Sunday, June 19, 2005

Gitmo and Gulags.

I've watched the ongoing controversy about Guantanamo prison camps with a bit of nostalgia ( I was there several times to fly counter-drug operations) and bewilderment. On the one hand you have some grand standing Senators and Congressmen who say that GTMO must be closed down because there is treatment that verges on torture and saying:

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime--Pol Pot or others--that had no concern for human beings.
This is usually followed by a demand to close GTMO NOW!

On the other hand are the folks who say that , "Hey, we're nothing compared to what old Joe Stalin did in the real gulags. We are coddling these thugs and they deserve a hell of a lot worse". The is a second verse to their refrain, that anyone who criticizes what the United States is doing in Guantanamo must be a disloyal American. Its obivous that that person does not care for his country's welfare or winning the war on terrorism.

So who's right? Well let me tell you Michelle Macangalang, they both are.

Let me preface what follows by stating categorically that I have absolutely ZERO sympathy for the occupants of Gtmo prison camp. None, nada, zilch. These people are scum and I could care less if their "precious" Koran is pissed on, torn apart, thrown at them or other wise desecrated. The Koran is desecrated every time one of these Islamic scumbags opens one. And I don't care if they get deprived of sleep, are made to sweat, or locked in cages by themselves. Could not have happened to a nicer bunch of guys. These jerks chose to make league with Osama and his band of criminals so they deserve to be in a real gulag. Too bad "old Uncle Joe" is not around to play "lets make a deal" with.

However, the longer we maintain the camp in Guantanmo the more tenuous the legal and moral position of the United States becomes. I submit to you, that if anyone in DOD could do so, they would admit, that back when the idea came to put Afghan prisoners in Guantanamo if someone had told them that some 3 years later they would still be there, they would look at you like you were crazy. In other words, the U.S. government never intended it to go like this. Truth be told, they probably expected there to be workable Afghan government by now so that custody could be transferred for all but the most hardened criminals. Problem is the Afghan government, like Iraq is still a basket case. Now that that things have gone as far as they have, they have to put the best face on it that is possible. So, pinheads like Dick Durbin actually do the US government a service, by distracting people from the real issues involved with GTMO. Quite simply, the powers that be never envisioned, or communicated, the fact that the GWOT is going to last for over 20 years.

The real issue is, that we chose not make these folks prisoners of war, subject to the Geneva convention, but rather declared them Illegal enemy combatants . There are some real issues with this:

The U.S. classifies the prisoners held at Camp Delta and Camp Echo as "illegal enemy combatants", but has not held the Article 5 tribunals that would be required by international law for it to do so. This would grant them the rights of the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV), as opposed to the more common Third Geneva Convention (GCIII) which deals exclusively with prisoners of war. On November 9, 2004 US District Court Judge James Robertson ruled that the Bush Administration had overstepped its authority to try such prisoners as enemy combatants in a military tribunal and denying them access to the evidence used against them.
Another problem with the US treatment of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners, is that most of them were captured and transferred to the camp from non-US soil. International laws regarding warfare would allow the US to do so, but only if the persons can be classified as prisoners of war. If they can not, the actions are kidnappings.

So the US can keep them, but only if it is willing to turn its back on accepted international law. Now we can do that, but in the end there comes a cost. God forbid the Muslim wackos capture a large group of Americans. The again, we all know how observant of international law these Muslim wackos are. So why not beat these bastards to the punch and keep them from re-entering the fight?

The reason is our rhetoric and American world view of themselves. The global war on terror is framed as a war to eliminate evil. Americans believe that they are better than the other major powers of the world and not motivated by self interest. We all still believe, ( at least I still do) that America is the last, best hope for humanity. So when we behave like a nation looking out for its self interest, or even just trying to take care of itself, it does not square with the vision of who we are. God forbid if we acted like our friends the British.

Whatever intelligence value these folks may have had is long gone. So the only real reason to hold these people now is to keep them from re-entering the fight. That's an acceptable goal and I have no quarrel with it, except that we cannot have it both ways. If we are a land of respect for law and democracy, the supposed aim of our effort in Iraq, then we cannot be selective in our applications of it.

So my solution to the GITMO "problem"? Build a gallows. Have trials and treat these people like the criminals they are. Those the US finds guilty, give them a punishment appropriate to the crime. If someone is innocent, send them strait back to Kabul. Those we do not hang, put them into the Federal prison system and reduced the burden on the US military. There may be murderers and drug dealers and rapists there, but by God they are patriotic murderers and rapists. Why else is John Walker Jr kept in isolation? Because he would be dead in a week in the general population. Same thing happens to child molesters.

A little extreme? Well that depends on your point of view. There are about 6000 families ( WTC+Iraq War Dead+Afghanistan War dead+USS Cole victims+ Madrid subway victims+ God knows who else) who would probably think that was too good for them. However any movement towards adjudication and justice for these folks would be better than to continue in the current legal limbo. Otherwise call them POW's and keep them for the duration. Since its going to be a good while to victory, the end result is the same.

Plus, the current camps and the expansion plans are a huge drain on US military manpower. At a time when the powers that be are refusing to adequately man the US Army, so they are making the other services run it. That's flawed in the long run for a whole host of reasons.

So in summary, be careful what you wish for, or you may surely get it. We wanted the Islamists out of circulation. Now we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that we are just like every other major power involved in a war of occupation.

So don't cry about Dick Durbin. Cry about the fact that we don't get on with administering of justice to these Afghan and Arab scum.



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