The Iranian government last week released Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, two Americans who had been held there on false spying allegations since 2009, from prison, and in their first chance to speak to the media, Bauer and Fattal detailed the human rights violations they had experienced at the hands of the Iranian government. Among those violations were poor prison conditions and long periods of time spent in isolation, complaints similar to those filed by the lawyers of prisoners at American prisons controlled by the military and Central Intelligence Agency.
According to Bauer and Fattal, Iranian prison guards repeatedly used the harsh conditions of Guantanamo Bay and CIA prisons around the world to justify their own human rights violations:
BAUER: In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would immediately remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay. They would remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world, and the conditions that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S. We do not believe that such human rights violations on the part of our government justify what has been done to us. Not for a moment. However, we do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an excuse for other governments, including the government of Iran, to act in kind.
During his unsuccessful 2009 effort to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, President Obama and members of his administration claimed that techniques used by the American military there would be used to justify actions against captured American troops. Obama said the prison’s closure would allow the U.S. to regain the “moral high ground” in combating terrorism, while Admiral Dennis Blair called the prison a “a rallying cry for terrorist recruitment.” CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, then the top commander in the Middle East, was more direct. “Gitmo has caused us problems, there’s no question about it,” Petraeus said. “I oversee a region in which the existence of Gitmo has indeed been used by the enemy against us.”
With clear evidence that Obama and his military leaders were correct in asserting that American actions at Guantanamo would be used against Americans captured abroad, perhaps it is time to consider the ramifications of not closing Guantanamo Bay.