Why Guantanamo should close

It used to be that people who had never been convicted of any crime but that certain people in the government considered dangerous were called “free men.”

40 thoughts on “Why Guantanamo should close”

  1. Chris: seconded. Even more to the point, if you insist on treating those who ignore the rules of war the same as those that obey them, what’s the point of complying with said laws?

    I always find it rather amusing on how the “yuman rites” brigade simultaneously whine the American’s should treat the inmates of Guantanamo under the Geneva Conventions *and* that they should put them under civilian trial. Those with a passing knowledge of such conventions should be aware that prisoners held under such should almost *never* be put on trial, let alone a civilian one….

  2. Personally, I’ve always thought that the solution to the Guantanamo conundrum was to return the inmates to their place of capture & release them. Of course their likely life expectancy afterwards being about 3 minutes…….

  3. “Er, which nation are they at war with, precisely? ”

    The one that their public statements say they are at war with presumably…..

  4. “Sigh. The laws of war are not the same as the criminal code of a nation state. Don’t be a twat.”

    Politicians declaring a war on an abstract noun does not actually make it a real war. For a start, I’ve not seen any of those little maps marking the front line. You know, like the ones we see for Libya.

    If anyone is scoring high on the twatometer, it’s you.

  5. “Of course their likely life expectancy afterwards being about 3 minutes…”

    Well it’s true that some got back to find all their property was stolen by rivals (the denunciation to the Americans as a turrist being entirely unconnected I am sure). So they might indeed find it hard to make a living.

  6. Philip Scott Thomas

    Politicians declaring a war on an abstract noun does not actually make it a real war.

    And a charity declaring war on an abstract noun, such as War on Want, doesn’t make it a real charity?

    In both cases it’s called “synecdoche”.

  7. People captured in a theatre of war – a real battlefield i.e. not the entire planet – should be held as prisoners of war.

    People captured outside the theatre of war should be held as civilians and see prompt due process.

    People were detained in Guantanamo deliberately to circumvent the laws of peace and war. Sorry but you can’t / ought not have it both ways.

  8. “And a charity declaring war on an abstract noun, such as War on Want, doesn’t make it a real charity?”

    It still doesn’t make it a real war. The question of whether this makes the charity (or politicians) real remains a non sequitur.

  9. First of all we don’t know whether all the people in there are terrorists at all. All we know is what the Federal thugs have said. If they are so dangerous lets see the evidence. Let them be tried by due process of law, not by military kangaroo courts (although so degraded is American jurisprudence these days that a civilian court is far from ideal). At least some of the inmates were sold to the yanks by pakistani ISI agents operating on a commission basis.
    Second the very existence of Guantanamo is an insult to the memories of all those human beings who have given their lives for freedom, esp in the West. How shameful that the USA which faced down and destroyed Hitler and held the line against communist tyranny has become so degenerate that it needs to practice torture and life-long imprisionment without trial or charge, without anybody even knowing fully what is going on and whats being done to who.

  10. “Politicians declaring a war on an abstract noun does not actually make it a real war”

    But then what does some beard on a video declaring ‘Holy War on ………… pbuh!'(complete this space with nation, people of choice) make? Do we not take them seriously because of the beard? The spittle flying around? The camera shake?

    As for the 3 minutes… yes that’s about what the ones lifted from Iraq, Afghanistan could have expected once the local goons got their hands on them standing at the airport with a stewardess’s “Thank you for flying with us, have a nice day.” ringing in their ears. Unless the rooms with the electrodes & the pliers weren’t fully occupied.

    Can never understand why Kay Tie seems to think the entire world’s a variation on Tunbridge Wells.

  11. Rupert,

    Those with a passing knowledge of such conventions should be aware that prisoners held under such should almost *never* be put on trial, let alone a civilian one….

    Actually, you are missing the difference between the third and fourth Geneva Conventions (of 1949). If they are POW under the third convention, then they should be treated rather better than they were. If they were simple criminals, therefore civilians entitled to protection under the fourth convention, then they should be tried in a non-military court.

    Their treatment certainly seems contrary to Art 33 & 37, although I assume the US are relying on (if they give it any cognisance whatsoever) Art 42. Arts 71, 76 & 78 are well worth a read.

  12. [email protected]#10.
    Even the military don’t call it a ‘battlefield’ now. Forward Edge of the Battlefield Area or FEBAs the preferred term. Battlefield Area in ‘War in Europe’ terms would have been Eastern Seaboard North America thru to the Urals & beyond. Pole to as far south as you fancy.

