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Guantanamo Suicides A Stain On American Justice

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There are many who dismiss the suicides of the three detainees at Guantanamo with a kind of "good riddance" wave of the hand, a casual shrug of the shoulders denoting indifference to the fate of those who, if given half a chance, would kill us all.

But it is by no means clear that those detainees and the others being held there pose that kind of threat. And the reason we aren't sure – sure enough to have a clear conscience as we lock them away for the rest of their lives – is because of the unconscionable foot dragging by the Administration on determining exactly what rights the prisoners will be granted before U.S. courts.

The Justice Department last year passed the buck to Congress, giving them the opportunity to determine how to go about judging the detainees on a case by case basis The Congress demurred, believing the matter to properly belong to the courts. And while lower courts have granted the prisoners some rights like habeas corpus and the right to an attorney, the legal limbo of the detainees won't be cleared up until the Supreme Court rules on the matter.

On Friday, the President acknowledged that Gitmo has got to be closed and offered his explanation as to why it still functions:

"We would like to end the Guantanamo — we'd like it to be empty," Bush said. But he added: "There are some that, if put out on the streets, would create grave harm to American citizens and other citizens of the world. And, therefore, I believe they ought to be tried in courts here in the United States."

Bush said his administration was waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on whether he overstepped his authority in ordering the detainees to be tried by U.S. military tribunals.

Even the President is now convinced Guantanamo needs to be closed and that the prisoners have their cases tried in American courts. The amazing thing about the President's statement is that if indeed the Supreme Court rules that the President "overstepped his authority" in using military tribunals to detain the prisoners illegally, there's a chance that there may not be any trials in US courts at all; that most if not all the prisoners will be released outright.

To forestall that possibility, the Supreme Court's ruling is likely to be hazy enough so that the prisoners will not be released due to any technical violation of their "constitutional rights" – an incendiary term when applied to accused terrorists – but will grant the detainees a habeas corpus hearing that will force the government to reveal in open court some of the evidence compiled against them.

This is also problematic as apparently much of the evidence is of a sensitive nature and revealing it in open court would compromise intelligence methods and assets. This puts the United States government squarely behind the 8-ball; in order to keep the accused terrorists in jail, we may be forced to reveal sources, allowing the detainee to "face their accuser." And since one study of detainee records shows that a sizable number of them were not captured on any battlefield in Afghanistan but rather handed over by warlords and tribal leaders, having the detainee "face their accuser" may indeed be a monumental problem resulting in the release of people who may very well pose a threat to the United States. As it stands now, only 10 detainees stand accused of any crime at all. The rest are being held as enemy combatants with evidence of a classified nature used to keep them in prison.

This has been the beef against military tribunals all along; evidentiary standards are much more lax than they are in any court in the United States. There have also been questions about the availability of defense counsel to the detainees during their hearings as well as other roadblocks which have made the tribunals seem more like drumhead court martials than legal proceedings in keeping with the honorable traditions of American jurisprudence.

Much as we loathe the men who have sworn to kill us all, we simply must come to grips with the idea that if we aren't able to kill them on the battlefield, they must be granted some of the rights guaranteed by international law and our own constitution. To do any less cheapens our entire justice system. It isn't a question of loving the terrorist. It is a question of loving liberty and the blessings granted by a constitution that recognizes value in every individual and equality before the law.

I don't know if the suicides at Gitmo were the result of despair, as the New York Times says or whether it was a public relations ploy as Colleen Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy says. I do know that as long as the detention center remains open, it represents, in my opinion, a black stain on American justice and a sad chapter in the history of American jurisprudence that should be closed for good.

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About RIck Moran

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Proposed alternate headline: “Guantanamo Suicides Mean Three Less Assholes for US Taxpayers to Feed”

    I am not “indifferent” to the fate of these three, but in fact actively glad for their demise. GOOD. Or perhaps you’d rather argue that these guys were just innocent goatherds minding their flocks when they were scooped up and sent to Gitmo for no reason.

    And the reason for closing Gitmo won’t be because it is horrible or unjust, but because it has become a ridiculous public relations problem with little or no relationship to what is actually going on there.

    But what is really ridiculous is that that their co-ordinated asymetrical PR based stunt was in fact a good strategy. It is whipping up all the regular useful idiots to wring their hands over the wicked Americans yet some more, just as they would have hoped.

  • troll

    suicide as an alternative to unbounded incarceration – I’m surprised that there have not been more

    troll

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Troll: Fewer virgins that way.

  • troll

    may their grapes be peeled slowly for all eternity

  • Arch Conservative

    I wonder how long before the ACLU files a wrongful derath lawsuit………

    If only more ACLU lawyers would commit suicide.

