In Our Names

Joseph Margulies has a hard-hitting article, U.S. can’t tell a combatant from a cook in the Chicago Tribune.

We’ve known that there were a lot of innocent people at Guantanamo, but this many?

The Pentagon’s data show that only 8 percent of the prisoners at the base are even alleged to have been Al Qaeda fighters–assuming the allegations against them are true.

Even slave laborers are classified as “enemy combatants”:

Officers told [Abdul] Aliza that having been kidnapped by the Taliban and forced to serve as a cook or a waiter was irrelevant to whether Aliza was an enemy combatant. Aliza found this impossible to comprehend.

“You mentioned that being forced and not being forced are the same,” Aliza told his interrogator. “How can a person that is forced or not forced to do something be equal? . . . [I]f I was taken by force by the Taliban, how can I be a member? If I’m not willing to do something, but forced by a soldier to do it, how can the two have the same meaning. . . . If you don’t agree with them they will beat and torture you and then throw you in prison.”

No one answered Aliza’s questions, and authorities decided he was an enemy combatant. As of late 2006, Aliza was still at the base. He may be there still; the Pentagon refuses to say.

So, correct me if I’m wrong, but under this logic, Jewish inmates in Nazi concentration camps could today be considered “enemy combatants”?

Kafka. It’s pure Kafka:

In summer 2005, the Bush administration announced that 70 percent of the base’s prisoners had been slated for release because they were not a threat. It never happened.

Though some were released, most of the prisoners continue to languish at Guantanamo and, the administration says, may be held there for the rest of their lives, with no evidence presented against them and no opportunity to plead their case in court.

Much of the problem has to do with the words and definitions the administration uses.

Being an enemy combatant does not mean a prisoner did anything wrong, the administration said in documents written by the Department of Defense in 2004.

My tax dollar at work. And yours, if you’re a US taxpayer too.

Surely there must be something we can do about this besides carp and bear witness?

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3 Responses to In Our Names

  1. anon says:

    “So, correct me if I’m wrong, but under this logic, Jewish inmates in Nazi concentration camps could today be considered “enemy combatants”?”

    Please take the time to research the conditions discovered by Allied forces upon discovering the camps. Upon doing so you will not doubt the ability of soldiers in the field to distinguish such status, and realize your analogy does not hold. It is unfortunate that images of the camps eluded your inspection until now.

    The dillema of any and all innocents being held in Guantanimo was not originated by the US. It was originated by the taliban and/or alqueda. In the case of slave labor, simply because the US defeated their captors does not mean they can be instantly set free. While the US has accepted responsibility for their fate, we also have the responsibility for determining what the true facts are and not release dangerous terrorists. Where would these people be had the US never intervened? As slave laborors, purportedly tortured and threatened into compliance, according to your own theory.

    Our own domestic system of justice moves at a snail’s pace. Simple misdemeanors can take a year or longer to work their way through the system. Captital crimes can take several years.

    What specific procedures and guidelines have you proposed, to deal with a situation where there were little or no records kept, and all witnesses speak a language other than English? Where events took place halway across the globe? Where operatives are trained to lie and deceive?

    Nobody wants to get the innocents out of there more than Joe Taxpayer. But Joe doesn’t want the wrong Mohammeds back in Iraq blowing up Billy. Get it?

  2. TLaemmle says:

    Okay, okay…how about this: “So, correct me if I’m wrong, but under this logic, Ukrainian slave laborers at German armaments factories could today be considered ‘enemy combatants’?”

    Better analogy? After all, Joe doesn’t want the wrong Ivan back in Ivano-Frankovsk blowing up Billy.

  3. anon says:

    If Allied troops had discovered the Ukranians chained to their machines, I very much doubt they would have been held captive very long.

    Has a single US soldier personally involved in the capture of gitmo detainees come forward and claimed that given the circumstances surrounding the capture, discerment of fighter from “slave/cook” is a simple matter?

    Critics of the military’s handling of the situation often point to cases where the supposedly innocent detainee claims he was allegedly fingered by his own enemies for reward or revenge. This sort of thing happens every day in the US criminal system. Americans sit in our prisons because someone bore false witness against them. But many, many more who are truly guilty falsely claim the same victimhood.

    I am amazed at how few of those possessing the ability to recognize innocence by the accused’s testimony alone do not take their superhuman skills of observation to the poker tables in Vegas.

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