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Friday, June 13, 2008

Close Down GITMO? Be Careful What You Wish For

Bloomberg had these prophetic words this morning about GITMO.


The campaign promises of John McCain and Barack Obama, coupled with a U.S. Supreme Court decision yesterday, mean Guantanamo Bay's days as a prison for suspected terrorists are probably numbered.

What isn't clear is what comes next.


For those opposed to the Bush administration and the GWOT in general, GITMO has become a symbol of everything that is wrong with both. It has been condemned by Democrats, the UN, and Europeans along with many human rights groups.

Here is how Human Rights Watch put it.


Guantanamo Bay detainees are at increasing risk of mental illness because most are held in extreme isolation, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

Most of the men held at the base in southeast Cuba — none of whom has been convicted — are worse off than convicts at the highest security "supermax" prisons in the U.S. because they are denied family visits and not permitted to have radios or televisions in their cells, the human rights group said.

"Guantanamo detainees who have not even been charged with a crime are being warehoused in conditions that are in many ways harsher than those reserved for the most dangerous, convicted criminals in the United States," said Jennifer Daskal, a senior counterterrorism counsel at the New York-based group.

Here is how the United Nations viewed GITMO.

The United States should close its jail at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and any secret prisons it may be running, a U.N. panel said Friday. "


The state party should cease to detain any person at Guantanamo Bay and close this detention facility, permit access by the detainees to judicial process or release them as soon as possible," the U.N. Committee Against Torture said in an 11-page report
issued in Geneva, Switzerland.

The report concluded that detention of suspects without charges being filed runs counter to established human rights law and that the war on terrorism does not constitute an armed conflict under international law.



Here is how civil rights attorney Tom Wilner put it.




To me at least, this sort of criticism is the GWOT equivalent of arm chair quarterbacking. Sure from the confines of your lazyboy the wide receiver was wide open, but it wasn't as easy to see him with three three hundred pound linemen in the quarterback's face. The same thing is going on here. Sure it is easy to point out each and every problem with GITMO, but that's only because the criticizers don't actually have the responsibility of incarcerating the terrorists themselves. Whatever problems GITMO has, no one has ever come up with a better solution. For all the criticism, I never hear anyone suggest anything that would work any better.

Closing down GITMO has several inherent problems.

1) Many times those that we release wind up back on the battlefield to kill more Americans. Many times former prisoners of GITMO wind up committing terror once they are released.

-- A Kuwaiti man released from U.S. custody at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in 2005 blew himself up in a suicide attack in Iraq last month, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

Abdullah Saleh al-Ajmi was one of two Kuwaitis who took part in a suicide attack in Mosul on April 26, the officials said. Records show that an attack in Mosul that day targeted an Iraqi police patrol and left six people dead, including two police officers.

An announcement on a jihadist Web site earlier this month declared that al-Ajmi was one of the "heroes" who carried out the Mosul operation. A second man from Kuwait also took part in the suicide attack, the Web site said.

Is anyone really surprised that once terrorists are released they go on committing terror?

2) Putting them through our own criminal court system is wraught with serious pitfalls. We really need to go no further than the spectacle that was the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. Of course, beyond the spectacle of a trial, there are a lot more bigger problems. Many of these terrorists have been flipped on by fellow terrorists. Not only would it be difficult to get these terrorists to testify in open court, but the danger to their friends and family would be extreme. While in theory it would be nice to believe that we could try all these folks in civilian courts, in reality this would be a logistical nightmare.

3) Many times the home countries of these terrorists don't want them. Here are some examples.

Only a few dozen, if that many, are likely to be charged with terrorism-related charges. Only two have been, so far, including Canadian Omar Khadr.

Most of the rest will likely be cleared for release. Eighty have already been cleared. But their home countries don't want them back or the U.S. does not want to send them there for fear they will be tortured. That's the case with 17 Uighurs held at the camp for five years. Human Rights Watch is proposing that Canada take them, to set an example for other allies to emulate and help the U.S. out of an embarrassing predicament.

But why would Canada want any of those alleged terrorists?

They are not terrorists, says Jasmine Herlt, director of Human Rights Watch in Canada. They were living in Afghanistan at the time of the American invasion in 2001 and fled to Pakistan, where they were among the dozens picked up by bounty hunters, or rival tribal clans, for up to $10,000 and handed to the Americans.

and...

Rivkin said he does not believe the U.S. government could justify detaining most of the Guantanamo detainees if it were put to the more rigorous test of a habeas corpus hearing in U.S. courts.

Moreover, "I've been told, back when I was at Guantanamo, that Guantanamo itself has become a gigantic al-Qaida training cell — it's like a graduate school, if you will, for these guys."And despite the best efforts of the U.S. government, in many cases, Rivkin said, countries don't want to take back the detainees.

