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Shutting Down Guantanamo

Posted on Apr 24, 2007
AP Photo / Mark Wilson, Pool

Close to 400 detainees remain at maximum-security prison Camp Delta at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

(Page 2)

Scheer:  I was just reading a press release from the ACLU and they were talking about closing it down. Also, this week, I believe Sen. Jim Webb said he thought all of Guantanamo should be shut down.  Obviously, you guys are probably for that, you want at least some kind of fair trial, but do you think that’ll play in Washington?  Jim Webb saying that?  Do you think he’ll get some action done or do you think Washington’s just going to look the other way like they have for a while?

Musa:  I certainly don’t speak for Washington politicians.  But I would also point out that it’s not just Jim Webb but Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who said that he thought it should shut down.  The fact is that during the time we were down in Guantanamo observing the plea agreement that was reached and the military commission for David Hicks, Secretary Gates was up here testifying to Congress that he didn’t think that any trial in Guantanamo was going to have the appearance or legitimacy of a fair trial because people were going to have the perception even partially by just being down there that it was unfair, and that he thought people should be moved up here and tried here.  I think what’s significant about that is, about two years ago now, Amnesty International did come out and say quite publicly that we thought that Guantanamo should be closed.  And at the time, very few people were saying that.  At this point, the secretary of defense is saying that, and I think that shows some significant movement.  It doesn’t mean it’s done, and it doesn’t mean it’ll be easily done.

And I think the biggest problem we have is the simple fact that the United States has created this untenable situation where they picked a place they thought was sort of beyond the law and that they could operate beyond the law.  And then for various reasons they found out they couldn’t, whether it’s because the Supreme Court said that—it’s that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions complying.  You have to comply with that or other laws that have been passed.  And now they’ve got a lot of people down there, again, some of which maybe should’ve never been there, that they don’t have anything to do with.  Maybe their countries won’t take them back, maybe they can’t send them back to their countries, but they have no way to send the population that’s effective or safe.  They don’t want to keep them there and they don’t want to take them here.  In that sense, if they don’t bring people here and they don’t close the prison, then you’re talking about the United States being a country which will literally hold people till they die, in an isolated penal colony on a tip of occupied Cuba.  And that should be offensive to anybody.

Scheer:  Now how many of these people there ... ?  We’ve heard so many stories about charges and you’ve talked about bounty hunters and I heard a few years ago that warlords we were hired in Afghanistan were actually giving people they were just having problems with and not even Taliban.  How many of these guys in there are innocent?  Do you think there are more innocent people than guilty people?  And what about these confessions that have just kind of come out with where they’re basically confessing to anything?  What do you make of the whole situation?


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Musa:  The one thing I’ll say upfront is that we don’t take—we don’t know who’s guilty, who’s innocent, who’s this or who’s that.  That’s exactly the problem with having taken away habeas for people in Guantanamo.  I think part of the misperception is the idea that if you let people in Guantanamo come to court to challenge their detention, that it was a get-out-of-jail-free card and that it would open the gates and terrorists would then flood the world and attack America.  The reality of the situation is that in order to know that, you need habeas.  You need them to be able to come before an independent court and say, and basically challenge the government and say, “Why are you holding me?”  And if the government has the evidence to say this person’s a serious criminal, we need to try them, this person’s a terrorist and if we don’t put them away they’re going to do something else. ...”  In that sense we would know.  At this point we don’t know.

The problem is what we do know, by the Pentagon’s own transcripts, is that a large number of the people in Guantanamo were sold for bounties with fliers saying things.  And people have found these fliers that you could have enough money to take care of your family, your tribe, your community, for the rest of your life.  They were offering $5,000 a person, which I think is a good chunk of change here in the United States, but in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, this is a ton of money for some of these folks.  And so, is it hard to see that there’s an incentive to round people up and say, “Hey, this guy’s al-Qaida.  This guy’s Taliban.  Here you go, take him”?  I think that’s what we do know, is the way the people were detained and brought to Guantanamo was faulty to begin with, and there wasn’t good reviews in the beginning.  And it is true that at this point they have people they detained, specially chose, that were “very high-value detainees,” as they call them, who we alleged to have committed very serious crimes.  None of those guys were transferred to the island until September.

So it’s been this perception that they took all the really bad people there.  The reality is that a lot of folks who were there at the beginning said there was no good process and they just took a bunch of people there, some who were as young as 13 when they got to the island, some who were so old that the people at the base at the time called them “old as dirt.”  And that’s a quote.  So at this point it really does call into question the entire detention regime, and then just saying everyone was really bad doesn’t fix that.  So I can’t tell you that there’re this many people who are innocent and this many people who are guilty.  What I can tell you is that the way they brought people there never gave them a chance to make that determination and never gave them a chance to properly classify people.  And that does call into question who’s down there and why they’re there in the first place.

