Saturday, May 17, 2008

From Guantanamo to Bagram

This may turn out to be a be-careful-what-you-wish-for story. There is now a sign that those who have been calling for the closing of the US Military Detention Center at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba may have their wish granted, but not necessarily in the way they expected. Drawing upon its wire sources, Al Jazeera English has now released the following report about the other side of the world in Afghanistan:

The United States plans to build a new detention camp at Bagram military base in Afghanistan, a Defence Department spokesman has said.

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed the move on Saturday, detailing that a planned 40 acre complex at the Bagram military base will soon be built.

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wright said: "I can confirm there are indeed plans to build a new detention facility at Bagram airfield."

The new facility is said to hold about 1,100 detainees and cost about $60million.

According to Wright, the move came as "our existing theatre facility is deterioriating", referring to a jail at Bagram currently holding about 630 alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters captured under the pretext of the so-called "war on terror".

Presumably the "existing theatre facility" is the one that held prisoners who were subsequently transferred to Guantanamo during the early stages of that "war on terror." Thus, this is not only a be-careful-what-you-wish-for story; it is also a what-goes-around-comes-around story:

The move is said to signal that Washington expects to hold detainees abroad indefinitely, despite claims from the White House that they want to shut down the US-run camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The New York Times newspaper also reported that the current Bush administration previously indicated it would transfer a large number of detainees to the custody of the Afghan government at a new prison outside Kabul, the capital, financed with US funds.

But US officials say the Afghan-run jail cannot handle all the Afghans detained by US forces or new prisoners taken amid an increasingly bloody fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the Times wrote.

As usual, our government is trying to get this story to strut its stuff in a positive light:

Wright also said the new facility would offer more room and more opportunity for vocational, educational and religious training.

Nevertheless, the Al Jazeera team did a good job of reminding us that the original Bagram facility was, in at lease some ways, a forecast of how we would come to know Guantanamo:

Former detainees allege they were beaten, chained in uncomfortable positions and stripped naked at the Bagram prison after it opened in 2002.

Two Afghan men died in US custody at Bagram in December 2002.

Once again we feel history repeating; and once again we see Karl Marx' claim (that the second time plays farce to the tragedy of the first time) is being refuted!

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