Friday, June 10, 2005

Why Do We Need Gitmo?

Chapomatic has a depressing set of links to stories about people who want to do the United States harm. The most depressing is this Washington Post story, which is a stunning rebuke to those who think that all of the detainees at Guantanamo are nice fellows who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time:
The thundering F-16 and A-10 warplanes reduced the fighters' compound in Afghanistan to smoldering rubble. No one could still be alive, figured the U.S. soldiers crouched nearby. But inside, saved by a half-standing wall, a lanky 15-year-old waited as the wary soldiers neared.

As the Americans recount it, he leapt up, threw a grenade and was cut down by the soldiers' fire. The grenade scored: A 28-year-old sergeant was mortally wounded.

The boy was not, however. Blinded in one eye, his chest ripped opened by bullets, Omar Khadr lay on the ground and asked the soldiers to kill him -- in perfect English.

He was a Canadian.

"Everybody who walked by wanted to put a round in him," said Master Sgt. Scotty Hansen, who was awarded a Bronze Star for Valor after the battle in 2002. "But we all knew that's not the way we do it."

Omar Khadr survived. Today, he is 18, a prisoner at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and an increasingly awkward presence there for the Canadian government. His mother, sister and brother Abdurahman -- who was briefly imprisoned with Omar at Guantanamo -- have become what Omar's lawyer calls "the most despised family in Canada."

Abdurahman has publicly declared them to be al Qaeda members. His sister has said they all wished for martyrdom. Family members have spoken scornfully of Canadian society, as they receive medical care and welfare payments that keep them in a pleasant apartment in Toronto. . . .

But as Omar's confinement at Guantanamo grows longer, he has begun to gain grudging support from constitutional experts and editorial writers. They are pushing the government to demand that the United States either put him on trial or release him.

"Regardless of how much the Khadr family is despised here, Canada's lawmakers cannot look the other way when a citizen is held in foreign custody for years, under abusive conditions, and denied due process," said an editorial in the Toronto Star in February. "That makes Ottawa a silent partner in human rights abuse." . . .

"Canadian citizens should not be left beyond the reach of law," said Alex Neve, head of the Ottawa office of Amnesty International, a human rights group.

[The Khadr family lawyer Dennis] Edney neither confirms nor contests the U.S. soldiers' account indicating that Omar threw a grenade at them. He has called for a trial that would bring the evidence out in the open, allow cross examination of witnesses and deal with the question of Omar's age. Under international law, he is a minor.

The entire story is worth reading.


arrScott said...

One can only imagine the scorn today's so-called conservatives would have heaped on John Adams had they lived in the era of the Revolution. Insisting that even enemy soldiers who fire on and murder innocent civilians gathered legally to petition their government deserve the protection of law? This Adams fellow must really hate America! And what about George Washington? So-called conservatives would probably call him soft on Hessian terror for his insistence that all captured soldiers be accorded the full protection of the laws of war.

There was a national emergency in late 2001; we did capture a lot of bad folks in Afghanistan that autumn. Most weren't prisoners of war under existing international law, nor had they violated any U.S. laws, but neither could we simply release them back into Afghanistan the day the Taliban fled Kabul.

But it has been four years now, four years in which Congress and the president have had plenty of time to pass tax cuts, to revise bankruptcy laws, to vote themselves pay increases, and campaign for two elections. How, then, have Congress and the president not been able to come up with a new, effective legal procedure for dealing with the ongoing stream of non-POW "enemy combatants" we have captured and will indefinitely continue to capture?

The simple fact is that indefinitely imprisoning people by executive fiat with no basis in legislation or recourse to the judiciary is un-American. It is tyrannical. It is evil. If what we are doing with captured irregular combatants and suspected terrorists is right, then the Declaration of Independence was wrong. It's that simple: Either Gitmo is wrong, or George III was right. This is true no matter how terrible are the people we throw down our extralegal hole.

We could create a special court for enforcing international laws against piracy and other crimes that terrorists, would-be terrorists, and irregular soldiers violate. We could work to create joint tribunals through bilateral treaties, as Britain and the United States did when stamping out the slave trade in the mid-1800s. We don't need to close Gitmo, or set all the bad guys loose. We just need to craft laws or negotiate treaties with a minmum level of due process to govern the new problem that these people pose.

