13 December 2002

Jimmy Carter Dies at Guantanamo Bay

Havana (Associated Poets)—US authorities have reported that former US President Jimmy Carter, one of the detainees being held by the military for interrogation at the Guantanamo Bay Navy base in Cuba, has died. Almost nothing is known about why he was detained or the circumstances surrounding his death.

Carter was apprehended during a visit to Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The honor clearly elated him. He traveled to Norway with about 80 friends and relatives, and he beamed as trumpet blasts heralded his arrival in the grand auditorium of Oslo City Hall, bedecked with yellow and orange flowers. After the American soprano Jessye Norman sang several songs in his honor, Carter silently blew her a kiss. Then he was escorted into a C-17 transport jet by special forces. Hooded and shackled, drugged into submission, bound hand and foot, wearing blacked-out goggles which covered his face from view and prevented him from seeing anything during the trip, Jimmy Carter was chained into his seat throughout a 12-hour flight from Oslo to the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The whole operation was conducted as though Carter represented an imminent threat of insurrection. Humvees equipped with machineguns and grenade launchers surrounded the transport plane after it landed. Forty Marine MPs with rifles and riot gear stood by, while a Navy helicopter hovered overhead.

A terse official statement explained that a former US president in his 70s had been captured in Switzerland (sic) during the previous week. He died, allegedly from natural causes, at around 1 PM on December 13 after being taken to the base hospital. "The matter will be fully investigated," the statement added. Citing US military regulations, spokesman Colonel Roger King refused to state the reasons for Carter's detention. It is not even clear whether Jimmy Carter's family and friends have been notified of his death.

The detention building has remained off limits to journalists, but released detainees have described being held in barbed-wire pens inside the large building, often exposed to the tropical storms, under constant electric light. Some have complained of beatings or injuries received when they were captured. Carter was subject to continual verbal abuse and taunts as well as death threats. He was malnourished, and sick from an allergic reaction to cured reindeer meat and cloudberries served at the traditional Norwegian banquet. Carter also reportedly had a bullet wound in his leg. He was deliberately kept in this state until he agreed to answer questions. During the first two days of his detention in Camp Rhino, he was blindfolded, stripped naked, bound to a stretcher and then placed inside a metal shipping container without heating or insulation. He received only limited food and medical attention.

It appears, however, that the interrogation regime at Bagram Air Base is even more aggressive than that at Guantanamo. According to an October 29 article in the Washington Post, "Because Guantanamo is so close to the United States and is continually being visited by US and foreign officials, informed sources said, the camp operates in more of an atmosphere of 'political correctness' than does the Bagram facility-a sense among interrogators that they must not allow detainees an opening to complain of mistreatment." At Bagram, which operates in "more of a frontier atmosphere", interrogators feel no such constraint. No one is permitted inside the facility. Other than an occasional visit by the international Red Cross, there is no check on the treatment of prisoners.

Similar methods are being used in Kabul.

What ordeals Carter suffered remains a matter of speculation. More information may be forthcoming. What is certain, however, is that the Bush administration and the US intelligence apparatus are responsible for depriving him of his freedom and basic democratic rights, and subjecting him to a system of interrogation, and possibly torture, that appears to have directly contributed to his death.

Neither the New York Times nor other media outlets have reported the death or criticized the treatment being meted out to alleged terrorist suspects, even decorated statesmen, in breach of their most basic democratic rights. A former president can be detained indefinitely without charge and die in unexplained circumstances, and the media, including the so-called liberal New York Times, passes over the matter in silence.

Newspoetry at Spineless Books