In context, this means a couple of things. For various reasons (most of them simply our domestic living situation, as we have had a family member living with us who requires a great deal of attention, the Loquacious Pup has moved out of the house for a post-college job, my focus on my alternate persona, the never ending plague of COVID-45 and other factors), I have gone without posting for almost four months, last posting on the GTMO 21st anniversary. But the real overdue event is, of course, the release of Candace’s Algerian client, Saeed Bakhush, after almost 21 years at GTMO, finally sent home to Algeria. Our friend Andy has more.
To say this is “anticlimactic” is a bit of a cliche, but that is kind of how I feel. As fate would have it, on the day that Candace told me that Mr. Bakhush was finally on his way home, I was meeting Andy in London, where I had traveled to run the London Marathon, eventually earning my fourth [of six] World Marathon Majors star (and 74th marathon finish… on this blog, it’s always about me), and in this case, through the magic of the mobile telephone, sharing the celebration of the news with both Andy and Candace.
To whatever extent I could, I have tried to help out Candace on Mr. Bakhush’s case for nearly fifteen years, going back, quite frankly, to the last time I met Andy at his home in London in the halcyon economic depression days of 2009 (when I also met Candace in the Netherlands, where she was serving as a professional at the International Criminal Court). Over the years, that included watching Candace argue before D.C. federal district judge Richard Leon, and eventually, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to a panel presided over by one Brett Kavanaugh, as smug on the D.C. Circuit as he was before the Senate. The result of years of judicial intervention was always the same: Mr. Bakhush was captured in the same guesthouse raid in Pakistan that netted one Abu Zubaydah, whom the government believed to be a senior al Qaeda figure, although eventually they figured out that he wasn’t, but not until after engaging in torturing him in ways that can only be described as unimaginable. Nonetheless, proximity meant guilt– as far as the government and the courts were concerned. Or guilty by guesthouse, as Candace argued. And so despite no evidence that Bakhush– then known as Razak Ali, a name he was advised to adopt by Pakistani police who first arrested him, and then unfortunately became a useful excuse to keep holding him– had any connection to al Qaeda or to terrorism against the United States– the D.C. Circuit ruled that holding him in life imprisonment was just fine with them.
Candace and her colleagues at the Center for Constititional Rights never gave up on Bakhush, however, and in the early days of the Trump Administration, tried new legal tactics, including a new habeas case based on the Trump Administration’s insistence that there would be no releases during its term in which Bakhush was the lead plaintiff. Unsurprisingly, it did not lead to his release, as the courts dug in on backing up the ability of the government to detain (or kill) whoever the hell it wanted in the name of the war on terror. Anyway, my college classmate Barack Obama (I told you, it’s always about me on this blog) insisted for years that he was closing Guantanamo to the point where the public overwhelmingly believed him. Nonetheless, when he left office, 41 men remained at GTMO. After Trump, that was down to 40. With Bakhush’s release, it is down to 30. But Barack did set up a Periodic Review Board process that remained in place, despite not actually releasing anyone under Trump. To their credit, the Biden Administration continued the process and has cleared most of the “forever prisoners” (that Barack deemed “unable to try, but too dangerous to release”… or as I liked to say, too dangerous to try and too Muslim to release”). And it has released 10 prisoners, Bakhush being the latest. But 30 men are still held, and as far as I know, the “war on terror” is still on, Julian Assange is still in jail, it is the United States and NATO that seem “allergic” to peace talks in the Russia/Ukraine conflict and “military Keynesianism” is the “New New Deal” as far as Democrats are concerned, and national security spending will continue to crowd out social spending. And yet, the Democrats remain the only bulwark against a Republican Party that has full throatedly embraced fascism. Because America.
At this point, I expect the monthly vigils to continue until morale improves. We all must just continue to do what we can.