There Is No Justification In Keeping Gitmo Open

Below is my reply on the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Piece of Nov. 4, 2008: Guantanamo Revelation.

I served in the military for 14 years, including three deployments to the Middle East. My last deployment was to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom and I remain deployed in Baghdad after its fall until December, 2003. As an Arabic speaker, I worked closely with Arabs of nearly all nationalities. I had many frank discussions. In discussing the difference between the US and Saddam’s Iraq, I could always point to the legal system in the US as a venue for any citizen to protest their grievances and to protect their constitutional rights. In contrast, I could discuss Saddam’s closed and often secret state security courts, arbitrary detentions, and prolonged arrest of state enemies without trial. This point became lost on Arabs after Gitmo continued to operate as it has over the last 7 years….7 years in which 775 people have been detained, approximately 250 remain in detention, and only two have faced anything resembling a trial.

If a Gulag is where Soviet officials sent enemies of the state, whether real or perceived, to some remote outpost and then removed the prisoners’ ability to challenge the legality of their detention or have a timely and fair trial, then GITMO is a gulag in all but name only. Its reputation as a gulag is not false, but well earned.

Yes, closing a gulag operated by a democratic nation with a rich history in the rule of law and civil rights will have “complexities.” But the complexities are our own creation when our government operated the farcical Camp Justice: without allowing detainees’ lawyers to have access to their clients and evidence for years after their initial detention; without being specifically accused of any crime; without habeas proceedings to challenge their prolonged detention; and, without, a timely and fair trial.

And no, the fact that some of these many detainees are really terrorists does not justify the continued operation of Gitmo and military commissions. Our country has managed quite well in the past to hold trials in our own federal criminal courts for our country’s version of the “worst of the worst:” mafia leaders, domestic terrorists, assassins, and spies. Courts have the means to consider classified evidence. Prisons have the means to hold terrorists.

We have done so in the past without the need to run America’s version of the Chateau D’If.

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19 thoughts on “There Is No Justification In Keeping Gitmo Open

  1. Travis-
    Thank you for your 14 years of military service, particularly the time spent deployed! That is a lot of time invested and it must have been a difficult decision not to finish 20. 17 1/2 years and counting myself…and I am really looking forward to a lifelong pension one day! At any rate, thanks again for your service.
    I have to respectfully disagree with your assessment. GITMO (or any alternate detention facility) is vital in the interests of National and WorldWide security. Just because a great number of enemy combatant's cases don't easily translate into a nice and neat federal trial doesn't mean we should just cut them loose. Never before (dating back to the American Revolution, WWI, WWII, Vietnam…all the way up to Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm) have those held by Gov't / Defense during continued armed conflict had as many rights and recourses as those currently held at GITMO. The more educated Pres Elect Obama is becoming on this issue…you will notice his continueing and steady shift concerning GITMO and what to do with the remaining enemy combatants. Much less rhetoric these days and sounding more and more like the current beat-up administration. Thankfully, I don't believe things are going to change that much.
    Continued Peace and Blessing to you.
    U.S.A. Terror-Free since 9-11-2001
    Happy Holidays and thanks again for your valuable service.

  2. Travis-
    Thank you for your 14 years of military service, particularly the time spent deployed! That is a lot of time invested and it must have been a difficult decision not to finish 20. 17 1/2 years and counting myself…and I am really looking forward to a lifelong pension one day! At any rate, thanks again for your service.
    I have to respectfully disagree with your assessment. GITMO (or any alternate detention facility) is vital in the interests of National and WorldWide security. Just because a great number of enemy combatant’s cases don’t easily translate into a nice and neat federal trial doesn’t mean we should just cut them loose. Never before (dating back to the American Revolution, WWI, WWII, Vietnam…all the way up to Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm) have those held by Gov’t / Defense during continued armed conflict had as many rights and recourses as those currently held at GITMO. The more educated Pres Elect Obama is becoming on this issue…you will notice his continueing and steady shift concerning GITMO and what to do with the remaining enemy combatants. Much less rhetoric these days and sounding more and more like the current beat-up administration. Thankfully, I don’t believe things are going to change that much.
    Continued Peace and Blessing to you.
    U.S.A. Terror-Free since 9-11-2001
    Happy Holidays and thanks again for your valuable service.

  3. "MSG U.S. Army",

    The difference between "enemy combatants" held in Gitmo and POWs held as a result of war between two states is HUGE. Prisoners of war have full access to aid organizations like the Red Cross and are guaranteed to be either released or charged with a war crime at the end of the war. Those held at Gitmo don't have these rights. Their detention is indefinite and arbitrary. They have no legal rights to a trial at all. The current process being used to "try" the suspects the administrations *wants* to try is a sham and an insult to justice.

