From my Moscow Times column, April 1, 2005
Now comes the case of Murat Kurnaz, one of the thousands of innocent captives held illegally in the belly of the new American beast: George W. Bush's deadly global gulag, where homicide and torture are quite literally the order of the day.
Kurnaz, a German national of Turkish descent, was grabbed from a bus of Muslim missionaries in Pakistan during the palmy days of October 2001, when Bush was getting his first taste of unbridled blood-and-iron power. Although Kurnaz was far from the battlefield in Afghanistan, he was of course guilty of being one of those swarthy Koraniacs, so he was shoved through the beast's guts before ending up in the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, the Washington Post reports.
There he languished for more than two years until he was hauled before one of Bush's "military tribunals" last fall. The khaki kangaroo court duly ruled that Kurnaz was a heinous terrorist who should be locked up forever – despite the fact that both U.S military intelligence and German police had cleared him of any connection whatsoever to terrorist activity anywhere in the world. Completely ignoring almost 100 pages of exculpatory evidence offered by these experts, the kangaroos relied instead on a brief, uncorroborated memo submitted by an unidentified Bush official just before the proceedings began.
The last-minute Bush memo – clearly intended to keep Kurnaz in chains without charges, without counsel, without appeal, for the rest of his life – "fails to provide significant details to support its conclusory allegations, does not reveal the sources for its information and is contradicted by other evidence in the record," said a federal judge who examined the case. It was just lies and unfounded assertions, in other words – the same scam the Bushists used to "justify" their war crime in Iraq.
The judge ruled that Kurnaz's imprisonment – indeed, Bush's whole kangaroo pen – was illegal and unconstitutional. To which Bush – staunch defender of law, liberty and civilization – answered: Who cares? So Kurnaz, 23, remains in captivity: year after year of hellish limbo, his youth sacrificed to the caprice of the prissy autocrat in the White House. Meanwhile, Bush is appealing all of the pending judicial challenges to his arbitrary power, while ignoring or skirting any ruling that goes against him. As we first reported here in November 2001, he continues to assert his right to capture, imprison or even assassinate anyone on earth he designates a "terrorist," without any judicial review or congressional oversight of his decision.
The Post – normally a willing handmaiden of Bush's abuses of power, marshalling "bipartisan consensus" behind his bloodsoaked foreign policy and much of his morally deranged domestic agenda – seemed uncharacteristically troubled by the Kurnaz case. Perhaps the tyranny was a touch too blatant for the paper's well-wadded consensus-seekers. They brought in an expert on military law to "suggest" that the tribunals might be – gasp! -- "a sham," where "the merest scintilla of evidence against someone would carry the day for the government, even if there's a mountain of evidence on the other side." Another lawyer wondered why the U.S. government would ever imprison a man it knew was innocent.
Poor lambs. Now that the American Republic has been well and truly lost – seized by a band of extremist goons after decades of slow rot from corporate and militarist corruption – a few Establishment worthies are bestirring themselves to express some mild perplexity at the hideous reality that's arisen outside their comfortable cocoons. But their questions come too late. The reality is already entrenched.
Each day brings new revelations of torture, murder – and government whitewash – in Bush's gulag. At least 108 prisoners have died in Bush's captivity so far; dozens of these have been listed as homicides, CBS reports. But last week, the Pentagon declined to prosecute 17 soldiers for brutal murders of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, despite the recommendation of Army prosecutors. Army investigators also released 1,200 pages of new evidence last week detailing widespread "systematic and intentional" abuse of prisoners throughout Iraq, especially in Mosul; again, the Pentagon declined to prosecute. A trial of low-ranking scapegoats who, under orders, "pulpified" an Afghan prisoner's leg in a fatal beating revealed that such "compliance blows" were taught by the Pentagon as an "accepted way" of dealing with prisoners, Knight-Ridder reports.
(Let's pause here to praise these military prosecutors. Many of them are doing outstanding work in a thankless and dangerous mission: investigating their fellow soldiers for crimes committed in a lawless system established by their own superiors. The Bush Regime has not yet been able to remove all of these honorable soldiers from the ranks, and so fragments of the truth are still getting out. But be assured: the Regime is relentlessly bringing forward cadres of mindless zealots to replace them – and everyone else in government. Another term or two of Bushist Party rule, and there won't be an officer, judge or civil servant left with any loyalty to the old Constitutional Republic.)
As for the cocooners' anxious questions – Why imprison the innocent? Why the sham tribunals? What's with all this torture stuff? – there is a simple answer. Bush's gulag has little to do with "fighting terrorism;" it is itself an instrument of terror – state terror – designed to strike "pre-emptive" fear into the hearts of anyone, at home or abroad, who might oppose the Regime's crusade to make the world safe for klepto-plutocracy. Such a system actually requires innocent victims and lawlessness, to underscore its arbitrary nature – an essential element of terror. For Bush, Murat Kurnaz is a more important prisoner than a genuine criminal like Osama bin Laden.