"Let's assume quaintly that they're not innocent shepherds. We cannot hold them, and we cannot send them to any other country. What are we supposed to do — give them political asylum here? Let them walk the streets?" Rivkin said.

Of course, often this is a duplicitous game because the same countries that condemn GITMO then turn around and refuse to take on their own citizens and try them in their own country, as in the case referenced in Canada.

4)Many times sending them back to their own country means they will really be tortured. Some of these folks are from countries like Canada, Britain, Germany and Australia. Most of the time they are from places like Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Sending them back there will absolutely mean that these folks will be tortured. We can close down GITMO and all of the human rights groups will cheer but often that means sending these folks to countries where they will face all sorts of horrors. If you think conditions are bad in GITMO what do you think they will be like in some prison in Syria. This is never mentioned in the condemnation of GITMO.

Even GITMO supporters, like myself, see that it is a flawed system, however we see that the alternatives are worse, much worse. Before we go and close down GITMO someone must provide a reasonable alternative. Whatever problems there are at GITMO, no one has come up with a solution that would work any better.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Re: Many times those that we release wind up back on the battlefield to kill more Americans. Many times former prisoners of GITMO wind up committing terror once they are released.

The first thing to remember is that if these people had been treated as POWs, they need never have been released. Of course, they had to be arrested in either Iraq or Afghanistan. POWs are held for the duration of the war, which in this case would either have been the Iraq war or the Afghanistan war – neither of which are likely to last as long as
the “war on terror” – but they are likely to last long enough.


It was because certain prisoners were not considered POWs, so that
they could be tortured and charged with crimes, that they were brought to Gitmo. If they had not been brought to Gitmo, there never would have been any legal pressure to release them.

Of course, the government still might have released them. We are releasing POWs in Iraq all the time. That is because some of the old insurgents ARE NOW OUR ALLIES, so we have to be flexible. But, as I say, if they had been treated as POWs, we wouldn’t have to release any of them. (I wonder if
we have any statistics on insurgents released as new allies who returned to fighting us.)


The next point is that there have been few good statistics on the
number of released prisoners who have become “terrorists” after they were released from Gitmo. I put quotes around “terrorists” because we do not know how the counters count.


Our government’s usual definition of terrorism is attacks on
civilians. However, I suspect that only a few of the 35 or so claimed
cases are really attacks on civilians, and most were caught or found dead after attacking either US troops or Iraqi or Afghan troops.

Combating us is bad for our side, to be sure, but it is what we expect the enemy to do. In many of our wars, we honor our enemies (for example the North honored Confederate fighters after Appomattox, and Patton thought the world of Rommel), which is another good reason why we should not treat people who are accused of being terrorists as being merely “enemy combatants” or “illegal enemy combatants.” If they are terrorists, we should treat them as the ordinary criminals that they are – criminals, not enemies.


But getting back to the ones who were released: Our beloved military forces, who along with the CIA were responsible for arresting the accused in the first place, were the ones responsible for letting them go. I’ve seen some right-wing blogs that assert that the military let the ones
who returned to terrorism (We should question the word "return"
because they may have learned to be terrorists at Gitmo) only because of the urgings of liberal lawyers.


THAT is a dumb argument. If our military frees prisoners due to the urging of the lawyers on the other side of their case, WHEN THEY SERIOUSLY BELIEVE THAT THE PERSON IS GUILTY, then our military isn’t too smart. In fact, of course, they only let the person go because they thought he was innocent –so it is their mistake.


So, let us consider this in terms of cumulative mistakes. The military brings some 700 people to Guantanamo and then lets 500 of them go in most cases because it believes that those people should never have been arrested in the first place. So, mistakes in 500 out of 700 cases – a success percentage of only 28.5%. And then of the 500, some 35 are said to have returned to terrorism, a success ratio of 93%.

But the overall success ratio (mistaken arrests plus mistaken releases) is, of course, LESS than 28%.


And why not? How many of our guys speak Arabic? What does this imply
for the remaining prisoners at Gitmo? How many of them are guys with names like known terrorists, or guys who were turned in by old enemies or by the incompetent Bosnian police force?


Re: Abdullah Saleh al-Ajmi. I’ve read about this case. Apparently he was a deserter from the Kuwaiti Army. So, guess what, our guys were NOT bright enough to return him to the Kuwait Army, where probably he would have been put in the equivalent of a stockade for many years. Why our guys didn’t do this – I don’t know, but surely they are not the brightest bulbs in the pack. In any case, it wasn’t Liberal bleeding hearts who forgot to extradite the guy to the Kuwaiti Army.


So, one thing about Habeas Corpus – it will show us more about how
brilliant (or not so brilliant) our guys have been.