  13. “But then what does some beard on a video declaring ‘Holy War on ………… pbuh!’(complete this space with nation, people of choice) make?”

    It still doesn’t make it a war, you know. Even if they do have very long beards. And do that ululation thing.

    Of course, I do understand that you are so solipsistic as to think that your force of will is enough to make something as you deem it to be. But even then, you seem to have the bizarre view that having deemed it A War you then think that the laws governing wars don’t apply either.

    There’s surely a description for people who hold two contradictory things to be true at the same time.

  14. “There’s surely a description for people who hold two contradictory things to be true at the same time.”

    Kay Tie?

    I can’t say I carry any particular affection to USGov in this but I can appreciate their difficulty. You lot don’t seem to be able to decide whether it’s criminal law that should apply to these people or The Geneva Convention. I can’t see either applies. They drop in a hole between the two which, to be honest, is what they want to do. Call themselves soldiers when they’re not actually fighting, abandon all the accepted rules for soldiers when they do fight, then claim they’re soldiers again if they get captured. Or innocent civilians. Ah, Bless ’em. Wipe their noses, send ’em home to Mum.
    The answer’s probably that the ‘Rules of War’ haven’t been observed in any meaningful manner since armies stopped dressing the troops in pretty uniforms & getting them to point muskets at each other. About the time the first Geneva Convention was written. Variation on generals fighting the next war using the last war’s tactics strategy.
    Recurring theme seems to be; by infringing their rights we endanger our own freedoms. Fair comment till you get your legs blown off on a train. (London, Madrid, Moscow.) Then the issue doesn’t seem so clear cut.
    Damned if I can see any alternative at the moment to cutting governments some slack to do some extremely dirty things without asking too many questions. Can’t say I trust governments not to be as duplicitous & self serving as they usually are but what’s the alternative?

    That was rather the point. Military accepted a long time ago that with modern tech warfare wasn’t getting muddy in the trenches any more. The action would happen across hemispheres. Al Q (if you accept it exists) has access to modern tech & sees the whole world as their theatre of operations. Looks like the only people trying to re-fight Waterloo hang around here.

  15. bloke in spain,

    Is it fair to summarise your position as follows?

    A government employee (say, a member of the security services or military) should be able to point the finger at a person anywhere on the planet and have that person transported to Guantanamo Bay to be indefinitely detained without trial and deprive him of the right to challenge the lawfulness of his detention.

  16. I think that to be entirely chivalrous, we should change our rules of military engagement to standing back to back with our enemies followed a ten pace walk, spin round and blast with a duelling pistol. Oh and Shami Chakrabarti should of course there as adjudicator. Whether she would have to wear a full burkha, I’m not sure.

  17. Yep, that’s about it.

    Horrible isn’t it?

    We have to trust that the people entrusted with those powers don’t abuse them. Which is frightening.

    Don’t like it? Nor do I. It’s against everything I believe in. I don’t even think it will work.

    Trouble is all our wonderful freedoms & liberties are such fragile things confronted by those that don’t respect them. Don’t want them.

    Wish I had a nice clever answer. Do you?

  18. Sorry Martin, is the ‘you’ here; me personally, ‘The West ‘ (for the want of a better term) or AlQ?

  19. Bloke in Spain,

    If you have no defined, precise idea of your opponent’s status…why are you fighting him?

  20. bloke in spain,

    Good on you for being forthright but it seems an extraordinary (not to mention unwarranted) position to hold, particularly if you “don’t even think it will work”. Although I suspect a great many people would agree with you.

    I’m not sure if I have a “nice clever answer” – I have an answer @10. I think this approach has stood us in fairly good stead.

    We have checks and balances throughout our system for a reason: centuries of precedent suggesting they are a bloody good idea.

    Here is an excerpt from a judgement of the Supreme Court of Israel handed down 18 hours after two car bombings:

    This decision opens with a description of the difficult reality in which Israel finds herself security wise. We shall conclude this judgment by re-addressing that harsh reality. We are aware that this decision does not ease dealing with that reality. This is the destiny of democracy, as not all means are acceptable to it, and not all practices employed by its enemies are open before it. Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand. Preserving the Rule of Law and recognition of an individual’s liberty constitutes an important component in its understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit and its strength and allow it to overcome its difficulties

    I doubt it will convince you but I like to reflect on it from time to time.

  21. Bloke in Spain,

    Haven’t ever have had much time for heuristic nonsense; went to a Jesuit school.

