BAGHDAD, Iraq - In the few short years since the first shackled Afghan shuffled off to Guantanamo, the U.S. military has created a global network of overseas prisons, its islands of high security keeping 14,000 detainees beyond the reach of established law.
Disclosures of torture and long-term arbitrary detentions have won rebuke from leading voices including the U.N. secretary-general and the U.S. Supreme Court. But the bitterest words come from inside the system, the size of several major U.S. penitentiaries.
"It was hard to believe I'd get out," Baghdad shopkeeper Amjad Qassim al-Aliyawi told The Associated Press after his release — without charge — last month. "I lived with the Americans for one year and eight months as if I was living in hell." ...
...Many say they were caught up in U.S. military sweeps, often interrogated around the clock, then released months or years later without apology, compensation or any word on why they were taken. Seventy to 90 percent of the Iraq detentions in 2003 were "mistakes," U.S. officers once told the international Red Cross...
...Human rights groups count dozens of detainee deaths for which no one has been punished or that were never explained. The secret prisons — unknown in number and location — remain available for future detainees. The new manual banning torture doesn't cover CIA interrogators. And thousands of people still languish in a limbo, deprived of one of common law's oldest rights, habeas corpus, the right to know why you are imprisoned.
"If you, God forbid, are an innocent Afghan who gets sold down the river by some warlord rival, you can end up at Bagram and you have absolutely no way of clearing your name," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch in New York. "You can't have a lawyer present evidence, or do anything organized to get yourself out of there."
The U.S. government has contended it can hold detainees until the "war on terror" ends — as it determines.
"I don't think we've gotten to the question of how long," said retired admiral John D. Hutson, former top lawyer for the U.S. Navy. "When we get up to 'forever,' I think it will be tested" in court, he said.
Well, I guess that makes it alright then.
The enablers of the Bush Administration have no idea the hell this sloppy, inequitable system, has created a monstrous blowback in the years to come.