Re: 2) Putting them through our own criminal court system is wraught with serious pitfalls. We really need to go no further than the spectacle that was the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. Of course, beyond the spectacle of a trial, there are a lot more bigger problems. Many of these terrorists have been flipped on by fellow terrorists. Not only would it be difficult to get these terrorists to testify in open court, but the danger to their friends and family would be extreme. While in theory it would be nice to believe that we could try all these folks in civilian courts, in reality this would be a logistical nightmare.


It would be EASIER to try terrorists in the civil criminal court system than under the MCA. Under the MCA the government has one chance to try a suspect. If a MCA hearing finds him innocent, he must be set free.


In an civilian criminal trial, if offenses took place in multiple
states, each state has a chance to accuse and try the guy. So, for a
planner of 9/11, first there would be a federal trial. If that doesn’t work, a trial in New York and then Virginia and Pennsylvania.


Then, are you saying that civilian juries would be LESS prejudiced
against the defendants than the MCA tribunal? Hardly, they would be far more likely to be prejudiced. In the military (and the MCA judges are all in the military) killing people is part of the job. In contrast, civilians
tend to be prejudiced against people who are accused of being
terrorists.


But how about evidence, you may ask. Terrorists may have been flipped on by other terrorists, and they would not want to testify. As you say, but the prejudice of civilian juries and the chance to try defendants repeatedly overwhelms this small problem. And, most of all, we get the benefit of treating terrorists as the criminals that they really are. A criminal judge would be able to say when handing down his sentence: “I’ve dealt with murderers and rapists, but never such scum as you.”


Re: Many times the home countries of these terrorists don't want
them.


This, I think, is a lie by someone, probably in the Bush
Administration. First, no one who actually has been found innocent has actually been in this situation. Then, I believe under international law it is a settled principle that a person has a right to return to his own country. Finally, the fact that a country does not want them
back is of little importance. If the guy is found to be innocent, and the country still does not want them back, we can put him back in the country secretly and if the country protests, we say “so sorry.” So, no problem.


Some of this “we can’t put them back” baloney stems from the case of the Chinese Muslim who was just found not to be an enemy combatant by the court of appeals in DC (http://edition.cnn.com/2008/US/06/23/
gitmo.chinese.muslim/). One thought is that since this guy is from China and is said to be a terrorist against China, why not just give him back to China and let them deal with him. That might be a little brutal, but let’s not claim that (1) he is both a danger to the USA if left in the USA, and (2) it is too brutal to send him the China. If he really is a threat to our safety, send him to China. If our government
cannot stomach doing that, it’s not because they are liberal bleeding hearts. (They are conservative bleeding hearts.)


Re: “refuse to take on their own citizens and try them in their own
country, as in the case referenced in Canada.”


Ah! Now we get to the crux of the matter. There’s no country that
refuses to take an innocent person back. What the right wing is
worrying about is that there’s no country other than us that will try these guys. That might be because they think that they are innocent. Or, it might be because they think, rightly, that the expense and worry is the USA’s problem. But it’s not because they will not take back an innocent person.


Re: “Sending them back there will absolutely mean that these folks
will be tortured.


And liberals are supposed to be bleeding hearts! (1) If the accused are guilty, no problem in sending them to torture because we keep them in our prison system, or execute them in some cases. (2) If the person is INNOCENT, and he is sent back to his own country, and his own country refuses to believe that he is innocent and tortures him, that is one of the sad realities of this world. Of course, if we are convinced that the guy is innocent, we could keep him here, but don’t claim that there is no place to put him. If he is innocent and you are
so worried about his being tortured, keep him here. If you worry that he might hurt us, send him back to Egypt or wherever.

mike volpe said...

Your first point is a bunch of nonsense. An enemy combatant can be held as long as a POW. Their status has nothing to do with what the government wants to do with them. Their status has to do with the fac that they are not in uniform or fighting for a country.

As for your second point, I will take the official statistics over your own thoughts. Anyone that is surprised that terrorists wind up going back to terror is naive.

The reason that bad guys are released is because our government bows to politically correct pressure. That's why dangerous terrorists are released.


All your statistics are off. Almost none of these people are innocent. I don't know where you get the idea that 500 of 700 are innocent. Almost none of these people are innocent and frankly I suspect that none at all are innocent.

As for trying them in civilian court, that is just plain dumb. This has nothing to do with how many times someone can be tried. It has to do with asking terrorists to get up in open court and testify against other terrorists. That is NOT going to happen and thus most of these guys would NOT be convicted. Furthermore, are you really comfortable with terrorists getting a look at classified material against them.

There are plenty of terrorists in GITMO from plenty of countries in the Middle East. Most of them would be tortured in their home country.

As for habeas corpus, that is reserved for criminals not enemies during war.

As for those that come from Europe and other places like that, this is no lie, and I sourced it. Most of the time countries like that don't want their ex pat terrorists for obvious reasons.