    I meant the USA – you know, the ones who operate Guantanamo. You appeared to be defending their position in your comment of 08/03/11 at 1.04 pm; so ,in the context of replying to that comment, I haveaccordingly referred to them (or ‘them’) as ‘you’.

    If only for the purposes of ensuring clarity, you understand.

  22. Bloke in Spain clearly thinks something must be done, that Guantanamo is something, therefore it must be done. Even though he knows it won’t work, confers terrifying powers on government officials, and will undermine freedom itself. Because, you know, something has to be done to protect us from the kind of people that think a car full of petrol driven into a building will explode like in the movies.

    Well, Bloke in Spain, I salute your utter lack of perspective in all things. At least you are honest about it.

  23. surely the point is that if we actually had credible grounds for thinking them to be terrorists, we would have tried them in some form of court, whether civil or military. As it is, all they are are captives. At the time they were captured, it must have been tempting for folks in Afghanistan to get rid of a pesky neighbour by denouncing him to the invaders. And if by some chance they were connected to AQ, surely the value of their information after 8 years in confinement is minimal!

  24. Martin, thanx for the clarification. I’m Brit so I’m not part of the US polity. I’m not necessarily defending the US but looking for an alternative & so far not finding one.

    As for Kay Tie usual clever quips & usual absence of clever solutions.

  25. Sure Tim, but only under this condition:

    That everyone who supports this also puts up a £100000 bond upfront and gives unlimited financial guarantees to compensate any victims of subsequent terrorist activities those people undertake, and is prepare to personally go to prison for being an indirect accomplice in their murders.

    When you are happy to do that, they we all will be happy to release your ‘cute and cuddly jihadi pets’ to complete your humanitarian fantasy.

    (this of course excludes the people you have killed directly with your ‘compassionate, high principled morals’, and even then it’s a crap deal for humanity in general — a sort of moral Tobin tax on steroids, eww)

  26. That everyone who supports this also puts up a £100000 bond upfront and gives unlimited financial guarantees to compensate any victims of subsequent terrorist activities those people undertake, and is prepare to personally go to prison for being an indirect accomplice in their murders.

    Brilliant. Or we could just hang everyone who the police ever accuse of anything, unless Guardian Reading Liberals (like, erm, Tim W) are willing to take responsibility for everything they ever do when they’re released because The Powers That Be don’t actually have any evidence against them that they’re willing to put to a court of law.

    Nobody (well, probably some mad Trots and mad Wahabbiloons excepted) is saying these people should be released without question.

    We’re saying that if the cops and spooks have evidence that they’re guilty of crimes, the people should be tried, and if they don’t, then it’s a fucking disgrace that the people are still locked up.

    If the standards of evidence in civilian courts mean that various technology-based things which mean that the spooks *know* these chaps are guilty aren’t allowed in court, then the correct response is to *try and pass a law* so that whatever evidence we have can be used. It isn’t to ignore the fucking law altogether.

    [cue the obvious Man For All Seasons line. Anyone who doesn’t subscribe to it is, fundamentally, a scumbag.]

  27. “As for Kay Tie usual clever quips & usual absence of clever solutions.”

    We don’t need a new solution because we already have one: the rule of law and the right to a fair trial. None of you New World Order types have demonstrated that the threat is of such severity that a “clever solution” is needed. Perhaps you should apply some hard facts to counter your emotions that are leading your intellect astray?

  28. …tends to prefer the rule of law to other forms of government and social control…but the UK has not been very good at this since about 1970

  29. Kay Tie, as usual, likes to categorise those he/she disagrees with into a convenient box. Am I supposed to be supporter of this ‘New World Order’ or a NWO conspiracy theorist? You’re unclear. Either way the idea that the supposed players could overcome their profound & wide ranging incompetence to create such a thing is hilarious.
    “the rule of law and the right to a fair trial.”
    Which law?
    Let’s start with the Geneva Conventions as they’re so popular with some commentators. They’re the ones that say it’s perfectly OK to kill people as long as you stick by the rules & don’t make a mess. But the guys we’re discussing don’t stick by the rules do they? They don’t carry ID cards, wear uniforms or respect the rights of civilians.
    OK let’s try national laws. But which nation’s laws? Why should a Yemini detained in Pakistan be subject to US, UK or any other nation’s laws apart from Pakistan’s? If it has any this week. UK laws? I’m certainly not too sure about them. I’m still trying to work out exactly what the assortment of various recent ‘terrorist ‘ cases are supposed to have found the defendants guilty of. On the basis of the evidence I’ve read, my dog-eared copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook roneod in 1970 & probably lurking somewhere in the parents’ loft coupled with the surfeit of explosive precursor chemicals I’ve been working with half my life would make me a better prospect for HM’s accommodation than most of those idiots.
    As for international law, that’s the law that countries agree to abide by unless they don’t. That gets forced down the throats of those with little clout & ignored when transgressors are too inconvenient to trouble.
    Which law?
    Trial in which court?
    The one at The Hague that likes trying Serbs but doesn’t seem interested in anyone else?
    You’re not thinking about getting the UN involved in this are you? Jeez! That should be good for a laugh if Gaddafi’s representative can spare the time.

