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Free the Gitmo 500!

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The United Nations Human Rights Commission has issued a report demanding that the 500 remaining prisoners being held by the United States at their Guantanamo Bay facility be released “without further delay”. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan commented that it was inappropriate for prisoners to be held incommunicado “in perpetuity” by the US Government, regardless of their past actions, pending trials or danger as potential terrorists.

Among the 53 members of the Human Rights Commission are:

• China which holds more political prisoners than all other nations in the world combined and is currently holding over 1000 political prisoners in Tibet alone, being held prisoner merely for supporting traditional Tibetan religion including such crimes as being an 8 year old who some recognize as the reincarnation of a famous Lama. This is in addition to uncounted tens of thousands of ethnic Chinese and other groups in forced detention for political crimes with no right to a trial or outside communication.

• Congo where are there no tedious political prisoners. They just ‘disappear’ hundreds of politically inconvenient people every year, which means raping them, killing them and dumping them in unmarked mass graves.

• Cuba where laws controlling freedom of movement put the entire population under effective house arrest, and where tens of thousands of political prisoners have been executed and imprisoned by the current regime, including for such crimes as homosexuality. In the latest roundups of dissidents over 100 were jailed for disagreeing with the government.

• Ethiopia whose government recently arrested all of the leaders of the political opposition and jailed without trial or outside contact thousands of students from the Oromo tribe, after shooting a number of them during political demonstrations.

• Nigeria where they’ve just reinstated the death penalty for extramarital sex – only applying to women, of course.

• And of course Sudan, whose government presides over the ongoing genocides and human rights abuses in Darfur, which have already led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

You don’t get much more hypocritical than the UN, where a group which includes the worst human rights abusers in the world – who regularly ‘disappear’ innocent people, shoot whole villages and throw them in mass graves and jail religious leaders and political critics indefinitely without trial – thinks that the US should immediately free 500 dangerous prisoners taken in war, fighting as non-uniformed combatants and connected to ongoing terrorist operations, who are even being treated far more humanely than they likely deserve. Rather than backing their demands, wouldn’t it be refreshing if Kofi Annan just once took some of these nations to task for their own much more serious human rights abuses?

Now having gotten that off of my chest, the Guantanamo prisoners still need to be dealt with. It’s not much publicized, but many of the prisoners have already been returned to their homes or to neutral nations. Some others have been put on trial and more are likely to be tried in the near future. It’s also become very clear that in the light of the Quirin ruling and other legal precedents there’s no ambiguity about their status and the legitimacy of holding them and trying them outside of our civilian justice system.

But the fact is that these prisoners are being held by the United States government, on US territory, and we can afford to give them some basic semblance of due process, even if they aren’t strictly entitled to it under our law or under the Geneva Convention. This is a situation where it does us as a nation no harm to be generous, and where we could draw the line even more clearly between the United States and the vermin who infest the UN Human Rights Commission.

Every prisoner who is not going to be put on trial in the next year for an identifiable crime ought to be returned to their home country if that country will accept them. This may be a problem, because many of their countries of origin don’t particularly want these violent fanatics back, but in those cases some alternative should be found for them – for example letting their home countries imprison and then deal with them under local law with the US covering any expenses. It’s likely cheaper to keep them in foreign jail than Gitmo anyway, and also far less pleasant for them. A perusal of the list of prisoners shows some of the problems with releasing prisoners. An awful lot of them are from Yemen, which is basically in the business of exporting terrorists and isn’t going to cooperate with keeping any terrorists we give them under control. There’s also the problem that some of those we’ve already released immediately returned to their terrorist careers, like Abdullah Mehsud who was released and immediately returned to his position as one of the leaders of Taliban terror groups in Afghanistan.

Those who are held for trial ought to be given access to lawyers and translators so that they have the ability to prepare a decent defense for when they go to court. The charges against them and the documentation associated with those charges should be made public. This should be done as a courtesy or an act of compassion without any implication that they have any right to any of these considerations.

Then, as quickly as possible, trials should be arranged before military tribunals with the option of either convicting them based on evidence, holding them for the gathering of additional evidence, or releasing them alltogether. This would satisfy most critics by providing a clearly defined legal process and assigning a meaningful status to each prisoner. Clearly under international law there’s no requirement that they be released with any great haste, but they ought to at least know what their status is and what they have to look forward to. In addition, I would start first by reviewing the cases of the youngest detainees. More than a dozen of them are under the age of 16, and they ought to be dealt with first.

Dealing with this situation ought to be a high priority for the administration, not because of the whining of the UN, but because it’s such an easy public relations boost for them at a time when they could certainly use one. They would gain a lot of good press at very little real cost and they don’t even have to free all that many prisoners – and certainly not any dangerous ones – if they handle it right.

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About Dave Nalle

  • zingzing

    who wrote this!? dave nalle, someone has seized your name! maybe, dave nalle, if you notice your name in the comments, dave nalle, you will come look at this, dave nalle, and discover, dave nalle, that someone, going by the name dave nalle, dave nalle, has stolen your good name (dave nalle), and written something that is reasonable, fair and humane. jesus, dave nalle, who is this “dave nalle,” and what has he done to you?

  • zingzing

    dave nalle!

  • http://www.chancelucky.blogspot.com chancelucky

    Strange and frightening, but we agree.

  • Bliffle

    Reluctantly, I say keep the ones locked up who would assuredly return to the battle.

  • http://uspolitics.about.com/ Kathy

    what was that you said on my post – less biased reporting?

    [the UN] thinks that the US should immediately free 500 dangerous prisoners

    The UN report is saying the same thing that the US courts have done:

    Charge ‘Em or Release ‘Em

    Nothing about “just release them” – your characterization of the report.

