Pentagon fires Guantanamo prison commander for calling attention to US crimes
30 April 2019
The Pentagon has announced the abrupt firing of the commander of the infamous US prison camp at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.
In a statement released Sunday, the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which oversees the extra-legal detention center, claimed that Rear Adm. John C. Ring, the camp commandant, had been relieved of his command because of a “loss of confidence in his ability” to lead. The facility has a staff of 1,800 troops and civilian personnel deployed to continue the imprisonment of 40 remaining detainees.
The dismissal comes just weeks before Ring was to complete his tour as the 18th commander of the prison camp, which was opened in 2002 as part of the “war on terror” launched under the administration of George W. Bush. The timing suggests retaliation by the top brass over what it sees as the rear admiral’s overly frank statements to the media.
Last December, he gave an interview at one of Guantanamo’s detention centers to NBC News in which he complained about the deterioration of the camp facilities and the failure of Congress to appropriate funds for their replacement or repair. He also warned that the aging of the prisoners could soon turn the notorious site of torture, rendition and illegal detention into something resembling a nursing home.
Ring had estimated last year that $69 million was needed to replace the most dilapidated of the camp’s facilities, which houses the 15 so-called “high-value detainees” who were transferred to Guantanamo in 2006–2007 after being imprisoned and tortured at CIA “black sites” around the world.
His firing came on the same day that the New York Times published a lengthy article titled “Guantánamo Bay as Nursing Home: Military Envisions Hospice Care as Terrorism Suspects Age . ” Written by Carol Rosenberg, who has reported from Guantanamo since 2002, previously for the Miami Herald, the article included extensive statements made by Ring during a recent press trip to the prison camp.
“Unless America’s policy changes, at some point we’ll be doing some sort of end of life care here,” the Times quoted the commander as saying. “A lot of my guys are pre-diabetic… Am I going to need dialysis down here? I don’t know. Someone’s got to tell me that. Are we going to do complex cancer care down here? I don’t know. Someone’s got to tell me that.”
The oldest prisoner at Guantanamo is now 71, while the average age is 46. Many have been held since the facility opened in 2002, and the majority of them, 26 in all, have never been charged, much less tried for any crime.
Defense One quoted Ring as stating: “I’m sort of caught between a rock and a hard place. The Geneva Conventions’ Article III, that says that I have to give the detainees equivalent medical care that I would give to a trooper. But if a trooper got sick, I’d send him home to the United States. And so I’m stuck. Whatever I’m going to do, I have to do here.”
Any US military personnel with serious health problems are airlifted to the US Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. Laws passed by Congress, however, bar any Guantanamo detainees from being brought onto US soil for any purpose whatsoever. As a result, detainees who suffer serious medical conditions, in many cases the result of systematic torture, receive either inadequate care or none whatsoever.
The Times article cited the case of Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, accused of leading resistance to US troops who invaded Afghanistan. He was left untreated for degenerative disc disease and back injuries exacerbated by torture until he lost the use of his legs and became incontinent. What followed was a series of botched spinal surgeries performed in the prison camp that has left Hadi, 58, in a wheelchair and dependent upon painkillers. While medical personnel concluded that he needed complex surgery that could not be performed at the camp, the law bars his being transferred to a US military hospital.
The Times article also cited the case of Mustafa al Hawsawi, a Saudi man alleged to have provided assistance with travel and expenses to the 9/11 hijackers. He “has for years suffered such chronic rectal pain from being sodomized in the CIA prisons that he sits gingerly on a pillow in court, returns to his cell to recline at the first opportunity and fasts frequently to try to limit bowel movements.”
Another prisoner, an Indonesian man known as Hambali, who is accused of being a leader of the Southeast Asian Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah, requires a knee replacement as a result of injuries suffered during torture at CIA black sites, including being continuously shackled by his ankles.