Clash between US and Dutch lawmakers on Guantanamo Bay torture camp


This video from the USA is called Guantanamo Witness Against Torture, DC 4-18.

From Associated Press:

Dutch lawmakers offended by Rep. Lantos

10/27/2007, 5:42 a.m. CDT

By DESMOND BUTLER

WASHINGTON — Dutch lawmakers who visited the Guantanamo Bay military prison this week said they were offended by a testy exchange in Washington with a senior congressional Democrat.

The lawmakers said that Rep. Tom Lantos [from the Right wing of the Democratic party], D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told them that “Europe was not as outraged by Auschwitz as by Guantanamo Bay.”

To Mr. Lantos: during the nazis’ Auschwitz mass murders, the Netherlands were occupied and parliament could not meet. It is correct that the governments on the Allied side did not pay enough attention to Hitler’s Holocaust while it was going on. The railroads to, and the SS guards barracks, of the death camps were not bombed. However, that criticism includes the United States government.

Mariko Peter [sic. Peters], a member of the Dutch Green Party, who began the exchange with Lantos, said she took notes of the remarks.

A Lantos aide said he realizes that the Guantanamo facility does harm to the reputation of the United States and has praised judges who ruled in favor of extending legal rights to prisoners. He has not, however, suggested that the prison be closed.

Before the Guantanamo exchange, the lawmakers had discussed a debate in the Netherlands about whether the country should maintain its 1,600 troops serving in NATO’s Afghanistan operations.

“You have to help us, because if it was not for us you would now be a province of Nazi Germany,” Lantos said, according to the Dutch lawmakers.

Partly true. However, the actual liberation of the Netherlands was mainly by the Canadian, not by the US, armed forces. As for the defeat of nazi Germany in general: according to military historians, 85% of Hitler’s soldiers died on the eastern front, against the Red Army of the Soviet Union. According to Lantos’ logic, if the Soviet Union would still exist and be governed in the way of Joseph Stalin, the Netherlands and other countries should say ‘yes’ if it would ask for military help.

“The comments killed the debate,” said Harry van Bommel, a member of the Socialist Party. “It was insulting and counterproductive.”

A Lantos spokeswoman said Lantos was not available and had no comment.

The Dutch government soon will announce whether its troops will stay in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan, where they recently have begun an anti-Taliban offensive backed by British and Afghan forces. Lantos has praised the Netherlands’ contribution to the Afghan mission.

“It was a diplomatically strange situation,” Peters said. “The mere suggestion that the United States could be compared with Nazi Germany is so flawed.”

It was not the first time that Lantos had offended European political circles. In May, he lashed out at the former leaders of France and Germany. His comments, which included calling former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder a “political prostitute,” provoked a rebuke from German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The lawmakers, from the Dutch House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, were invited to visit Guantanamo and Washington by the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, Roland Arnall. The lawmakers also met senior Bush administration officials, including Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.

Members of the delegation said they were given an extensive tour of the Guantanamo Bay prison, which has been heavily criticized by human rights groups.

The Associated Press report forgets to mention that the parliamentarians were not allowed to talk to prisoners, which made the visit one-sided.

Most of the delegation called for the closing of Guantanamo.

“We have to close Guantanamo because it symbolizes for me everything that is wrong with this war on terror,” Peters said.

But at least one member disagreed.

“Let’s not forget we are in a state of war — not only the United States but also my country — with Islamic terrorists,” said the far right Freedom Party leader, Geert Wilders. “I think we could only learn from Guantanamo.”

Talking about Afghanistan, from the British Daily Mail:

RAF ‘knew of fuel leak that was to kill my son’

Last updated at 18:51pm on 26th October 2007

DEFENCE chiefs knew their ageing Nimrod planes were suffering fuel leaks months before one exploded in Afghanistan last year killing 14 servicemen, it emerged last night.

The father of one of the men who died yesterday accused the Ministry of Defence and RAF of being “negligent” and responsible for “killing” his son.

Sgt Ben Knight, 25, died when the Nimrod surveillance plane he was travelling on exploded 12 miles west of Kandahar in September 2006.

His father, Graham Knight, said he had “leaked emails” from officers detailing problems with the Nimrod.

