Last Week Tonight returned on Sunday to discuss the content of the recently released "Trump Tapes" and to educate viewers on the complex issues surrounding Guantanamo Bay. The episode was unfortunately taped before the second Presidential debate, giving host John Oliver plenty of time to discuss Trump's latest scandal in addition to the show's main segment. I'd like to be optimistic and say that it could be the focus of a future segment on the show, but that would require Trump to have a relatively quiet, uneventful week; we all know that isn't a likely scenario.
Oliver wasted no time and dove straight into a discussion of the 2016 election, "or, as it's better known 'Oh, I Get It: We All Died, And This Is Hell, And Satan Has Cursed Us To Live Out This Nightmare For All Eternity 2016'". The show rolled the clip of Trump's now infamous tapes in which be brags about being famous enough to get away with sexual assault. After lamenting how far we've fallen, Oliver had a few choice words for Access Hollywood's Billy Bush -- the host who was egging Trump on throughout the leaked tapes: "Fuck Billy Bush. Fuck that guy. Fuck him."
They also highlighted Trump's subsequent apology, playing a few highlights from his brief tape. Oliver was able to demonstrate that even Trump's apology was filled with lies and, in fact, contradicted itself. He also discussed a few of the reactions by notable Republicans, including the statement released by Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan said that "women are to be championed and revered", a phrase Oliver responded to by letting Ryan know that "women are human beings and not pedigree show dogs, right?" Another notable aspect of Ryan's statement is that he doesn't withdraw his support. Instead, he makes a blanket statement, expressing "hope" that Trump will mature. With the election so close, and with advanced polls already open, it's too late "in absolutely every way".
Another common theme present in each Republican statement is that they are appalled because there are women in their lives. Oliver, "as the son of a mother and the husband of a wife" questioned "what the fuck does that have to do with anything?" This echoes comments made by many women, frustrated that certain men only seem to care about women's issues if they have a specific person they can relate them to.
The leaked footage did result in many Republicans withdrawing their support, including John McCain. Oliver pointed out that McCain's earlier statement, in which he says that Trump alone should bear the blame and consequences of his conduct, was a bit weaker.
"No, he alone did not make himself your party's nominee. All of you have consistently supported him through some absolutely heinous shit. In his very first campaign speech, he called Mexicans rapists. And that was just the beginning. Because, since then, he has proposed a temporary ban on Muslim immigrants, advocated for killing terrorist's families -- which is, by the way, a war crime -- argued for waterboarding, even if it doesn't obtain information because -- and I quote -- 'They deserve it anyway' and just this week he stood by his claims that the Central Park Five were guilty despite the fact that DNA evidence has since exonerated them, and all of you still he thought he should be president, so the only way you get to be shocked and outraged now is if you were cryogenically frozen until Friday afternoon and that Access Hollywood tape was the first thing you saw upon being reanimated."
Oliver then moved on to the show's main segment: a discussion of Guantanamo Bay and the complex issues surrounding President Obama's repeated promise to shut it down. One of the main obstacles facing President Obama is the number of Americans who want the area to remain open -- over fifty percent of Americans feel that the prison should remain operational. That's a hard number to go against.
Another obstacle to its closure is the number of Republicans who want to see its use increase over time, not decrease. Oliver believes that there are more compelling reasons in favour of its closure than those in favour of keeping it open.
For starters, he highlighted the financial cost to keeping Guantanamo Bay operational. In 2015, it cost Americans $445 million, or $7.29 million per prisoner. In addition, many countries around the world, from Iceland to Sudan to Iran, are in favour of its closure, seeing it as a human rights violation blemishing the global image of the United States.
Oliver discussed the prison's history, starting with the surprising fact that it's actually hosted on rented land. Under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, it was used to house refugees. Once the War on Terror began, Guantanamo Bay became what it known as today. While it is tempting to send those suspected of terrorism off soil to a highly secure prison, there were flaws in its choice from the beginning. Even Donald Rumsfeld couldn't muster anything better than "the least worst place" when describing its choice as a detention centre.