If the rule of law is inadequate to dealing with a serious national problem, fine. Make new laws. That is, after all, what we elect Congress and the president to do.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I missed the point of this post but this seems to me like exactly the type of case that you would WANT to try in court: Credible witnesses (US Military troops) Clear Suspect (everyone else was dead) Obvious Motive method and means (Familial and pathological hatred of US combined with military weaponry)

Unless the WaPo is leaving something unsaid this type of case would be easy. The problem of the boys youth can be dealt with either by removing the death penalty option or simply having a hearing to determine his mental competence or even try him in a military court. The point is the evidence is there to try these people and we do not.

The fear of trial when there is this kind of supporting evidence is a statement against the continued detention at Gitmo rather than for it. I have no problem keeping this man locked up. He is proud of the horrible things he did. Throw him in Leavenworth and let him stay there as General Population Prisoner #G7442. It is far better that he becomes one more federal prisoner than an international martyr and a symbol of the injustice we in the US fight against.

So, turning it around, given that we have considerable evidence that large numbers of gitmo detainees assaulted US and international troops, and have boasted about their connections to al-Qaeda and their intent to harm America, Americans, and our Allies, why do we need Gitmo?

TopCat said...

Stories like this make me want to pull my hair out by the roots... how could the Bush administration be so stupendusly incompetent not to put this moron on trial for murder.

Uncle Jimbo said...

I have kept a pretty hard line supporting the administration regarding the detainees. I do think that we need to finalize dispositions on all the clowns we hold.

Time for Tribunals at Gitmo


Uncle J

The Gipper Lives said...

The soldiers Adams defended were in uniform and were representatives of the Crown, the still lawful government. Adams didn't hate America--but most of the "Get Gitmo" crowd does.

Hessians also wore uniforms. And Washington gave the gentleman spy Major Andre a military tribunal--and hung him the next day. These bastards aren't even gentlemen.

This little rat is Canadian in name only. His only bond to Canada are welfare payments and a passport that lets him wander the world on behalf of a 7th-century death cult.

The Left howls when military tribunals are proposed. They demand POW status and Geneva protections when that is most advantageous to these scum. If treating them as criminal defendants with full Constitutional rights is more advantageous, then they demand that. By this logic, every prisoner we took in WW2 deserved a lawyer and a trial. Bullsh*t.

Keep in mind that about a dozen detainees we've paroled, our soldiers had to face in battle again. Gitmo is not tyrannical or evil. Until such time as they can made harmless, those bastards can rot for all I care.

Anonymous said...

The only "due process" unlawful combatants are entitled to under the ancient customs of war, and the Geneva and Hague Conventions is the question of which ear the pistol is pointed at.

arrScott said...

Noel -

If we need to keep these people locked away for the rest of their lives, fine. But right now, the only tool we're using to accomplish that goal is executive fiat. Does anyone really want to give President Hillary Clinton unlimited, extra-constitutional power to imprison people without charge? Does anyone really want to rely on her good judgment to keep the bad guys in detention?

The problem isn't the detention of these irregular soldiers and terrorists. The problem is the source of the authority under which we detain them. Right now, we're holding them for no better reason than "President Bush says so." As an emergency measure, in late 2001, that was the best we could do. Sometimes the executive just has to act. But it is long past time that we created a legislative or treaty basis for dealing with these bad guys.

Our ancestors were smart enough to come up with legislative and treaty solutions to similar problems in the past (piracy, slave-trading, rebellion). Why would we expect any less of our leaders today? Is it because we no longer believe in the moral values on which our country is founded, or is it because we're just not smart enough to uphold them?

Anonymous said...

We are in a war unlike any other in history. We are fighting folks that want to chop off your head because of what you believe and are willing to strap explosives to themselves, walk in someplace like a shopping mall or resturant and kill anyone there.
I wish all those who are whining about this issue could have a tour of 12 months in Iraq. I completed my first tour and will be going back very soon. What we soldiers cannot understand is what the hell is wrong with Americans today. Don't they understand the enemy? They want to kill your mom and sister with absolutely no rules or mercy. This is not a game of chess with a rulebook. This is all out warfare. I have to post anonymous because of my position in the military or would be glad to post my name, rank, and serial number. Wake up America.

Chap said...

Thanks very much for the link--I'm honored. And I wish I had answers...