Portrait Of A Guantánamo Propagandist

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Huffington Post

Portrait Of A Guantánamo Propagandist

by
H. Candace Gorman

Colonel Moe is at it again. Perhaps you remember when Moe wanted Major Mori, the military attorney that was appointed to represent the Guantánamo detainee from Australia, brought up on charges for doing too good of a job for his client? Aside from the fact that Moe apparently prefers intimidation as a legal technique, the Colonel also fancies himself a master of spin. In 2004 the chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions wrote a how-to guide for manipulating the media complete with a six-point plan, "Effective Engagement in the Public Opinion Arena: A Leadership Imperative in the Information Age" which he published in Air & Space Power, an official journal of the Air Force.

In this telling little treatise, Moe concedes that the public has "questions about operations in Iraq, prisoner abuse allegations at military confinement facilities, etc. Moe maintains that these challenges require the Armed Services to seriously beef up their public relations campaign. As the Colonel so eloquently puts it,

For better or worse, public opinion matters. Public opinion affects the political arena and can influence funding, oversight and direction to the Department of Defense ... military's historical approach to responding to controversy is inadequate in today's instantaneous information age. The military's rules of engagement in the competition for the public's opinion need to be reassessed.

Moe reminds military authorities to craft a message and "stay on the offensive" and notes approvingly that Air Force training now involves extensive media relations instruction including such courses as The War for Public Opinion: Propaganda, Public Affairs and the Military-Media Relationship, which might as well be called Misinformation 101.

Today, Moe was given one of the most prized bullhorns in American media, an op-ed in the New York Times, the "paper of record." In his editorial, Moe maintains that the Guantánamo he knows really isn't that bad; he brags that the facilities are similar to high security prisons in Indiana and Michigan! Of course, the crucial difference between lawful civilian jails in the United States and Bush's illegal prison camp is not the architecture but the fact that prisoners in the United States have been charged or convicted of crimes whereas the vast majority of Guantánamo's inmates have never and, according to the government, will never be charged with anything at all. Many of these men have been cleared for release by the government's own procedures and yet they continue to languish in Bush's gulag in solitary confinement under the harshest of conditions. Many of these men are being held in cells constructed entirely of metal. The cells admit no natural light or air and they cannot converse with anyone while in their cell unless they kneel on the floor and attempt to shout greetings through the tiny gap where the food is pushed in. They pass their days in tedium and loneliness. Unlike the prisoners being held in our supermax facilities the men at Guantánamo are not allowed any family visits or phone calls, they are only allowed one book per week, they are given no newspapers, they are not allowed to watch television, they cannot listen to a radio, they cannot take classes (they are forbidden from learning English) and most of these men are not allowed to touch another human being...not even thru the mesh link fence of the outdoor pens.

Moe is quite simply lying when he says that Guantánamo prisoners are offered "at least two hours of outdoor recreation each day." First, there is nothing recreational about standing outside in the blistering sun in a six foot by four foot pen (no shade allowed). Second, prisoners in Guantánamo's newest Camp 6 have gone for days and weeks without being allowed into those stifling pens. It is also a regular practice of the authorities to wake prisoners in their sleep and offer them outdoor "recreational time" time in the middle of the night. In the spirit of dignified resistance, the prisoners often refuse.

The Colonel touts Guantánamo's medical services, which are administered by "the same practitioners who treat American service members." In fact, Guantánamo's medical authorities have been cruelly negligent with my Libyan client, Al-Ghizzawi who is racked with abdominal pains that may indicate life-threatening liver cancer. The GTMO medical staff keeps the prisoners entirely in the dark about their medical condition and my client was not informed that he had been diagnosed with hepatitis b and tuberculosis until these facts were revealed in a government brief. I was the one to give Mr. Al-Ghizzawi the news of his condition. Finally and perhaps most egregiously, medical personnel in Guantánamo violate their Hippocratic oaths by participating in punitive force-feeding, an excruciating and degrading procedure in which a tube is forced down a prisoner's esophagus long before the prisoner is in any health risk from a hunger strike (which is itself an act of conscience undertaken by powerless and victimized persons throughout history).

Moe refers to PR work as "engagement in the public opinion arena." In military terminology, "engagement" means combat or a hostile exchange and indeed, Moe's articles and interviews constitute a propaganda assault on the American people. The Colonel has become a central figure in a DoD propaganda campaign against a public that is growing increasingly aware of, and hostile to, the Bush administration's program of illegal indefinite detention, endless war and secrecy. Colonel Moe Davis: remember his name and remember that he is a propagandist by trade.

H. Candace Gorman is the principal in the law firm of H. Candace Gorman. The firm concentrates in Civil Rights and employment litigation.

© 2007 Huffington Post

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