  • JR

    Al Barger: I am not “indifferent” to the fate of these three, but in fact actively glad for their demise. GOOD. Or perhaps you’d rather argue that these guys were just innocent goatherds minding their flocks when they were scooped up and sent to Gitmo for no reason.

    Perhaps you would argue that that compound in Waco was full of innocent Christians who were peacefully collecting assault rifles when the ATF went knocking on their door for no reason.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    JR, that’s utterly bogus. The Branch Davidians WERE just peacefully collecting weapons. That is the most infamous massacre on American soil by our government in several generations. They never participated in, planned, nor in any way expressed any desire to do violence to their fellow citizens.

    Now, I’m sympathetic to the point of being a little uncomfortable with the open-ended legal status at Gitmo- though there are some at least halfway reasonable arguments for it from the administration side. Still, I hate having to trust them this much.

    Nonetheless, these people didn’t get to Gitmo by being innocent shepherds. Further, I’m fairly certain that even if an innocent shepherd got somehow drug to Gitmo, he wouldn’t be volunteering for ritual co-ordinated suicide.

  • Arch Conservative

    Yeah Al…..

    Waco………it’s how liberals separate church and state.

    Janet Reno’s not a facist but George Bush is .

    Hah!

    And of course everyone at Gitmo is innocent. These libs support the troops don’t believe they’re capable of telling the difference between a farner and an al queda henchman.

  • JR

    The Branch Davidians WERE just peacefully collecting weapons….They never participated in, planned, nor in any way expressed any desire to do violence to their fellow citizens.

    Well then, they were pretty damn good improvisers.

    …these people didn’t get to Gitmo by being innocent shepherds.

    If the government had made a good case that these were all hardened terrorists, I wouldn’t give them another thought. But the government doesn’t seem to have made any effort whatsoever. I actually have no idea who all is in Gitmo, and I certainly don’t see why we should trust the government more now than we did at Ruby Ridge or Waco.

    I’ve seen the authorities make stupid mistakes; it scares me when they don’t bother to explain themselves when they haul people away. And I can imagine an innocent man going along with anything in such a Kafkaesque situation.

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    That you can defend a religious fanatic with a Jesus complex is laughable.

    That you can defend suicidal nuts with guns is dangerous.

    That you’re only deriding the decisions made because of political beiiefs is typical.

  • JustOneMan

    Jet…spoken like a true liberal!

    I think we are guaranteed the – Freedom of Religion, Right to Bear Arms and Freedom of Association! REGARLESS if you like their religion, or what they beleive or that they are gun owners!

    Obviously the Clinton Gang and Big Ma Reno didnt like the idea of these freedoms!

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    Are you willing to take the government’s word, without proof, that these men are dangerous, but that their crimes are too secret for us mere civilians to understand? Then I ask: which of us is more naïve?

    As this article says, Guantanamo shames us all. It makes a mockery of justice and democracy…supposedly what we are defending. Dozens if not hundreds of those prisoners have already been released, after being held for no good reason. Few if any have been charged, yet they continue to be held indefinitely.

    Charge them, try them, or let them go.

  • JustOneMan

    Hey Handy…you dont make sense…on one hand you say that “Dozens if not hundreds of those prisoners have already been released” which validates that there is a process…

    Do you expect the military to have open court hearings on Court TV…handy that aint no way to win a war!

  • Arch Conservative

    Jet is the type who would rather mourn the suicide deaths of three al queda at gitmo than of those at waco who did not actaully harm anyone Justone.

  • http://alienboysworld.blogspot.com Christopher Rose

    Archie is the type who’d attack anybody who disagrees with him. Funny that he defends the American way of life, freedom for all, at the same time.

    Anytime you master the art of joined up thinking Archie, please let us know…

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Shit happens. Guantanamo never should have, but it did. We need to get over it and make things right. Personally I would like to convert Gitmo to a prison for all the politically corrupt politicians and lobbyists in Washington. But if we did that, Gitmo would have to become the capitol of the U.S.

  • http://jpsgoddamnblog.blogspot.com JP

    Al, do you know first hand what “actually goes on there?”

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Put a bunch of Fundamentalist Muslims in a prison and you get suicides and hunger strikes. Put a bunch of liberal Americans in a prison and you get an orgy. Put a bunch of Southern Fundamentalist Christians on a farm and you get frightened sheep.

  • troll

    Al – *Nonetheless, these people didn’t get to Gitmo by being innocent shepherds.*

    are you referencing the suicides or the entire gitmo population – ?

    hasn’t the administration released around 300 of the detainees with the statement that ‘a number of them’ should not have been detained in the first place – ?

    troll

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Yes, the Administration has released many inmates who were not justifiably detained. Again, I think that the press and Far Left are making too much out of Gitmo. War is war. There are certain rules as outlined by the Geneva Convention. We went too far by invading Iraq and we’ve a mess to clean up, period.

