Guantanamo Lawyers’ Alarmingly High Cancer Rate Sparks Military Investigation

Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. (Wikimedia Commons / Kathleen T. Rhem)

Originally published at MintPress News.

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — Despite promises to close the detention center during Barack Obama’s presidential run, the prison at the Guantanamo Bay naval base remains open. And now it appears those detained at the controversial site aren’t the only ones suffering and dying — their lawyers are also facing grave illness.

Carol Rosenberg, a Miami Herald reporter who covers Guantanamo, reported Monday that a Navy Reserves attorney, who had been previously assigned to work with a detainee, filed a complaint with the Inspector General’s Office on July 14. A spokeswoman for the naval base responded to the complaint on Monday, admitting the Navy was “aware of concerns about possible carcinogens around the Department of Defense Military Commissions site” and announcing that an investigation would be opened.

After learning of the complaint, the Herald began compiling a list of civilians and military lawyers with cancer from the hundreds of personnel that have worked at the detention center, eventually finding nine cases of personnel “who suffered from a range of cancers: lymphoma, brain, appendix or colon.”

Rosenberg reports: “Three of those stricken with cancer, aged 35 to 52, have died in the past 13 months.” The Herald identified one victim as Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, a 44-year-old attorney assigned to the case ofOmar Khadr, a Canadian citizen detained at Guantanamo for 13 years. Kuebler died on July 17. On Tuesday,The Washington Post published the names of two more of the lawyers who worked at Guantanamo at some point in their careers and died of cancer:

[A]nother cancer patient was Army Col. Robert J. Cottell, who died Jan. 6, just before his 53rd birthday. He was a lawyer in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps and remained on active duty right up until his death after doctors diagnosed him with cancer, … He worked at one point for the Office of Military Commissions, which oversees cases at Guantanamo. …

A third lawyer, Marine Maj. Joshua Kirk, 35, died June 28, 2014. His cause of death was not listed in his obituary, but Rep. Tim Ryan (D.-Ohio) recognized him on the House floor after his death last summer for his work everywhere from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California to the Office of Military Commissions, which deployed him to Guantanamo on occasion.

Reuters reports that Guantanamo detainees do not appear to suffer from increased cancer rates. Rather, the cancers could have been caused by pollutants in the lawyers’ living quarters:

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New Campaign by First Look Media Will Help Ensure Chelsea Manning Has Funds for Legal Appeals

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How Chelsea Manning sees herself

First Look Media and the Freedom of the Press Foundation have launched a matching fund campaign to support United States military whistleblower Chelsea Manning, as she appeals her conviction and challenges how the military prosecuted her.

The media organization’s Press Freedom Litigation Fund will match $50,000 in donations. Journalist Glenn Greenwald will match $10,000 in donations. The Freedom of the Press Foundation will manage the fundraising campaign. [As of 11 am ET on July 16, over $28,000 had already been matched.]

All funds raised will ensure that Manning will be able to mount a strong appeal, which is expected to be filed before the year is over. It will also reduce the stress and anxiety Manning experiences as she worries about whether she can afford an appeal.

“Being in prison while trying to figure out how I will pay for my legal appeal has been a great source of stress and anxiety,” Manning stated. “I’m so honored that a new campaign is supporting me in my effort to vindicate my legal rights, and I am truly grateful to anyone who is helping.”

Nancy Hollander, lead counsel for Manning, shared, “My law partner, Vince Ward, Chelsea’s detailed appellate counsel, Cpt David Hammond, and I are working our way through the longest written record in military history and take on this fight willingly.”

“Chelsea has the right to have someone stand between her and the awesome power of her own government when all that power is directed at her. Vince and my work for Chelsea is sustained by thousands of her supporters, who stand with her to challenge our justice system to honor the rights of all people who put themselves at grave personal risk to protect and defend others,” Hollander added.

Hollander noted that it was nearly two years since Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the “heroic act of truth-telling to protect innocent civilians.”