The problem with the War on Terror is that it isn't like traditional wars -- there is no physical enemy with whom to exchange prisoners following its conclusion. The result is that the United States will wind up being the jailers of individuals suspected of crimes but not charged or given a trial for an indeterminate amount of time.
A common refrain among those who support Guantanamo Bay is that the prison contains only "the worst of the worst". The claim sounds comforting, but, if you examine it in any detail, you may have more questions than you're comfortable with. For starters, if the prison is only housing the worst of the worst, why have over 700 detainees been released? In addition, nearly half of the 212 Afghans who were detained there were either entirely innocent or were mere conscripts. Even some of the evidence used to detain people there is "entirely flimsy" upon inspection. For a period of time, men who owned a particular model of Casio watch, which was very popular, were picked up, and many ended up in Guantanamo Bay.
Right now, there are only 61 prisoners being held there, but relocating them to other prisons is significantly harder than it seems. There are a little over 30 prisoners, referred to as "the irreducible minimum", who have participated in terrorist attacks but have cases with evidence that is difficult to obtain. In most of those cases, the evidence used to ascertain their guilt was obtained using torture, which is not admissible in any sort of trial.
To complicate things even further, when Obama speaks of wanting to "close" Guantanamo Bay, what he actually means is that he wants to relocate those prisoners to US soil. This is a drastically different concept than most people would presume the President means -- and one that would see potential terrorists being moved to military prisons across the United States.
Despite the President's repeated assertions, it looks like the staff at Gitmo are in it for the long haul, with legal documents revealing requests for accommodation improvements to suit an aging population. This means that people who have been detained as young men will likely grow old and die there, all without ever being tried for any crimes. As Oliver points out, at this point, we need to ask ourselves if we are okay with this.
He argues that, as a nation, we should not be okay with this type of unconstitutional treatment for a number of reasons. For starters, it amounts to human rights violations so notorious that even Russia mocks the United States. In addition, closing Gitmo would be demonstrating that Americans do stand up for their highest ideals -- a point Oliver illustrated by using a bumper sticker "Freedom Isn't Free". It may be difficult, but standing up for the ideals of a nation shouldn't be easy.
Oliver left us with one final argument in favour of closing Guantanamo Bay. It allows the President to operate a detention centre outside the bounds of the law, "You may trust President Obama's judgement", Oliver pointed out, "but he's on his way out". There is a very real prospect that Trump could be in charge of Gitmo, a concept chilling enough on its own, but highlighted by Last Week Tonight staff rolling footage of Trump insisting that he's going to to keep it open and "load it up with a lot of bad dudes". Things then got personal for Oliver:
"You might say, 'oh well, he'd have to come up with some pretext' and 'it would have to be someone who wasn't an American citizen' ... well, I'd like to put it to you that I've been shit-talking this guy for the better part of a year, and I own a fucking Casio watch. So we need to shut this shit down now."
Oliver closed the show by revisiting Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who was the subject of a segment the show did back in May. Instead of speaking about Kadyrov's cat, who still remains missing, Oliver spoke of his narcissism, his appetite for fame, and his similarities to a certain Presidential candidate. The show ended with Oliver provoking the leader once again -- but in an unbelievably adorable way. John Oliver cuddling a cat was a great palate cleanser after watching those Presidential debates.
"Let me remind you: last Sunday, I told you, if you looked above the clouds you would see rock bottom. But, if you look up there now, just way way up there, all the way up high, you will see right up in the distance where we were this time last week."
"Perhaps we've always been heading to this historic moment: the first female presidential nominee versus the human embodiment of every backwards, condescending, Mad Men-esque, boys' club attitude that has ever existed put into one giant, salivating, dick-size-referencing, pussy-grabbing warthog in a red power tie."
"You know you are miserable when you are finding solace in a fucking Whitesnake song."
"'The worst of the worst' is a big claim. I can think of at least one person who fits that category and who is not in there, and that's because, apparently, he's still working for the Today show [picture of Billy Bush is displayed]". [ed note: this episode aired before it was announced that NBC had let Bush go because of his part in the infamous Trump Tape]
You can watch the main segment on Guantanamo Bay below. Last Week Tonight will return next Sunday at 11:00 p.m.