  • troll

    Silas – low blow warning…I’ll remember your relaxed attitude when They start detaining homosexuals

    troll

  • http://biggesttent.blogspot.com/ Silas Kain

    Low blow? Troll, let me get off my knees to make one thing very clear. War knows no gender or sexual orientation. The greatest military genius in history was at minimum bisexual. It may be that good ol’ Abe Lincoln was as well. Gitmo happened. There are lessons to be learned. But for the Left to make such a big commotion out of it only serves as yet another smokescreen from the real issues which confront our nation. Troll, the extreme fringes on both sides will stop at nothing to throw up roadblocks by wagging the dog. It is left to all of those in between to figure out which course to chart.

  • JustOneMan

    Hey Silas…so what do you do for fun…dress up as a sheep and graze in the meadows of Southern Fundamentalist Christians farms…

    Tell us all how does it feel to be made to feel like a real sheep?

    Bahhhhhhhhh…you anti-christian asshole!

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    Question: Why does JOM never take his girlfriend to football games?
    Answer: The embarrassement of her grazing on the field during halftime.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    The title of this piece is a stain on good spelling (and possibly undercuts the author’s very good points):
    It’s Guantanamo, not ‘Guatanamo.’

  • http://absent-mind.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    That’s easy enough for the comments editor to fix… Right comment’s editor?

  • troll

    Silas – *Gitmo happened. There are lessons to be learned. But for the Left to make such a big commotion out of it only serves as yet another smokescreen from the real issues which confront our nation.*

    which issues are the real ones – ?

    IMO the abrogation of the rights of men by our government ‘in our name’ is a real issue confronting our nation…and Gitmo didn’t just happen – it’s going on right now

    troll

  • troll

    jom – please try adding alittle information content to your comments beyond simply sharing your fucked up attitude

    thanks

    troll

  • Robert Pell-deChame

    TO: Colleen.Graffy pepperdine.edu

    Dear Ms. Graffy:

    I am writing to you to remark upon the incredibly ignorant statement you made regarding the three recent suicides at Gitmo. The lack of knowledge about the causes of suicide which you demonstrated in your profoundly stupid remarks leaves me breathless for the sheer lack of understanding of an issue which is the 11th leading cause of death among Americans. (Anderson RN, Smith BL. Deaths: leading causes for 2001. National Vital Statistics Report 2003;52(9):1-86.), not to mention what incarceration without hope of release for charges unknown must do to a person. How would you like to be locked up without any knowledge of charges against you, in a land not your own, without any sense whether or not you would ever leave alive? Perhaps you should try it.

    Annual rates of suicide in this country are over 30,000 per year, more than 650,000 Americans are hospitalized each year following suicide attempts, and over 116,000 are treated in hospital emergency departments for same. Among US males, suicide is the 8th leading cause of death for all US men and males are four more times likely to die from suicide than females. And this is not even beginning to quote numbers related to female and teen deaths. But don’t take it from me, Ms. Graffy, check out the website of one of your fellow-governmental agencies, the CDC–that’s the Center for Disease Control in case you had failed to note its existence– . There you will see a tidy introduction to a subject in which you are woefully ignorant and which all your degrees have obviously not prepared you to understand or speak about.

    I come from a family which, in the last one hundred years, has experienced over a dozen suicides in its ranks. So, yeh, I tend to be rather sensitive to the issue. We are what you would call patriotic Americans, as a whole, and have done more than our share to contribute to the life of the nation in ways very big and small. To see you liken suicide as an act of warfare against the US would be funny if it were not so cruel and unfeeling. But then, cruel and unfeeling is probably how you have risen to the position you presently enjoy at State.

    Do us all a favor, Ms. Graffy, and shut your mouth about subjects for which you are woefully under-qualified and under-experienced to comment. Step outside of your fishbowl of an office and limited circle of acquaintances, take a drive sometime and see the world beyond the Beltway. Touch base with reality. You are in many ways as imprisoned as the people you are verbally abusing at Gitmo.

    Very Truly Yours,
    Robert Pell-deChame

  • JustOneMan

    Bobby…lets try and keep it in perspective…these guys were scum bags seeking to kill the “good guys”…….3 down and how many more to go?

    Gee…I guess you can pick you friends but not your family….tough gene pool there guy!

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I don’t get it. What does #30 have to do with this article?

    Dave

  • JustOneMan

    you mean 29…

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Brother Silas, you’re a voice of reason and moderation, as usual.