4 thoughts on “Clash between US and Dutch lawmakers on Guantanamo Bay torture camp

  1. Nov 1, 4:09 PM EDT

    Jailed Gitmo journalist gains support

    By BEN FOX
    Associated Press Writer

    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A campaign to free a journalist imprisoned at Guantanamo gained support Thursday from the first Muslim member of Congress, who urged authorities to prosecute or release him after more than five years without charges.

    Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese cameraman for Al-Jazeera, was captured in 2002 as he tried to enter Afghanistan to cover the war. His lawyer says he denies any connection to terrorism and has been on a hunger strike since January to protest his indefinite confinement.

    In a rare show of public support from a U.S. official, Rep. Keith Ellison, a first-term Democrat from Minnesota, called for a hearing to determine whether the military has legitimate reason to hold al-Haj with about 330 other men at the prison on a Navy base in Cuba.

    “If he’s a bad actor, prove it. If not, let him out,” the congressman told The Associated Press.

    Ellison said he believes all Guantanamo prisoners should be allowed to challenge their confinement in the courts. But he said he is particularly concerned about the detention of a journalist who, as far as he can tell, was “detained for taking pictures.” He made the public statement at the request of Al-Jazeera.

    Representatives of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera have been meeting with political and business leaders and media groups in the United States in recent weeks to draw publicity to al-Haj’s detention while simultaneously trying to jump-start U.S. distribution of Al-Jazeera’s English language channel.

    “We just want to raise awareness and give support for someone we feel is being totally mistreated,” said Satnam Matharu, the network’s head of international media relations.

    At least two other members of Congress have expressed concern about the cameraman but were not yet ready to make a public statement, Matharu said.

    As part of its campaign, the network plans a series of new video spots for its Arabic and English language channels and will revamp an Internet site devoted to the campaign to free al-Haj.

    “We’re standing behind him and we vouch for his innocence,” he said.

    At a military hearing that determined al-Haj, 38, was an “enemy combatant,” U.S. authorities accused him of transporting money in the 1990s for a charity that provided funding to Chechen rebels, and of having other links to Islamic militants. But the military has never disclosed in detail why he was captured on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and turned over to the U.S.

    The U.S. military says the Guantanamo detainees are held on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida or the Taliban. Al-Haj is believed to be the only journalist from a major news organization imprisoned at the base.

    “Mr. al-Haj’s detention is in no way based on his status as a reporter or the content of his reporting,” Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman said. “There is a significant amount of information, both classified and unclassified, which supports detention of enemy combatants by U.S. forces.”

    Gordon noted that al-Haj’s detention is reviewed at an annual military hearing, and that he can challenge his “enemy combatant” status in the courts. However, Congress and President Bush have limited federal court challenges to a review of military procedures, and stripped Guantanamo detainees of the broader right to challenge their confinement through habeas corpus petitions. The Supreme Court is reviewing that action in its current term.

    Ellison, who supports restoring habeas rights to detainees, said he has conducted research into the case and has not seen anything solid linking al-Haj to any crimes. The congressman said he may seek a meeting with military officials or use his seat on the Judiciary Committee to press for more information.

    “The evidence that I have found is that this guy is a cameraman who is being detained for taking pictures and that is a concern to me,” he said.

    The freshman congressman has been a vocal critic of the Iraq war and in June added his name to an effort to remove Vice President Dick Cheney from office through impeachment.

    Ellison said his religion is irrelevant to his concerns about al-Haj, though he predicts it will be used to “attack” his support.

    Al-Haj’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, was able to meet with the cameraman in early October, and said he appeared weak and at times incoherent from his long-running hunger strike and the daily force-feeding that keeps him alive. While the military has said al-Haj is physically fine, Stafford Smith said “he really is mentally and physically suffering.”

    The journalist told his lawyer he had spoken to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which appeared to be investigating the U.S. military’s force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike.

    A Red Cross spokesman in Washington said the agency was not conducting a formal investigation but only making a routine inspection. A Guantanamo spokesman said the military’s conversations with the Red Cross are confidential and he could not comment. There are currently 13 men on hunger strike, including two or more than two years.

    © 2007 The Associated Press.

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