Tag Archives: Guantanamo Bay

Same As It Ever Was

15 Apr

1. This morning, Channel 4 kept teasing a story about pop idol Justin Bieber having written or said something inappropriate at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Curious, I Googled it.  It was about as dismissively disrespectful as you’d expect from a boy who dresses like this to meet the Canadian Prime Minister. I then turned the channel, because teasing a story in this day and age insults my intelligence. 

2. Western New York Democrats are divided into factions. This is newsworthy because a Cheektowaga political club has endorsed a neighboring city’s caretaker Mayor. Bob McCarthy is here to tell us this, and to transcribe what people have to say about it, and leaves us with a quip from more than 10 years ago. Insightful!

3. Donn Esmonde has wonderful things to say about the positive effects of the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus. Except when it comes to maintaining, e.g., the Trico factory as a Maquiladora memorial. 

4. You know the relentless marketing blitz for that “Shen Yun” dance thing you’ve seen everywhere now for the past few months? It’s propaganda for a cult. One that’s been brutally oppressed by the Chinese Communists, but a cult nonetheless. 

5. A letter-writer to the News makes the case for Paladino’s ulterior motive in running for the Buffalo Board of Education. You knew there had to be one. 

6. Stop picking up “WNY Family” Magazine at your local pediatrician’s office, supermarket, or day care. Someone wrote a completely false and misleading article alleging that Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, is dangerous. Every medication comes with risks, but contracting the very contagious human papilloma virus increases a girl’s risk of eventually suffering from a variety of cancers. Here is the body count for the anti-vax paranoia movement. The author stands by the story, so that paper is dead to me. 

7. Surprise! Indefinite detention of people, kept incommunicado and without trial or charge at a third-world military base might engender some bad results. America should put these people on trial or release them to their home countries. It’s long since time that they could have legally been tried within our regular criminal system. Guantanamo Bay is the most un-American thing we’ve ever maintained for this long, and all it is now is a recruitment device for more terrorists. I’m not saying these are all great people whom we should release on the streets of Miami with a driver’s license and $500 cash. I’m saying there are right ways and wrong ways to deal with criminals or terrorists. Indefinitely detaining them without trial or charge is a “wrong way”. It is a massive national shame and goes against every single thing we purport to stand for; it violates everything we’re supposedly protecting by maintaining it.  

In other news, Spring might actually arrive this week. 

The Gitmo Self-Delusion

23 Nov

The recent acquittal of Ahmed Ghailani, now absolved African embassy bomber, on 284 of 285 counts of terrorism and conspiracy charges has caused much consternation among military-commission-promoters and torture-haters. Some of the hand wringing has also undoubtedly come from the Obama Administration itself, privately rethinking their misguided, altruistic plan to conduct civilian trials. Attorney General Eric Holder has called failure “not an option” in the process of trying terrorism suspects, currently held at the still-open Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Acquittal on 99.6% of charges sounds like failure to me. But why hold the trails at all if the outcome must be pre-ordained? We are so busy trying to live up our American ideals of “justice” and “fairness” that we have twisted ourselves into a rhetorical pretzel.

The entire trial process, civilian or military, is a self-imposed and self-created sham – we have painted ourselves into a legal corner and can’t see the way out. A fresh look at the entire counter-terrorism fight is required to see how far off the path we have gone. Gitmo policy, under two administrations, has diverged from objective reality long ago.

It is the fundamental duty of all thinking conservatives to first see the world as it is, with all its warts and inadequacies, not the world as they wish it would be. Liberals and libertarians serve those useful roles, imagining opposing fantasy lands of equality based upon societal largesse or individual grit. Meanwhile, in the pragmatic mud, the conservative is left to deal the actual matters at hand. And in the case of Gitmo, particularly, we need to remove the veil of our self-delusion.

The incarceration of nearly every inmate at Gitmo is an unhappy accident, not the result of deliberate policy. If I am an AK-47 toting, card carrying member of the Taliban or Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq, and I am the target of American forces, there are one of several fates awaiting me. Gitmo is the least likely, and least desirable.

Most likely, I will be shot dead or blown to pieces by a Mk-82 JDAM or Hellfire missile. No one will read me my rights. No one will charge me with a crime. Based upon my actions, associates, geographic location or suspicions of a nineteen year old kid, my life will be taken by a split second judgment. That’s called war.

If I am somehow captured by American or NATO forces, I will probably be taken into custody and held by Iraqis or Afghans. While in such custody, I may be fed and I may be beaten. I may be charged with a crime and tried, but standards of evidence in such trials are very spotty. Iraqi courts in particular rely very heavily on personal testimony and photographs, as if Photoshop had never been invented. As every American soldier carries a digital camera, a couple pictures at the point of detention, and the testimony of an Iraqi soldier or policeman is all that is required for substantial sentences. Every so often, in both countries, tribal relations pull favors, and large quantities of young men are just released, out the front door of the prison. After months of jailing, I may end up back on the battlefield.

