Shaker Aamer and America’s Torture Culture

Shaker Aamer, a British citizen who has been held in Guantanamo Bay for 14 years without trial or charge has finally been released to the UK; but it’s 14 years too late.

If you are unsure of the circumstances surrounding Aamer then here are the facts: In 2001 Aamer was seized in Afghanistan by bounty hunters and handed over to US forces, two months later he was rendered to Guantanamo Bay. Aamer, who had been a legal British resident before his imprisonment was held in Guantanamo for 14 years despite repeated demands for his release from the UK government. Today without ever being charged, tried or convicted of anything Aamer has finally been released.

According to documents in the Guantanamo file leak it was believed that Aamer had led a unit of fighters in Afghanistan; this was the reason he was arrested, however, his lawyer stated that the evidence against him would never stand up in court. Aamer was cleared for release in 2007 when the Bush administration actually acknowledged it had no evidence against him. Eight years since the US cleared his release and 14 years after he was first arrested Aamer has finally been allowed to leave Guantanamo. It is widely believed that the US refused to release Aamer because it was feared that he would expose illegal torture inside the Guantanamo prison, torture that is operated by US military forces throughout the world.

Whilst held in prison, Aamer has been described as Guantanamo’s unofficial spokesman for detainees. He has spoken up for the welfare of prisoners, organised hunger strikes [he organised and participated in a hunger strike in 2005 in which he lost half of his body weight] and demanded the prisoners be treated according to the Geneva Convention. Whilst in Guantanamo a motion by Aamer’s lawyers stated that he was held in solitary confinement for 360 days, tortured by beatings, exposed to temperature extremes and deprived of sleep.

A 2010 award winning article by law professor Scott Horton explained that Aamer, in 2006 had been brought to a US secret interrogation black site known as “Camp No”. At Camp No, Aamer stated that he was “trapped to a chair, fully restrained at the head, arms and legs. When military personnel pressed on pressure points all over his body: his temples, just under his jawline, in the hollow beneath his ears. They bent his nose repeatedly, pinched his thighs and feet. They inflicted pain to his eyes, bent his fingers until he screamed and then they cut off his airway and put a mask over him, so he could not cry out.” In a letter to The Independant, Aamer referring to Guantanamo and Camp No said:  Please torture me in the old way … Here they destroy people mentally and physically without leaving marks.” Horton’s article outlines that this same technique had been used on three prisoners who had died on the day Aamer was sent to Camp No.

Clearly torture is rife throughout USA. President Obama has repeatedly made clear that torture is unacceptable under any circumstances but contrary to Obama’s promises the US military still permits torture. One of Obama’s pledges before becoming president was to close down Guantanamo, however, six years later Guantanamo remains open and still acts as a torture chamber for prisoners deemed dangerous to the public and in the case of Shaker Aamer, prisoners who have not been charged and are held without trial.

Despite managing to lecture countries such as Russia and China for human rights abuses and political prisoners, the United States continues to be, by far, the greatest police state in the world. With only 5 percent of the world’s population, the US has 25 percent of the world’s prison population. Within this pervasive prison-industrial complex, many thousands of prisoners are held in extended solitary confinement, which alone undoubtedly constitutes torture. One UK judge stated that: “America’s idea of what is torture… does not appear to coincide with that of most civilised nations.” Clearly whilst America on the outside continues to showcase its democratic, law abiding and role model-est exterior, on the inside it hides its systematic torture regime, human rights abuses and totalitarian like state.

Today, UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn described the release of Aamer as “great news”. Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald compared the news of ‘a major western leader celebrating the release of a Guantanamo detainee’ to finding “water in a desert”. Greenwald also describes the treatment of Aamer by the USA as “high on the list in the hierarchy of evil”.

Hypocrisy has always been described as claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs then is the case, plainly, this describes US foreign policy to a tee. The US claims to spread peace and democracy around the world as well as lecturing the world on freedom and human rights, however they do this while arming and funding tyrannies across the world. Political language is used constantly in order to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable; in place of “torture” we hear the phrase “enhanced interrogation”, in place of abduction we hear “extraordinary rendition” and in place of “held captive for years” we hear “detained”. Torture has become part and parcel of US foreign policy, american officials and White House PR staff are up in arms when a country such as Russia or China are accused of human rights abuses without seeming to acknowledge how their own country conducts similar abuses of there own. Plainly torture is wrong and should not happen, the US knows this, China knows this and so does Russia but it will not stop them from doing it.

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