  30. Mr Bloke…so the guys in captivity at Guantanamo will remain there for how long? Why? They have never been tried by any country’s legal system, nor by the Geneva Convention. What are you arguing for? Are you about to volunteer for a spell of indefinite imprisonment because the bloke down the road thinks you are a menace?

  31. Are you about to volunteer for a spell of indefinite imprisonment because the bloke down the road thinks you are a menace?

    Well, quite, “It’s fine so long as it doesn’t happen to me or mine”.

  32. Here is formery ‘classified memorandum opinion’ on a habeas petition. Sorry for the lengthy quote, but I find it extraordinary. I’ve spaced it to make it more readable and emphasised in bold the truly laughable-if-it-wasn’t-so-serious bit. I haven’t altered anything else – for example the scare quotes around ‘confession’.

    Petitioner Fouad Mahmoud Al Rabiah (“AI Rabiah”) has been detained by the United States Government at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba since 2002 [opinion is dated 17 September 2009].

    The evidentiary record on which the Government seeks to justify his indefinite detention is surprisingly bare. The Government has withdrawn its reliance on most of the evidence and allegations that were once asserted against Al Rabiah, and now relies almost exclusively on Al Rabiah’s “confessions” to certain conduct.

    Not only did Al Rabiah’s interrogators repeatedly conclude that these same confessions were not believable -which Al Rabiah’s counsel attributes to abuse and coercion, some of which is supported by the record -but it is also undisputed that AI Rabiah confessed to information that his interrogators obtained from either alleged eyewitnesses who are not credible and as to whom the Government has now largely withdrawn any reliance, or from sources that never even existed.

    Far from providing the Court with credible and reliable evidence as the basis for Al Rabiah’s continued detention, the Government asks the Court to simply accept the same confessions that the Government’s own interrogators did not credit, and to ignore the assessment [redacted].

    Based on this record (or more accurately, in spite of it), the Government asserts that it has the authority to detain Al Rabiah pursuant to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, Pub. L. No.1 07-40, § 2(a), 115 Stat. 224, 224 (2001) (“AUMF”), which authorizes the use of force against certain terrorist nations, organizations, and persons. Al Rabiah believes he is unlawfully detained and has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

    That’s the intro – the petition was granted.

    There is some really terrible stuff in the opinion – the above isn’t the half of it – and from looking at some other decisions the lack of credible evidence doesn’t seem particularly unusual. In another case, for example,

    The judges were particularly concerned with government assertions that the evidence was reliable because it was repeated in separate documents and that officials would not have included the information if it were not dependable.

    “Lewis Carroll notwithstanding, the fact the government has ‘said it thrice’ does not make an allegation true,” wrote Judge Merrick B. Garland, quoting from Carroll’s poem “The Hunting of the Snark.”

    But at least the those guys were captured in or near Afghanistan!

    Unlike the six men ‘transferred’ by the US government from Bosnia-Herzegovina, (some 1000 miles from Afghanistan), some 5000 miles to Guantanamo Bay, with the connivance of the Bosnian government, after they were ordered to be freed by the Bosnian Supreme Court, the original case dropped against them by the Bosnian prosecutor. The courts eventually (i.e. after years of legal wranglings) ordered five of the six released because of the government’s ‘thin reed’ of evidence, iow insufficiently persuasive. (That’s not the whole story – for example, seven years after they were kidnapped transferred, the US government withdrew its original allegations and made-up alleged something else.)

    That is not to say all cases are the same or that they don’t have any dangerous people in there – but that fact is that without accountability we have no idea!

    Even military officers who have served as prosecutors in such cases have resigned because

    What these cases show is that we can’t and must not take governments at their word.

    I must say it’s laughable that we’re asked to trust administrations that, among other things,

    1. circumvent the rule of law,

    2. kidnap people and unlawfully detain them,

    3. change the rules and the allegations,

    4. break their own rules,

    5. object to courts asking for objectively credible evidence,

    6. rely on ‘coerced’ confessions even its own investigators disbelieve.

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