    If we don't have enough evidence to try them in legitimate and fair federal courts, then we need to bite the bullet and release them. The same way police can be a hundred percent certain they know who a serial killer is, but don't have the evidence to get a successful conviction. A free society comes with costs, this is one of them.

  4. “MSG U.S. Army”,

    The difference between “enemy combatants” held in Gitmo and POWs held as a result of war between two states is HUGE. Prisoners of war have full access to aid organizations like the Red Cross and are guaranteed to be either released or charged with a war crime at the end of the war. Those held at Gitmo don’t have these rights. Their detention is indefinite and arbitrary. They have no legal rights to a trial at all. The current process being used to “try” the suspects the administrations *wants* to try is a sham and an insult to justice.

    If we don’t have enough evidence to try them in legitimate and fair federal courts, then we need to bite the bullet and release them. The same way police can be a hundred percent certain they know who a serial killer is, but don’t have the evidence to get a successful conviction. A free society comes with costs, this is one of them.

  5. Another excuse that is used to avoid releasing detainees is that there are not countries willing to admit them. Portugal recently announced that it is willing to take some Gitmo detainees:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/12/world/europe/12

    This would go a long ways to de-populating the prison from detainees that the U.S. officials have already said are free to go because there are no outstanding charges against them, but can't because there is no viable destination.

  6. Another excuse that is used to avoid releasing detainees is that there are not countries willing to admit them. Portugal recently announced that it is willing to take some Gitmo detainees:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/12/world/europe/12

    This would go a long ways to de-populating the prison from detainees that the U.S. officials have already said are free to go because there are no outstanding charges against them, but can't because there is no viable destination.

  7. Another excuse that is used to avoid releasing detainees is that there are not countries willing to admit them. Portugal recently announced that it is willing to take some Gitmo detainees:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/12/world/europe/12

    This would go a long ways to de-populating the prison from detainees that the U.S. officials have already said are free to go because there are no outstanding charges against them, but can't because there is no viable destination.

  8. Another excuse that is used to avoid releasing detainees is that there are not countries willing to admit them. Portugal recently announced that it is willing to take some Gitmo detainees:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/12/world/europe/12portugal.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=Portugal&st=cse

    This would go a long ways to de-populating the prison from detainees that the U.S. officials have already said are free to go because there are no outstanding charges against them, but can’t because there is no viable destination.

  9. Marco-

    Thanks for acknowledging my post and sharing your opinion of the current CSRT, ARB and Military Commissions process.

    I want to correct you on two points:

    1. The ICRC (International Committee Red Cross) has access to detainees at GITMO.
    2. We may never see an "end" to war on terrorism…like we saw an "end" to WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam etc…Therefore we may never know IF these enemy combatants are treated the same as POWs in the past as far as what happens AFTER armed conflict. Of course I would love to find out and I would love to see the likes of Al-Qaeda destroyed off the face of the earth…but until that day comes anyone determined to be an enemy combatant and determined to remain a threat gets to stay put at CLUB GITMO….and continue to enjoy 3 squares a day, rec time, mail, lawyer visits, and dental and health care the likes of which many in the U.S. go without.
    Perhaps Portugal will take the UIGHERS (who by the way are many times more better off at GITMO then they would be if we returned them to China). I say amen to that.

    Continued Peace and Blessings to you and Happy Holidays.
    U.S.A. Terror-Free since 9-11-2001

  10. Marco-

    Thanks for acknowledging my post and sharing your opinion of the current CSRT, ARB and Military Commissions process.

    I want to correct you on two points:

    1. The ICRC (International Committee Red Cross) has access to detainees at GITMO.
    2. We may never see an “end” to war on terrorism…like we saw an “end” to WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam etc…Therefore we may never know IF these enemy combatants are treated the same as POWs in the past as far as what happens AFTER armed conflict. Of course I would love to find out and I would love to see the likes of Al-Qaeda destroyed off the face of the earth…but until that day comes anyone determined to be an enemy combatant and determined to remain a threat gets to stay put at CLUB GITMO….and continue to enjoy 3 squares a day, rec time, mail, lawyer visits, and dental and health care the likes of which many in the U.S. go without.
    Perhaps Portugal will take the UIGHERS (who by the way are many times more better off at GITMO then they would be if we returned them to China). I say amen to that.

