I don’t know if this is possible, or if it would be effective, but it’s a possibility, I guess. I may protest nearby the arriving Cruise ships of American tourists, reminding them, as they disembark, of the injustice taking place on this island, even as they take their vacation there, an injustice perpetuated by their tax dollars.
Maybe in the future I’ll be able to actually live in Cuba, which would make things easier. But, in the beginning, I think it’s better to have a home to go to that is not mainland USA, and not an address in Cuba. I will try to keep my address in Mexico a secret.
I would like to communicate with my friends, and all interested, by email, and on Facebook. So if you want, please send me your email address, or ‘friend’ me on Facebook, and I will make little reports, only emailing once a week (not daily). My email address is ashez.thomas@aol.com
I have very limited finances, and I have a large dog, so I have decided to drive to my new home in Mexico in my old car. I will be taking photographs, and writing, to document the trip. We can go on this adventure together. So please do get in touch with me.
To my brothers and sisters who believe in it, I solicit your prayers. To my atheist brothers and sisters, please “hold me in the light’ or think positively, send positive energy in my direction, if you will. I am a liberal Christian Universalist, which means I count all good people of all faiths as my brothers and sisters, as well as atheists. And let me immediately add that I’m not a good Christian at all. I have my weaknesses and flaws. It’s just what I am, though. But I never try to change anyone. I never preach, unless it’s to horrible hypocrite Congressmen and women who need to quit working for the 1%, and do something to help their constituents. Their religion is between them and God.

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The Dangers of GITMO prison camp

Danger GITMO
As someone who is passionate about the need to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Naval Base, (which must be done as a first step in RETURNING this bay to it’s rightful owners, the Cuban people), I am just sickened to see this mess in Congress, as Mitch McConnell gloats over the fact that they have included a prohibition on the transfer of inmates from there to the USA, or to anywhere at all, even to foreign countries, included this into the Defense Authorization Bill. He boasts that it is veto-proof, since they have enough votes to over-ride.
The following is from The Guardian:http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/nov/10/senate-defense-budget-bill-bans-transfer-guantanamo-bay-prisoners-to-us
Barack Obama’s efforts to fulfil his promise of closing the Guantánamo Bay detention centre before he leaves office were dealt a significant blow on Tuesday as the Senate passed legislation preventing the administration from relocating prisoners to the United States.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has the primary purpose of setting the US Defense Department budget, passed the Senate by an overwhelming majority of 91-3 in a faster-than-usual passage through Congress, designed in part to frustrate White House plans to announce a new Guantánamo closure strategy.Barack Obama’s efforts to fulfil his promise of closing the Guantánamo Bay detention centre before he leaves office were dealt a significant blow on Tuesday as the Senate passed legislation preventing the administration from relocating prisoners to the United States.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has the primary purpose of setting the US Defense Department budget, passed the Senate by an overwhelming majority of 91-3 in a faster-than-usual passage through Congress, designed in part to frustrate White House plans to announce a new Guantánamo closure strategy.
END QUOTE
The evil bastards of the Congress that have thrown up this roadblock, at exactly the same time that the President finally was giving them his plan to close down Guantanamo, what is their reasoning? Do they believe that our maximum-security prisons stateside are incapable of holding these inmates? They’re up in arms, saying that their citizens will be endangered in such a case.
This from RT News:
On Thursday, the $607 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sailed through with 370-58 vote.
The White House criticized the decision, saying it did not make “fiscal or national security sense” to continue operating the prison, located in Cuba, which costs $400 million a year to run. Barack Obama promised to close the detention center in his election campaign before winning his first term in 2008. Since then, he has repeatedly stated that it serves as a recruitment tool for Islamist extremists, and a stain on America’s legal reputation.

Fifty-three of its inmates have been cleared of any charges, while the others face legal cases that have stalled, regardless of their degree of guilt.

