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Ron DeSantis, US presidential contender, oversaw torture at Guantanamo

By Shabbir Rizvi

Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, the notorious US ‘black site’ that has earned ignominy for multitudinous human rights violations committed by American forces stationed there, has been running for 21 years, through four different US presidential administrations.

Despite massive global outcry, no US president has moved to shut down the infamous torture camp, located on illegally occupied Cuban soil – allowing the US government to evade international law.

Since 2002, at least 780 detainees from 48 countries have been held at the detention facility, with 55 remaining – most of them on false and trumped-up charges.

Those lucky enough to leave the facility after years have confirmed the horrendous acts of violence and torture inflicted on them - solitary confinement, waterboarding, noise torture, and more.

With no end in sight to the infamous camp’s horrific criminal operations, according to new revelations, US Republican presidential candidate and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis served as a military officer at the site and oversaw the torture of hapless Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

DeSantis was assigned to serve in Guantanamo Bay in 2006 as a junior officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, or JAG. Multiple prisoners have come forth and confirmed DeSantis’ presence there, specifically while they were subjected to abuse and torture.

Mansoor Adayfi, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner from Yemen, recently revealed that when he attempted to go on a hunger strike to protest the torture camp’s treatment, he was force-fed by jail authorities - with Ron DeSantis present and watching.

“As I tried to break free, I noticed DeSantis’s handsome face among the crowd at the other side of the chain link. He was watching me struggle. He was smiling and laughing with other officers as I screamed in pain,” Adayfi, who spent 14 years at the camp, wrote in an Op-Ed for Al-Jazeera.

Although the full extent of DeSantis’ involvement is still to be completely revealed, it is without question that he was present during routine torture operations at the notorious site.

In his memoir, Adayfi writes in graphic detail how he was force-fed in the presence of DeSantis.

“No numbing spray. No lubricant. Raw rubber and metal sliced the inside of my nose and throat. Pain shot through my sinuses and I thought my head would explode. I screamed and tried to fight but I couldn't move. My nose bled and bled, but the nurse wouldn't stop.”

DeSantis has repeatedly denied that he authorized the force-feeding of inmates - even having a meltdown over it when a journalist asked for clarification of his involvement during a press conference - but his colleagues confirm DeSantis knew details about how prisoners were treated.

He was supposedly tasked with speaking to prisoners about their demands and treatment and ensuring the Geneva Convention was adhered to.

If this is true, then Ron DeSantis miserably failed in his job. It is no secret that Guantanamo Bay has seen and continues to see human rights violations without an iota of accountability.

Numerous human rights watch groups have condemned the torture methods and illegal detainments at the site, including some 150 organizations signing a letter earlier this year calling for its closure.

DeSantis is now running for the US presidency - and given the fact that his ignominious past at Guantanamo Bay is now confirmed - this will likely have grim implications.

It is no secret that former US President Donald Trump and fellow Republican is no fan of DeSantis - whom he routinely challenges and mocks. Trump, like his predecessors, also refused to close Guantanamo Bay because of his open and unabashed anti-Muslim attitude.

He took a step further and executed (though temporarily) a nationwide ban on the entry of Muslims from specific countries, coupling it with racist and Islamophobic rhetoric.

Though this order did not last, it is clear that Trump is not afraid of using Islamophobia as a tool to rally his masses - which proved to be popular with his base.

With DeSantis now Trump’s main opponent in a Republican primary, the two can potentially use Islamophobic talking points to generate support for their respective campaigns.

DeSantis - who for now is keeping his involvement in Guantanamo murky - can potentially go on the offense and use his time there as a way of appearing “stronger” than Trump.

But most importantly, this can lead to a justification and a revision of Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. Never has a presidential candidate been in the same room as someone detained on illegal grounds while they were being tortured.

DeSantis will no doubt be pressed further on his participation and complicity in the torture methods used at the notorious detention facility and would only be able to side-step this for so long.

If he does take the offensive route, this can create new public discourse around Guantanamo - especially if a revisionist element is embraced - leading to appeals to keep the torture site running despite international condemnation and calls for its immediate closure.

Even if DeSantis ultimately loses, he would have ramped up support for the torture site that has been dwindling for years now.

The US maintains Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp despite domestic opposition to it. Changing the narrative around the site - which can be possible with controversial figures like DeSantis and Trump - can provide a new (though baseless) justification for it, and would make it harder to close the camp.

Since the so-called “War on Terror” began, the site has been known for torture and human rights abuses. Barack Obama promised to close the camp in his first term but ultimately refused to follow through with it. Now the illegal black site is 21 years into its operation - and no closer to being shut down - despite it costing US taxpayers $540 million dollars per year.

If Americans want to put this shameful chapter of their history to an end, they will have to mount the campaign and support calls to close it now, otherwise, the very person laughing at prisoners being tortured there will seize the narrative.

If the ball starts rolling in DeSantis’ favor - it may be too late. Americans must wake up.

Shabbir Rizvi is a Chicago-based political analyst with a focus on US internal security and foreign policy.

(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV)


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