    But Brother Jet, all that harsh stuff in #10 for me? Goodness. But you need to jump back there about half a step. I’m not saying that David Koresh was a great fellow with a heart of gold. He kind of sounds like a prick- but that doesn’t mean the government had any legitimate reason to murder him and his family.

    JR, I’d go as far as to re-iterate that I’m not real thrilled with the legal limbo at Gitmo. Again though, these were people caught making war on the US, not domestic bankrobbers. They’ve let some of them go- and have picked at least a couple of them up again apparently back in Afghanistan trying to kill US again. Perhaps these people should have mostly just been shot in the first place rather than dragging them back here.

    And if any more of these buttmunches want to kill themselves, I’d be happy to buy them the rope.

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    “But it is by no means clear that those detainees and the others being held there pose that kind of threat.”

    I think it’s clear most do not.

    1. Fifty-five percent of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.

    2. Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban…

    4. Only 5% of the detainees were captured by United States forces. 86% of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Allaiance and turned over to United States custody. This 86% of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were handed over to the United States at a time in which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies. (link)
    “But it is by no means clear that those detainees and the others being held there pose that kind of threat.” Actually it’s clear most are not.

    From Charlie Stross, quoting from the Executive Summary of the The Guantanamo Detainees: The Government’s Story report (prepared by legal academics from Seton Hall Law School who had acted as defense advocates for the detainees).

  • troll

    Al – *They’ve let some of them go- and have picked at least a couple of them up again apparently back in Afghanistan trying to kill US again.*

    Al – if you were snatched and held incommunicado for years might you not be tempted to seek revenge after your release – ?

    troll

  • Alix

    Am I the only person who realizes that these terrorists are media savy. they know how to play our left-wing liberal media. wake up and relaize they will lie and say they have been beaten and tortured. Let’s give our military a little credit. As far as I’m concerned, I hope all the terrorists kill themselves in jail.

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    And Alix, I fervently hope the US military adopt this terrifying new tactic.

  • http://chromatius.blogspot.com/ Chromatius

    “Again though, these were people caught making war on the US…”

    But that’s not actually a crime. Hence the contortions you all have to go through to justify all this.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com/ handyguy

    A few figures:

    Total number held at Guantanamo since 2002: 759
    Number already released or transferred: 290
    Number currently pending release or transfer: 136
    Number of detainees charged with crimes: 10
    Number with charges pending: 24
    Number currently held with no release pending, and no charges pending: 300

    34 out of 759 linked to crimes [not convicted, just accused]
    426 released or pending release…after years without charges
    300 still in Kafkaesque limbo – no charges, to be held indefinitely

    It’s hard to understand how anyone could fail to be disturbed by this.

  • Scott Butki

    I’d suggest some of you check out a documentary coming out this week called Road to Guantanamo, which I review here.
    It’s about three people – never charged, never
    found guilty of anything – who were held for about two years before being released.

    Are they the exception or the norm? It’s hard to say. But each time I read a comment by Al or Arch suggesting everyone in Guat. is bad or a jerk or better off dead I think of these three and wonder how they can make such incorrect generalizations.

    One person asked why there are not more suicides. One answer is that those who tried to kill themselves with hunger strikes were force fed food through tubes. Explain the logic of that one.

  • Scott Butki

    Oh that movie review I mention is here.

    Al, I read this over dinner and scribbled comments in response to posts by you and others some of which I found – after spilling chinese food on some of them – on other pages.

    So let me try to remember what I said since I didn’t think it cool to carry sweat and sour sauce-tained paper into the computer lab:
    Al, what makes you think you know what is “really going on” at Guantanamo?

    And why in the process of defending the administration’s role in this – a stance they themselves seem to be retreating on – are you making a martyr of David Koresh who is nowhere near a saint, with allegations of polygamy, child abuse and just overall weirdness.

    To say the “The Branch Davidians were just peacefully collecting weapons” is to lose much credibility. I guess Osama Bin Laden and North Korea are just peacefully collecting weapons too since they didn’t attack us either.

  • Scott Butki

    This is my favorite paragraph, a great one:
    “Much as we loathe the men who have sworn to kill us all, we simply must come to grips with the idea that if we aren’t able to kill them on the battlefield, they must be granted some of the rights guaranteed by international law and our own constitution. To do any less cheapens our entire justice system. It isn’t a question of loving the terrorist. It is a question of loving liberty and the blessings granted by a constitution that recognizes value in every individual and equality before the law.”

  • sr

    DING DONG THE WICKED WITCH IS DEAD.

  • Scott Butki

    Which witch is that?

  • sr

    Scott, which witch? Which ever witch which is the witch which with witchery is the witch.

    My rum and broom awaits.

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