On Thursday, 28 retired officers sent an open letter to Obama, encouraging him to persist with his efforts to close down Guantanamo.
“Our [mainland] prisons house hundreds of convicted terrorists. None has ever escaped,” the letter reads.

END QUOTE
This from The Guardian:
One of the places reportedly being considered to house the inmates is Colorado, which Republican senator Cory Gardner is not too happy about. His objection is not the clear unconstitutional nature of holding prisoners indefinitely without charges, but the absurd notion that it is somehow dangerous to bring alleged terrorists into prisons in the United States, where dozens of convicted terrorists have resided for decades without incident.
As he told the Guardian last week: “I will not sit idly by while the president uses political promises to imperil the people of Colorado by moving enemy combatants from Cuba, Guantánamo Bay, to my state of Colorado.”

Republicans apparently still cling to the wholly imagined, cartoonish version of Guantánamo detainees. They believe that, if they’re held in a supermax prison inside the United States, they will somehow gain X-Men-level superhuman powers on a par with Magneto and will be able to escape facilities that no one has ever escaped from before and wreak havoc on local communities. (Civilian trials for alleged terrorists, which are far more effective than the badly broken military commission system at getting convictions, are also opposed by Republicans for the same reason.)

Ben Carson – somehow still the Republican frontrunner – has a section of his website under “Ben on the issues” called “Keep Guantánamo open” where he explains that “[w]e must keep our detention facility at Gitmo open”, which could just as easily have said: “We must keep the world’s most effective recruiting tools for Isis and al-Qaida open.” (Even former president George W Bush, of all people, has said Gitmo remains “a propaganda tool for our enemies and a distraction for our allies”.) Article by Trevor Timm http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/12/obama-close-guantanamo-without-congress
First, let’s get some interesting facts before you, reader, about these inmates at this “Terrorist prison”.
A report by Seton Hall University shows that the United States only captured 5 percent of its Guantánamo prisoners. They were not “enemy combatants”: Pakistan and the Northern Alliance sold 86 percent of the men to the United States for a bounty, sometimes of up to $5,000. Of the current prisoners, only three were captured by the United States.
THE REPORT
Among the data revealed by this Report:
1. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the detainees are not determined to have committed any
hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.
2. Only 8% of the detainees were characteri
zed as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining
detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with
al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive
affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.
3. The Government has detained numerous pe
rsons based on mere affiliations with a
large number of groups that in fact, are not on
the Department of Homeland Security terrorist
watchlist. Moreover, the nexus between such a detainee and such organizations varies considerably.
Eight percent are detained because they are deemed
“fighters for;” 30% considered “members of;” a
large majority – 60% — are detained merely because they are “associated with” a group or groups the
Government asserts are terrorist organizations. For
2% of the prisoners their nexus to any terrorist
group is unidentified.
4. Only 5% of the detainees were captu
red by United States forces. 86% of the
detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the
Northern Alliance and turned over to United States
custody.
This 86% of the detainees captured by Pakistan or
the Northern Alliance were handed over to the
United States at a time in which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected
enemies.
5. Finally, the population of persons deemed not to be enemy combatants – mostly
Uighers – are in fact accused of more serious allegations than a great many persons still deemed to
be enemy combatants.
___________________________
ASHEZ: So if you’re the average American, you must be shocked to realize this. All of the expense, all the torture, the renditions, for all of this time, thirteen years this monstrous prison has been demonstrating to the world how the USA became a traitor to our long-held high ideas about human rights. Rights we have preached to the world about as if from some high, lofty moral ground. Preached to Cuba, as we used their human-rights record to justify our crippling embargo against them, against those from whom the USA illegally hold this territory, this Guantanamo Naval Base. And it has all been for what? To keep hundreds of people, most of whom are probably innocent, locked up? After reading the book made of the diary of Mohammad Ould Slahi, a GITMO inmate, I am personally convinced of his innocence. Actually, he seems like a more upright fellow that most people I know. [Guantanamo Diary]