If I am a High Value Target, and I have been captured by the Americans in the last seven years, I am held by them and not the local forces, in jails within the borders of American bases. Such jails are rarely discussed, and are the military’s solution to the Gitmo problem. If the prisoners are never transferred outside of the country, no one seems to care.

But if I am not shot or captured in any of the above scenarios, and was detained in the early days of the war in October or November of 2001, when Afghan jails and courts did not exist, then I was probably flown to Guantanamo Bay. Many of those prisoners did not warrant the special treatment, as is evidenced by the fact that out of 800 some total detainees, only two hundred-ish are leftOf course, 20% of those released have returned to their old ways. No matter – most held in Iraq and Afghanistan and then later released did so as well. 

Most of the 800 original Gitmo detainees were accidents. They were lucky not to get shot, but unlucky enough to be taken prisoner and deemed important. They were never read their rights, because they were captured by soldiers on a battlefield. They were interrogated in pleasant and unpleasant ways because a trial was never considered. Torture need not to have occurred for their confessions to be inadmissible. Evidence was never collected in anticipation of future legal proceedings. The thought of a civilian court is a moral absurdity promulgated later.

Shoehorning these detainees into our civilian courts, pushing to introduce misbegotten confessions and materials with no chain of evidence, reduces the legitimacy of said courts with little gain from the undermining. It is our choice to enter into this charade. A frequent criticism of the Bush Administration is that when the only tool they were willing to use was a hammer (the military), then everything starts to look like a nail. Fair enough. But to take the analogy further, this administration has fallen in love with its own set of tools, regardless of the job. If we use a chisel when a saw is needed, don’t fault the chisel, nor the job that required a saw. The job didn’t get done, but that does not make the job too hard nor the chisel useless. We simply need to pick up the saw and get to work.

The saw that the Obama Administration is avoiding is a pragmatic solution for the Gitmo problem. The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay should last as long as the naval base lasts. Release all detainees but the very worst: the Khalid Sheikh Mohammeds and Ramzi Bin al Shibhs. This should reduce the prisoner count to 50 or less. If the prisoners were picked up by the FBI (like KSM) and due process was followed, then try them. Future high ranking Al Qaeda operatives should be taken in this way, if at all possible, and they should be the only new prisoners at Gitmo. For the existing prisoners, if due process was not followed, and I fault no federal agent or military member for that, then never try them, and hold them until Al Qaeda and the current form of violent Islamist fundamentalism ceases to exist. If this includes KSM, then fine. Don’t put on a show. Don’t apologize. Never release them. We don’t “owe it” to anyone to hold a fake, pre-ordained trial, and it does not reduce our moral standing in the world to hold a prisoner of war until the war is over.

For the current detainees that aren’t the worst of the worst, send them back to the country that they came from. One salient fact lost in most debates about Gitmo is that many countries won’t accept their own citizens. No matter – fly them to a military base in the country they came from (Afghanistan, Iraq), walk them to the front gate and let them out. Only continued self-delusion keeps us from taking this simple step – as noted previously, if they were never shipped to Gitmo in the first place, we would  have happily released them years ago, and no one would know or care (the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan included).

If you are truly concerned about such hardened terrorists (after years of incarceration) taking up their old life again, put a CIA GPS transmitter in their neck and watch where they go. Once they enter a group of other suspected terrorists, kill them, like we do nearly every day in Pakistan with hardly a word of debate.

Will the Defendants Please Rise

14 Nov

It was announced yesterday that a group of terrorists, including Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, will be brought to Federal Court for the Southern District of New York to stand trial for conspiracy and mass murder.  They will be brought to New York from Guantanamo Bay, where they have been held and even tortured since being apprehended.

The conventional wisdom had been that, because this was an act of war, these people should be tried under military circumstances.  But war crimes have been tried, and are being tried under the auspices of the distinctly civilian Hague military tribunals, with much success.

There is a certain karmic and poetic justice in bringing these people to New York to stand trial before New Yorkers just steps from where two airplanes brought down the World Trade Center, killing 3,000 innocent, average commuters and travelers.

The torture that took place obviously renders a lot of evidence inadmissible in court, but if the government has enough untainted, admissible evidence of these historic crimes, then this is not a concern. Maybe we should stick them in with the general population on Riker’s Island.  If inmates accused of crimes against children get the shit beat out of them with regularity, I wonder what a tough street kid from an outer borough awaiting trial on an armed robbery charge might think of these guys.

