Under ordinary circumstances, accused terrorist Mohammed Qahtani would be pleased that all criminal charges have been dismissed against him, especially since the Pentagon has alleged that he is one of the many “20th hijackers” on 9/11. But these are not ordinary circumstances given that Qahtani is one of the many foreigners mired in the Pentagon’s bizarre “judicial” system at Guantanamo Bay.
Why shouldn’t Qahtani be pleased? Because he might well be in a worse position than he was when the charges against him were pending. A Pentagon official named Susan J. Crawford, who is called a Tribunal Convening Authority for the Guantanamo prisoners, has dismissed the charges against Qahtani “without prejudice.” That phrase means that the Pentagon, if it wishes, can re-file the charges at some indefinite time in the future, which means that, if it wishes, it can continue to hold Qahtani indefinitely while U.S. officials make up their minds on whether to re-file the charges. Since Qahtani cannot file a habeas corpus petition owing to the Military Commissions Act, there is no way for him to challenge his continued detention. He must either continue languishing in jail and hope that Pentagon officials, in an expression of mercy, either charge him and finally give him a trial or release him despite the fact that they claim he conspired to kill thousands of Americans on 9/11.
Why did Crawford dismiss the charges? We don’t know because she didn’t say and the Gitmo “rules” don’t require her to state her reasons. But defense lawyers are saying that that most likely reason is that even U.S. military judges would have had a difficult time basing their verdict on evidence acquired from what U.S. officials did to Qahtani: beatings, sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation, attacks by dogs, threats against family members, and threats to transfer him to foreign countries for the purpose of torture.
Now, isn’t that something? If Qahtani really conspired to commit the 9/11 attacks, he might well be released as a free man owing to the Pentagon’s vengeful mistreatment of him. Might it not have been better to have instead transferred him to the U.S. federal court system, where he could have been prosecuted and convicted in a court of law and then punished? Exactly how are Americans safer as a result of the Pentagon’s torture and sex abuse camp at Gitmo, especially if a man who allegedly conspired to commit the 9/11 attacks is set free because of the Pentagon’s mistreatment of him?
Of course, some neo-cons might respond, “Well, he’s a terrorist. It’s no big deal how he’s mistreated.” Never mind that no one has proven Qahtani’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury. Under the neo-con mindset, we’re supposed to have total and unwavering faith in the judgments and actions of military officials, even when their actions result in the release of people whom they say have committed horrific terrorist acts.
Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post, U.S. officials are injecting dangerous anti-psychotic drugs intoimmigrants who are simply being deported for being here illegally. The principal drug that U.S. officials are using on the immigrants is Haldol, which “gained notoriety in the Soviet Union, where it was often given to political dissidents imprisoned in psychiatric hospitals.” After one Ecuadorian immigrant was injected with the drugs, one U.S. official nattily said to him, “Nighty-night.”
Of course, in a perverse sort of way maybe the Gitmo prisoners and the drugged and deported immigrants should be counting their blessings, at least compared to the many illegal immigrants who have died while in U.S. custody. According to the New York Times, 66 immigrants died while in custody from January 2004 to November 2007. As the Times put it in the case of Boubacar Bah, a 52-year-old tailor from Guinea who overstayed his tourist visa and who died in custody, “He died in a sequestered system where questions about what had happened to him, or even his whereabouts, were met with silence.”
Whenever a government is engaged in grave wrongdoing, it is up to an aroused citizenry to finally put a stop to it. The problem facing our country is that we have frightened citizens with severely diminished consciences who looks upon the state as their savior and depend on it for their sustenance.