    Continued Peace and Blessings to you and Happy Holidays.
    U.S.A. Terror-Free since 9-11-2001

  11. There is justification to keep Gitmo open. Those who in Gitmo are terrorists. They were caught on the battlefield with arms and using those arms against troops who are there to bring justice, and freedoms to both Iraq, and Afghanistain. Unless you want these terrorists lose to bring terror to other countries. On the other hand maybe A.I. backs those to commit terrorism. The U.S. has released some of the inmates at Gitmo. Some of which have went back to pick up arms against the same people who took pick them in the first place. Some others have killed men, women, and children with bombs. Seems like A.I. stickes their nose in the business where it's not needed nor wanted in the first place. A.I.sees terrorists as victims first, and blame the victim first. America was the victim on 9-11, and the terrorists were the blame. Seems like A.I. see the terrrorists as victims and America as the terrorists. If A.I. contiues to see the Gitmo inmates as victims then A.I. would be on the wrong road for justice, freedoms, liberties, etc. Thanks

  12. There is justification to keep Gitmo open. Those who in Gitmo are terrorists. They were caught on the battlefield with arms and using those arms against troops who are there to bring justice, and freedoms to both Iraq, and Afghanistain. Unless you want these terrorists lose to bring terror to other countries. On the other hand maybe A.I. backs those to commit terrorism. The U.S. has released some of the inmates at Gitmo. Some of which have went back to pick up arms against the same people who took pick them in the first place. Some others have killed men, women, and children with bombs. Seems like A.I. stickes their nose in the business where it’s not needed nor wanted in the first place. A.I.sees terrorists as victims first, and blame the victim first. America was the victim on 9-11, and the terrorists were the blame. Seems like A.I. see the terrrorists as victims and America as the terrorists. If A.I. contiues to see the Gitmo inmates as victims then A.I. would be on the wrong road for justice, freedoms, liberties, etc. Thanks

  13. There is justification to keep Gitmo open. Those who in Gitmo are terrorists. They were caught on the battlefield with arms and using those arms against troops who are there to bring justice, and freedoms to both Iraq, and Afghanistain. Unless you want these terrorists lose to bring terror to other countries. On the other hand maybe A.I. backs those to commit terrorism. The U.S. has released some of the inmates at Gitmo. Some of which have went back to pick up arms against the same people who took pick them in the first place. Some others have killed men, women, and children with bombs. Seems like A.I. stickes their nose in the business where it’s not needed nor wanted in the first place. A.I.sees terrorists as victims first, and blame the victim first. America was the victim on 9-11, and the terrorists were the blame. Seems like A.I. see the terrrorists as victims and America as the terrorists. If A.I. contiues to see the Gitmo inmates as victims then A.I. would be on the wrong road for justice, freedoms, liberties, etc. Thanks

  14. There is justification to keep Gitmo open. Those who in Gitmo are terrorists. They were caught on the battlefield with arms and using those arms against troops who are there to bring justice, and freedoms to both Iraq, and Afghanistain. Unless you want these terrorists lose to bring terror to other countries. On the other hand maybe A.I. backs those to commit terrorism. The U.S. has released some of the inmates at Gitmo. Some of which have went back to pick up arms against the same people who took pick them in the first place. Some others have killed men, women, and children with bombs. Seems like A.I. stickes their nose in the business where it’s not needed nor wanted in the first place. A.I.sees terrorists as victims first, and blame the victim first. America was the victim on 9-11, and the terrorists were the blame. Seems like A.I. see the terrrorists as victims and America as the terrorists. If A.I. contiues to see the Gitmo inmates as victims then A.I. would be on the wrong road for justice, freedoms, liberties, etc. Thanks

  15. There is justification to keep Gitmo open. Those who in Gitmo are terrorists. They were caught on the battlefield with arms and using those arms against troops who are there to bring justice, and freedoms to both Iraq, and Afghanistain. Unless you want these terrorists lose to bring terror to other countries. On the other hand maybe A.I. backs those to commit terrorism. The U.S. has released some of the inmates at Gitmo. Some of which have went back to pick up arms against the same people who took pick them in the first place. Some others have killed men, women, and children with bombs. Seems like A.I. stickes their nose in the business where it’s not needed nor wanted in the first place. A.I.sees terrorists as victims first, and blame the victim first. America was the victim on 9-11, and the terrorists were the blame. Seems like A.I. see the terrrorists as victims and America as the terrorists. If A.I. contiues to see the Gitmo inmates as victims then A.I. would be on the wrong road for justice, freedoms, liberties, etc. Thanks

  16. The supermax idea isn't a bad one. I think both Democrats and Republicans both want to do the right thing but some are using it as a political football, which is just terrirble.

  17. The supermax idea isn’t a bad one. I think both Democrats and Republicans both want to do the right thing but some are using it as a political football, which is just terrirble.