I thought what Josh Marshall wrote on the subject was quite persuasive.

This isn’t just a matter of wanting to see punishment. It also vindicates our system of justice and values — and for it all to happen here, the scene of the crime, among the people of this city, not out on some island or in some secret jail.

Listening to the questions at Attorney General Holder’s press conference, I’m hearing again fears about giving the defendants a platform “to air their hateful views.” But really, who is so cowardly as to worry about what these five say? Is our standing and self-respect so brittle?

There’s a widespread belief that many seem to have that calling these people criminals and treating them as such somehow elevates their status and diminishes the fact that al Qaeda has effectively been making war on the United States. I’ve never understood this mindset. The key point in World War II is that at the end of the war the Allies would not deign to accord the leaders of Germany and Japan the respect accorded to defeated armies. They were tried as criminals. Because that is what they were.

Whether it’s fear that our justice system can’t mete justice out to these men, or worry that KSM or the others might mouth off about us at their trial, or concern about future attacks, I am continually surprised that the voices of cowardice and fear manage to convince themselves and others that they speak for courage and determination.

And Congressman Jerry Nadler’s district includes the World Trade Center.  He says,

I thank the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder for their diligent efforts to bring to justice those who have committed acts of terrorism against the United States. In particular, I applaud the decision to bring those individuals responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center to New York to face trial in our federal courts. New York is not afraid of terrorists, we want to confront them, we want to bring them to justice, and we want to hold them accountable for their despicable actions.

Closing It

26 Jan

John McCain was for closing Guantanamo Bay and moving detainees to Leavenworth before he was against it.

What I don’t get is why Republicans want to keep Guantanamo open so badly, and why they’re so opposed to transferring detainees to supermax facilities in the United States?

Obama Halts Gitmo Prosecutions & Pending Bush Regulations

21 Jan

Among his first official acts as President, Barack Obama has suspended all prosecutions of Guantanamo Bay detainees for 120 days. He has also put a halt to any and all last-minute Bush Administration regulatory changes, pending review.

Because of the legally uncertain and morally dubious status of the Guantanamo Bay detention center, any prosecution concluded there will have a stain of illegality on it. Frankly, if crimes they have committed, then crimes ought be prosecuted in a domestic military judicial proceeding. The only reason they’re being held in Guantanamo is so that things deemed illegal on domestic soil can be done to them. That’s not justice. That’s bullshit. The idea that the Qaeda fighters do not fall under the protection of the Geneva Convention was, first and foremost, declared incorrect by the Supreme Court, but why treat these prisoners poorly? Why torture them? Because we can? Anyone subjected to torture cannot be prosecuted. What do we do with them? Hold them indefinitely without charge?

As for the regulations, you can find out more about them here and here. Most of them, of course, weaken environmental and endangered species rules, laws, and regulations.

A September 16th Mentality

18 Jun

Barack Obama has hailed the recent Supreme Court decision, which held that detainees in Guantanamo Bay’s detention camp are entitled to habeas corpus. The McCain campaign said,

Senator Obama is a perfect manifestation of a September 10th mind-set . . . He does not understand the nature of the enemies we face,” McCain’s national security director Randy Scheunemann told reporters on a conference call.

Former CIA director James Woolsey, who is advising the McCain campaign, concurred, saying Obama has “an extremely dangerous and extremely naive approach toward terrorism . . . and toward dealing with prisoners captured overseas who have been engaged in terrorist attacks against the United States.”

Remember the blind Sheikh, Omar-Abdel Rahman? Connected to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, we arrested him and his co-conspirators and convicted them under the rule of law. He rots in jail for life. Why can’t we do the same to Qaeda suspects? How do we reconcile our rule of law, our constitution, our moral and legal obligation not to torture, with what we’ve done since 9/11? How does 9/11 justify violation of principles that date to 1215?

Obama said the government can crack down on terrorists “within the constraints of our Constitution.” He mentioned the indefinite detention of Guantanamo Bay detainees, contrasting their treatment with the prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

“And, you know, let’s take the example of Guantanamo,” Obama said. “What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks — for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center — we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U. S. prisons, incapacitated.

“And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, ‘Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims.’

Obama is merely arguing that the United States needs to follow its own laws and treaty obligations when it comes to people imprisoned by the United States on American soil, (which the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base most certainly is). If we don’t do that, then what, precisely, are we fundamentally fighting for?

The McCain camp can accuse Obama of having a 9/10 mentality all it wants. They?

They have a pre-1215 mentality. A September 16, 1787 mentality. A July 3, 1776 mentality.