Scheer:  And then to get on to rights.  Do you think that habeas corpus, especially in international situations and the Geneva Conventions, do you think it’s dead?  Do you think the Military Commissions Act killed all of this, or is there any kind of hope that in the international media we’ll ever get (1) our respect back or (2) these people’s rights back so they have fair trials and POWs are treated respectfully?  Do you think it’s dead and won’t come back, or do you have hope?

Musa:  I always have hope.  I think sometimes there’s this perception that just because Congress passed a bill, that it’s all done and everybody goes home.  The fact of the matter is, even though the president may not have acted this way the past few years, we do have a system of checks and balances.  Yes, Congress can pass laws, but then again the courts can find those laws to be unconstitutional, or Congress can pass different laws and amend old laws, and there’s certainly a strong movement right now in Congress to repeal that provision that stripped habeas away.  And so I don’t think that any of the acts that the U.S. has taken are irreversible.  I just think it’s really critical that they start working to reverse them.  And we’ve seen some.  I’ve mentioned one with the McCain amendment, which affirms that cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment is not in fact legal overseas, which was the U.S.‘s position that it may be prohibited in the U.S., but if we’re outside of the U.S. it’s legal.  We’ve also seen the Supreme Court saying that parts of the Geneva Conventions do apply to these detentions.  So they’re not in fact lawless detentions.  We see also a new Army field manual that makes it very clear that many of the tactics that once were personally approved by Donald Rumsfeld are absolutely prohibited for any U.S. soldier and for anybody who is interrogating people in a U.S. DOD facility.  So we’ve seen progress, and I don’t think anything’s irreversible.  I just think that now is the time for people to really push to reverse some things, and I think habeas is one of the more critical.

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By 1drees, December 4, 2007 at 4:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Shutting Down Guantanamo!”

Why so its doing so good all dissenters are there and i think its such a good scheme that it should be expanded to include all of mainland America too, and what about the extra jails made & furnished right after 9/11 do you guys want to waste them?

BTW glad to see Lefty is here and ANS AS USUAL is being told to shut up for utter sheer propaganda (AS USUAL)

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By The Angry Independent, May 14, 2007 at 4:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Gitmo may actually be expanding….

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By cann4ing, May 13, 2007 at 5:38 pm Link to this comment

Point Blank.  The information about the CIA/FBI agents did not come from the Seaton Hall study.  That information appeared in an independent piece by Jane Mayer appearing in “The New Yorker” last year entitled “The New Paradigm.”  The information was provided directly to Ms. Mayer by former White House and Justice Department lawyers.  I can’t see how furnishing that information to Ms. Mayer could possibly “further” their careers—not in a Bush administration were honesty amounts to a bad career move.

But you have evaded my central question.  I am asking you to assume that the Seton Hall study is indeed accurate.  “If” it is accurate, would you still support Guantanamo?  If so, I am truly interested in hearing why?

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By cann4ing, May 13, 2007 at 2:16 pm Link to this comment

I know it may come as somewhat of a surprise to some but Point Blank and I had a rapprochement of sorts elsewhere on this web site.  While he and I are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, I felt there was no alternative when another individual posted a comment referring to Point Blank as a “murdering scumbag.”  As a fellow Vietnam veteran, I had his back, just as I suspect in similar circumstances, he would have had mine.  (Perhaps it is difficult for those who don’t share our experience, but when your survival is dependent on efficient cooperation with your brothers-in-arms and the bullets start to fly, politics kind of lose their importance.)

With that, Point Blank, while I suspect I cannot persuade you to see my point of view, I would hope that I can get you to at least tone down the level of rhetoric.  I would appeal to the progressives on this site to do the same, so that, if we must disagree, we can do so in a more respectful tone.

I do have a question for Point Blank.  I know you have expressed your admiration for Guantanamo.  I know too, that you dismissed the Seton Hall study showing that the vast majority of detainees had never committed a hostile act and that only 8% were al Qaeda as “crapola.”  (You did not state a position about the FBI and CIA agents who returned from Guantanamo, reporting essentially the same thing to Alberto Gonzales and David Addington).

I would ask you to make a basic assumption—assume that the Seton Hall study is accurate.  Would that make any difference in your support for Guantanamo?  If not, I would greatly appreciate (sans expletives) for you to explain why it would not make a difference.

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By Verne Arnold, May 12, 2007 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

Yes, I agree.  This has been an especially “energetic” exchange between respondents. 
It is always interesting to note the lack of civility at times.
Degrees and other ego enhancing claims not withstanding; it is apparent one party loses it and resorts to expletives and the other party remains articulate with reason at the fore.
A good debate is always informative and interesting; to wit, “The Devil and Daniel Webster”, wonderful story.
A bully never wins!