Shaker Aamer, the British Gitmo detainee, who was recently released, was proved to be almost certainly innocent.
This from The Guardian:
Aamer says he signed a false confession after being tortured. He alleges that while at Bagram he was kept awake for over a week, chained in excruciating positions for hours, deprived of sleep and food, and doused in freezing water in the middle of winter.
Shaker Aamer, UK’s last detainee in Guantánamo Bay, to be freed.
He was first reported to have been cleared for release in 2007, along with three other Britons, after the US authorities admitted they did not have a case against him. Aamer says he signed a false confession after being tortured. He alleges that while at Bagram he was kept awake for over a week, chained in excruciating positions for hours, deprived of sleep and food, and doused in freezing water in the middle of winter.
He was first reported to have been cleared for release in 2007, along with three other Britons, after the US authorities admitted they did not have a case against him.
End quote.
Okay, so since it surely CAN NOT BE that grown men, Congressmen, actually believe that these prisoners are too dangerous to be held in USA prisons, what is going on here, really? And let me illustrate that these are mostly Republicans, who pride themselves in trying to hold down government spending. This prison is costing a lot to run; 2.3 million per inmate per year, times 112, would be $257,000,000. And higher figures have been used for this by others.
These Republicans understand that it was their President who opened this prison camp. Now, if these prisoners are moved anywhere, it becomes more likely that the truth of their unjust incarceration will be uncovered. We can pretend, now, that GITMO is a rights-free zone, but once stateside, it must be admitted that these inmates have some human rights. Their individual stories will eventually be told.
Think how utterly STUPID this entire escapade will appear, when the truth comes out. In the Republicans’ view, much better to keep them ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’. So there you have the mystery of why the Congress is opposing this closing, instead of trying to facilitate the President’s righteous wish to close the torture gulag in Cuba.
Here are the words of the President of the United States, whom the Congress so gleefully and spitefully are opposing.
“History will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future – 10 years from now, or 20 years from now – when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country … Is that who we are? Is that something that our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children? – ‘Future of fight against terrorism’ speech, 23 May 2013
“And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantánamo Bay – because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world.” – State of the union address, 28 January 2014
________________________________________
Some more enlightening words:
In thousands of pages of documents dating from 2002 to 2008 and never seen before by members of the public or the media, the cases of the majority of the prisoners held at Guantánamo — 765 out of 779 in total — are described in detail in memoranda from JTF-GTMO, the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo Bay, to US Southern Command in Miami, Florida.
These memoranda, known as Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs), contain JTF-GTMO’s recommendations about whether the prisoners in question should continue to be held, or should be released (transferred to their home governments, or to other governments). They consist of a wealth of important and previously undisclosed information, including health assessments, for example, and, in the cases of the majority of the 172 prisoners who are still held, photos (mostly for the first time ever).
They also include information on the first 201 prisoners released from the prison, between 2002 and 2004, which, unlike information on the rest of the prisoners (summaries of evidence and tribunal transcripts, released as the result of a lawsuit filed by media groups in 2006), has never been made public before. Most of these documents reveal accounts of incompetence familiar to those who have studied Guantánamo closely, with innocent men detained by mistake (or because the US was offering substantial bounties to its allies for al-Qaeda or Taliban suspects), and numerous insignificant Taliban conscripts from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
what the Guantánamo Files reveal, primarily, is that only a few dozen prisoners are genuinely accused of involvement in terrorism.
The rest, these documents reveal on close inspection, were either innocent men and boys, seized by mistake, or Taliban foot soldiers, unconnected to terrorism. Moreover, many of these prisoners were actually sold to US forces, who were offering bounty payments for al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects, by their Afghan and Pakistani allies — a policy that led ex-President Musharraf to state, in his 2006 memoir, In the Line of Fire, that, in return for handing over 369 terror suspects to the US, the Pakistani government “earned bounty payments totalling millions of dollars.”