    … taken in war …

    Ummm … no, and not just because we haven’t declared war.

    they weren’t all “taken in war”. Many arrived after the US put up bounties for people – snatched from homes and such.

    … fighting as non-uniformed combatants …

    see above
    plus, it’s an unproven claim

    … connected to ongoing terrorist operations …

    This is yet another assertion that not been proved.

    Your rhetoric suggests you believe the administration on faith; I ask that they prove their claims.

    … who are even being treated far more humanely than they likely deserve.

    This says more about you than it does about the allegedly terrorists.

    Recall: the techniques at Abu Ghraib were tested at Gitmo.

    To recap, I just decontructed this short phrase that is clearly not “unbiased”

    [the UN] thinks that the US should immediately free 500 dangerous prisoners taken in war, fighting as non-uniformed combatants and connected to ongoing terrorist operations, who are even being treated far more humanely than they likely deserve.

    Your piece is a great example of an ad hominem argument, though: if you can’t refute the message, just attack the messenger.

    Kathy

  • Dave Nalle

    Yes, I did write this. Because I feel that it’s inappropriate for the US to set anything but the highest standard for how we handle even the worst dregs of the Muslim world.

    Now a few comments for Kathy Gill who seems to want to pick a fight despite our basic agreement that the prisoners ought to be dealt with.

    what was that you said on my post – less biased reporting?

    I did not say less biased, I said more balanced, because I present both a real, legitimate argument for resolving the Gitmo situation and a rebuttal of the UN position, while your article basically just repeats the UN’s line. Which is fine as a news article, but isn’t a full or balanced analysis of the situation.

    The UN report is saying the same thing that the US courts have done:

    Charge ‘Em or Release ‘Em

    Which is exactly what I said in my article.

    … taken in war …

    Ummm … no, and not just because we haven’t declared war.

    they weren’t all “taken in war”. Many arrived after the US put up bounties for people – snatched from homes and such.

    Untrue. You mentioned courts. Well, the courts have said the AUMF was the equivalent of a declaration of war. Plus the ‘many’ you refer to are less than a fifth of the total, and many of those taken that way were among the first released.

    … fighting as non-uniformed combatants …

    see above
    plus, it’s an unproven claim

    You must be kidding. No one is this willfully ignorant. We’ve got video and photos of the fighting in Afghanistan. No one, not even the UN disputes the fact that these are not uniformed soldiers.

    … connected to ongoing terrorist operations …

    This is yet another assertion that not been proved.

    No, it’s been proven by the fact that many of those released were subsequently recaptured or are known to have returned to fighting with terrorist groups. This isn’t something you can debate, it’s a fact.

    Your rhetoric suggests you believe the administration on faith; I ask that they prove their claims.

    What am I taking on faith? The status of the various prisoners has been reviewed and confirmed by a number of independent human rights groups and conditions have been reviewed by the Red Cross.

    … who are even being treated far more humanely than they likely deserve.

    This says more about you than it does about the allegedly terrorists.

    This is an opinion. This is why the piece is labelled opinion and not news.

    Recall: the techniques at Abu Ghraib were tested at Gitmo.

    How can I recall something which isn’t true? Please, show me a connection between Abu Ghraib and anything that happened at Gitmo. Document one person who worked both places or some standing order for torture that applied in both places. This comment is complete and utter supposition on your part, and totally baseless. The New York Times which originally made the claims for torture at Gitmo has had to retract its claims because they could not be proven.

    To recap, I just decontructed this short phrase that is clearly not “unbiased”

    I never said my article was unbiased, just that it was balanced, because it presents more than one point of view. And frankly, it’s a much more reasonable and sensible perspective which reaches the same conclusion your article does. But it reaches that position from a positive perspective rather than just climbing on board the love boat of anti-Americanism.

    Your piece is a great example of an ad hominem argument, though: if you can’t refute the message, just attack the messenger.

    Did you actually read my article beyond the first couple of paragraphs? You do realize that I ended up agreeing that the prisoners ought to be tried and either released or sentenced, right? Because it sure seems like you gave up after my brief criticism of the UN Human Rights Commission. And BTW, even that’s not an ad hominem argument. I’m merely making the point that there are MUCH more serious human rights issues which are routinely ignored, while they concentrate on pursuing an anti-american agenda instead.

    Dave

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Reluctantly, I say keep the ones locked up who would assuredly return to the battle.

    That seems only logical, Bliffle. If you read the court rulings which apply it’s quite clear that the government has the legal right to keep everyone at Gitmo locked up pretty much indefinitely. There’s some pretty interesting case law, including a precedent which says that taking up arms against the US government automatically revokes your US citizenship.

    My argument is that although it may be legal to hold all these folks, that’s not in our best interests, and we ought to make every effort we can to free or find a final disposition for as many of them as we can as quickly as is reasonably possible.

    But I think one of the problems is that it’s awfully hard to get definitive evidence beyond substantial suspicion, so a lot of these prisoners may indeed be dangerous as hell, but because of where they were captured and the fact that we still don’t even know the real identities of about a third of them, it’s very hard to tell who should be released and who shouldn’t. Nonetheless I think that more of an effort ought to be made.

    Dave

  • http://guaguantanamo larry

    turn them loose. let them climb the wall into cuba. let fidel castro take care of them !

  • Dave Nalle

    That would certainly be a fitting way to deal with them, but Castro would likely arm them and then try to sneak them over the border through Mexico and into the US. But Cuba IS on the UN Human Rights Commission, so maybe they ought to be his responsibility.

    Dave