As extensively covered by this journalist here at Firedoglake, the sentencing verdict was issued on August 21, 2013. Manning received far greater punishment than individuals in the military, who have committed war crimes by killing innocent civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan. She also received greater punishment than soldiers or officers responsible for torture.

From the video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack, which showed soldiers gunning down innocent civilians and two Reuters journalists, to military incident reports in Afghanistan, which revealed the operations of an assassination squad known as Task Force 373, to military incident reports in Iraq, which included details of an order instructing US and UK forces to look the other way if Iraqi forces engaged in torture, Manning had classic whistleblower intentions when she chose to provide this information to WikiLeaks.

Yet, the US military prosecuted Manning as if she was a spy who “aided the enemy,” specifically al Qaeda terrorists. She was convicted of several violations of the Espionage Act. (more…)

Still Waiting for USS Liberty’s Truth

During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli warplanes and warships tried to sink the USS Liberty, killing 34 of the spy ship’s crew. Afterwards, U.S. and Israeli officials excused the attack as an unfortunate mistake and covered up evidence of willful murder.

By Ray McGovern

Israel’s chokehold over U.S. politics and politicians has been so powerful for so many decades that this obvious reality is routinely denied, a collective gagging of the truth that is itself a measure of how strong the Israeli grip is.

The most potent and poignant example of how much American independence has been surrendered to Israel when it comes to events in the Middle East may be the contortions of cover-up that followed Israel’s attempt to sink the USS Liberty during the Six-Day War in 1967, killing 34 American seamen.

The desire of virtually the entire U.S. political and media establishments was for this unpleasant incident to go away. No one, it seemed, wanted to hold Israel to account or to challenge its lame excuses about an inadvertent mistake. One of the few who eventually did was Navy Admiral and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Thomas Moorer, who helped lead an independent, blue-ribbon commission to investigate what happened to the Liberty.

Those finding were released on Oct. 22, 2003. The introduction and first four findings stated:

“We, the undersigned, having undertaken an independent investigation of Israel’s attack on USS Liberty, including eyewitness testimony from surviving crewmembers, a review of naval and other official records, an examination of official statements by the Israeli and American governments, a study of the conclusions of all previous official inquiries, and a consideration of important new evidence and recent statements from individuals having direct knowledge of the attack or the cover up, hereby find the following:

“1. That on June 8, 1967, after eight hours of aerial surveillance, Israel launched a two-hour air and naval attack against USS Liberty, the world’s most sophisticated intelligence ship, inflicting 34 dead and 173 wounded American servicemen (a casualty rate of seventy percent, in a crew of 294);

“2. That the Israeli air attack lasted approximately 25 minutes, during which time unmarked Israeli aircraft dropped napalm canisters on USS Liberty’s bridge, and fired 30mm cannons and rockets into our ship, causing 821 holes, more than 100 of which were rocket-size; survivors estimate 30 or more sorties were flown over the ship by a minimum of 12 attacking Israeli planes which were jamming all five American emergency radio channels;

“3. That the torpedo boat attack involved not only the firing of torpedoes, but the machine-gunning of Liberty’s firefighters and stretcher-bearers as they struggled to save their ship and crew; the Israeli torpedo boats later returned to machine-gun at close range three of the Liberty’s life rafts that had been lowered into the water by survivors to rescue the most seriously wounded;

“4. That there is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew; evidence of such intent is supported by statements from Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Undersecretary of State George Ball, former CIA director Richard Helms, former NSA directors Lieutenant General William Odom, USA (Ret.), Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, USN (Ret.), and Marshal Carter; former NSA deputy directors Oliver Kirby and Major General John Morrison, USAF (Ret.); and former Ambassador Dwight Porter, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon in 1967;”

[The signers included Adm. Moorer; General Raymond G. Davis; former Assistant Commandant, United States Marine Corps; Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, United States Navy (Ret.), former Judge Advocate General Of The Navy; and Ambassador James Akins (Ret.) former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.] (more…)

