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Making America Safer

So after as long as four and a half years in captivity, no doubt complete with torture and abuse of all sorts, 141 of the remaining 500 captives at Guantanamo are going to be released by the Bush administration, which has finally determined that they, after all, “pose no threat to the security” of the United States.

Oops.

Personally, I’d be dubious about that assertion, though. After the experience these people have been through, I would be amazed if any of them harbors particularly warm, fuzzy feelings about their hosts for the past half decade. That is to say, if they were not security threats when they were wrongly picked up and “disappeared” into America’s gulag in the Caribbean, they probably will be once they are released.

I thought it was ironic, too, that the announcement of their release came from “an official of the war crimes tribunal.”
What a sad joke! The “war crimes,” for the most part, which are the raison détre for Guantanamo, are not things that were done by those in detention in the naval base detention center; they are things that have been done to those captives by those running the tribunal and the base.

As a study by the Seton Hall University Law School determined, 55 percent of the detainees (and that’s a lot more than just those 141 being released) were “not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies,” while another 40% “have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda at all,” and of that latter group, 18 percent have “no definitive affiliation with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban.” Think about that: nearly three out of four of the detainees, or about 300 of them, had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or the Taliban, yet they have spent as much as four and a half years of their lives in brutal detention at the hands of this great paragon of freedom and the rule of law, the United States of America.

For that matter, being affiliated with the Taliban, which was the official government of Afghanistan at the time of the U.S.-led invasion of that country in October, 2001, should never have been grounds for being hauled off to Guantanamo. The Taliban fighters were not terrorists, had never attacked America, and should have been treated as simple prisoners of war, and released when the war in Afghanistan ended, which was in early 2002.

It should also be noted that the Seton Hall study found that only five percent of those held in Guantanamo had been captured by American forces. The rest had been captured by Pakistan or by Afghan warlords and turned over to the U.S. But since the U.S. was offering a lucrative bounty for captives, it is widely assumed, even by many in the U.S. government, that most of those turned over in that manner were just people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or who were for some reason on the wrong side of an argument, and were being traded for cash.

The real war crimes were the capture and detention and holding for years without charge of these hundreds of people, and the torture of many of them on the authority of the president and the attorney general and the secretary of defense.

Clearly the administration’s terrorist policies have put the U.S. in a bind. Facing world condemnation for its blatant flaunting of the Geneva Conventions, it must end the criminal detention of those held in Guantanamo and at other “black” sites around the globe, but if it does this, it will be releasing hundreds of people who will be telling their horror stories of inhumane treatment at the hands of the Americans for years to come. If they themselves don’t become committed enemies of America, many of those who hear their stories will.

No wonder the government hasn’t said where it is releasing these 141 people to. No wonder that, according to an article in Reuters, 30 percent of those the U.S. has “released from captivity” in Guantanamo are still being held at the base–in some cases since as long ago as March 2005! In some cases, it’s afraid to let them go; in others, the US knows that having held them so long, they will be caught and tortured or killed if sent home to their native countries, which no longer trust them to behave.

Nice going, George, Dick and Don! A fine mess you’ve made!

Making America safer indeed.So after as long as four and a half years in captivity, no doubt complete with torture and abuse of all sorts, 141 of the remaining 500 captives at Guantanamo are going to be released by the Bush administration, which has finally determined that they, after all, “pose no threat to the security” of the United States.

Oops.

Personally, I’d be dubious about that assertion, though. After the experience these people have been through, I would be amazed if any of them harbors particularly warm, fuzzy feelings about their hosts for the past half decade. That is to say, if they were not security threats when they were wrongly picked up and “disappeared” into America’s gulag in the Caribbean, they probably will be once they are released.
I thought it was ironic, too, that the announcement of their release came from “an official of the war crimes tribunal.”
What a sad joke! The “war crimes,” for the most part, which are the raison détre for Guantanamo, are not things that were done by those in detention in the naval base detention center; they are things that have been done to those captives by those running the tribunal and the base.

As a study by the Seton Hall University Law School determined, 55 percent of the detainees (and that’s a lot more than just those 141 being released) were “not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies,” while another 40% “have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda at all,” and of that latter group, 18 percent have “no definitive affiliation with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban.” Think about that: nearly three out of four of the detainees, or about 300 of them, had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or the Taliban, yet they have spent as much as four and a half years of their lives in brutal detention at the hands of this great paragon of freedom and the rule of law, the United States of America.

For that matter, being affiliated with the Taliban, which was the official government of Afghanistan at the time of the U.S.-led invasion of that country in October, 2001, should never have been grounds for being hauled off to Guantanamo. The Taliban fighters were not terrorists, had never attacked America, and should have been treated as simple prisoners of war, and released when the war in Afghanistan ended, which was in early 2002.

It should also be noted that the Seton Hall study found that only five percent of those held in Guantanamo had been captured by American forces. The rest had been captured by Pakistan or by Afghan warlords and turned over to the U.S. But since the U.S. was offering a lucrative bounty for captives, it is widely assumed, even by many in the U.S. government, that most of those turned over in that manner were just people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or who were for some reason on the wrong side of an argument, and were being traded for cash.

The real war crimes were the capture and detention and holding for years without charge of these hundreds of people, and the torture of many of them on the authority of the president and the attorney general and the secretary of defense.

Clearly the administration’s terrorist policies have put the U.S. in a bind. Facing world condemnation for its blatant flaunting of the Geneva Conventions, it must end the criminal detention of those held in Guantanamo and at other “black” sites around the globe, but if it does this, it will be releasing hundreds of people who will be telling their horror stories of inhumane treatment at the hands of the Americans for years to come. If they themselves don’t become committed enemies of America, many of those who hear their stories will.

No wonder the government hasn’t said where it is releasing these 141 people to. No wonder that, according to an article in Reuters published on April 14, 30 percent of those the U.S. has “released from captivity” in Guantanamo are still being held at the base–in some cases since as long ago as March 2005! In some cases, it’s afraid to let them go; in others, the US knows that having held them so long, they will be caught and tortured or killed if sent home to their native countries, which no longer trust them to behave.

Nice going, George, Dick and Don! A fine mess you’ve made!

Making America safer indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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