Washington in Wonderland: Down the Iraqi Rabbit Hole (Again)

American leadership in the world, writes Bacevich, “ought to mean something other than simply repeating and compounding past mistakes. It should require more than clinging to policies that have manifestly failed. To remain willfully blind to those failures is not leadership, it’s madness.” (Photo: via Pentagon Watch)

By Andrew Bacevich

There is a peculiar form of insanity in which a veneer of rationality distracts attention from the madness lurking just beneath the surface. When Alice dove down her rabbit hole to enter a place where smirking cats offered directions, ill-mannered caterpillars dispensed advice, and Mock Turtles constituted the principal ingredient in Mock Turtle soup, she experienced something of the sort.

Yet, as the old adage goes, truth can be even stranger than fiction. For a real-life illustration of this phenomenon, one need look no further than Washington and its approach to national security policy. Viewed up close, it all seems to hang together. Peer out of the rabbit hole and the sheer lunacy quickly becomes apparent.

Consider this recent headline: “U.S. to Ship 2,000 Anti-Tank Missiles To Iraq To Help Fight ISIS.” The accompanying article describes a Pentagon initiative to reinforce Iraq’s battered army with a rush order of AT-4s. A souped-up version of the old bazooka, the AT-4 is designed to punch holes through armored vehicles.

Taken on its own terms, the decision makes considerable sense. Iraqi forces need something to counter a fearsome new tactic of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS): suicide bombers mounted in heavily armored wheeled vehicles. Improved antitank capabilities certainly could help Iraqi troops take out such bombers before they reach their intended targets. The logic is airtight. The sooner these weapons get into the hands of Iraqi personnel, the better for them — and so the better for us. (more…)

Putin Says US Imperial Footprint Unmatched: ‘Draw a Map and See’

Despite US military dominance, Obama accuses Russian leader of attempting to ‘recreate Soviet empire’

By Lauren McCauley

Responding to ongoing brinkmanship between the United States and his country, Russian President Vladimir Putin dared reporters to publish a map of the two nations’ global military footprints and then “see the difference.”

The comments came over the weekend as G7 leaders assembled in Bavaria, Germany—a meeting which, prior to the recent upheaval in Ukraine, would have also included Russia. On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama closed the summit by saying that the Russian leader was aiming to “recreate the Soviet empire.”

G7 leaders stood united in their threat to increase sanctions against Russia if the conflict in Ukraine escalates.

“Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to recreate the glories of the Soviet empire?” Obama asked in his closing remarks. “Or does he recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?”

However, Obama’s accusations of Russia violating the “sovereignty of other countries” are striking in light of the United States’ own military strategy, which Putin highlighted days earlier in a Saturday interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

“U.S. military spending is higher than that of all countries in the world taken together,” Putin said. “The aggregate military spending of NATO countries is 10 times, note—10 times higher than that of the Russian Federation.”

Outside of what he described as the “remnants” of Soviet-era armed forces in Tajikistan, Armenia, and zones with high terrorist threat such as the Afghanistan border and Kyrgyzstan, Putin said that “Russia has virtually no bases abroad.”

“We have dismantled our bases in various regions of the world, including Cuba, Vietnam, and so on,” he said.

And despite statements about Russian aggression, this draw-down highlights a policy that “in this respect is not global, offensive or aggressive.”

“I invite you to publish the world map in your newspaper and to mark all the U.S. military bases on it,” Putin continued. “You will see the difference.”

Amid the verbal sparring match, the U.S. military also took steps to increase pressure on the ground.

On Friday, U.S. Strategic Command announced that three nuclear-capable B52 bombers were being deployed in addition to two B2 bombers to the United Kingdom for exercises to demonstrate “the United States’ ability to project its flexible, long-range global strike capability” in training missions over the Baltic states and Poland.

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