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By Expat, May 12, 2007 at 7:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ouch!  Point Blank is losing it to emotion and expletives rather than reason and the art of debate…this is the rudest and meanest exchange I’ve seen on this website.
Did we miss our nappy?

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By Allan Scheer, May 9, 2007 at 6:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As is usually the case, and more so regarding this article , is that in my opinion the comments are more entertaining than the articles themselves.

I would add that in America, the people have the luxury of knowing everything that the media decides to put out there. It is just a shame that the rest of the world does not have that luxury. They see our “dirty laundry ” , but theirs stays under the bed.

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By cann4ing, May 6, 2007 at 9:01 pm Link to this comment

Tell me something, Point Blank, is insanity a prerequisite to an MS in psychology?  Your degree didn’t shake you of your military penchant for four-letter words.  By the way, I was eleven bravo; a grunt, not that this would make any difference to your warped mind.

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By cann4ing, May 6, 2007 at 3:25 pm Link to this comment

Re comment #68483 by Point Blank.  Like everything else you have to say, your “assumption” that I had “never served a day in the nation’s armed forces” is flat-out wrong.  I spent the better part of 1968 serving in a mechanized infantry unit (4th Infantry Division) in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.  Been there, done that.  When and where did you serve? 

In addition to a law degree, I hold both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science.  From your writings, I assume that you probably did not get past high school.  I am certain that you do not have a clue as to the war crimes your fascist friends in the Bush administration have committed at Guantanamo, at Abu Ghraib and throughout a vast network of CIA-run secret prisons where torture has been the order of the day.  You certainly have no inkling of the fundamental principles of our Constitutional system, especially those little matters about innocent until proven guilty, the rights each “person” has against self-incrimination and to due process of law.  I stress the word “person” because the Constitution does not limit these rights to citizens.

I suspect that you are one of those brain-dead, chicken-hawk neocons who, never having had to experience the horror of war, is more than happy to hide behind the flag as he sends someone else off to die in a useless war.  If you really are that gung ho, go sign up and head off to Iraq.  Age or infirmity won’t matter.  The gang of criminal war profiteers within the White House and the military-industrial complex will accept any warm body to act as canon fodder.  The oil cartel and Halliburton will thank you, that is unless you get wounded and are foolish enough to expect them to pay taxes in order to see that your broken body is taken care of at Walter Reed.

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By cann4ing, May 6, 2007 at 9:08 am Link to this comment

In comment #68379, Point Blank tells us, “Why should we…give a damn just how those cowards are treated as ‘they’ do not give a damn how ‘they’ treat others.”  Perhaps “Point Blank” should re-title his handle, “Pointed Head with a Blank Spot for a Brain.”

If “they” refers to the detainees in Guantanamo, it may interest the Blank Spot for a Brain to know that, per a Seton Hall study, he is referring to a detainee population 55% of whom have never committed a hostile act and only 8% of which were allegedly connected to al-Qaeda.  The vast majority, 86%, were captured either by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance at a time when the U.S. was offering huge bounties for “suspected” terrorists.  As revealed by Jane Mayer in “The New Paradigm,” published in “The New Yorker,” David Addington (Cheney’s chief of staff and the principle architect of the torture memos and the Kafka-like military tribunals) and Alberto Gonzalez were well aware of this, for the JAG and CIA officers sent to Guantanamo to find out why no useful intelligence was being extracted returned, reporting that “more than half the detainees…didn’t belong there.”  Their pleas were callously ignored.  A perplexed administration official questioned the logic.  “How could you deny the possibility that one or more people locked up who shouldn’t be there?  There were old people, sick people—why do we want to keep them?”

The answer lies in the fact that the real purpose of Guantanamo was never to punish those we believe are a threat to this country.  Guantanamo exists because it embodies a living example of Addington’s concept of the “New Paradigm,” an extension of the “Unitary Executive” to the point of unlimited, dictatorial power.  As one administration lawyer, quoted by Mayer, noted:  “Torture isn’t important to Addington as a scientific matter, good or bad, or whether it works or not.  It’s about his philosophy of Presidential power.  He thinks that if the President wants torture he should get torture.  He always argued for ‘maximum flexibility.’”

In their efforts, Addington et al can always rely upon numbskulls like Point Blank who are incapable of distinguishing between a murderous follower of Osama bin Laden and a peaceful farmer.  To him there is no such distinction, only the ubiquitous “they.”

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By detectivediana, May 5, 2007 at 11:33 am Link to this comment

Close Guantanamo now. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I recommend the documentary-film “Road to Guantanamo.” You’ll get a glimpse at what life is life in the detention camp.

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By nonsequitor, April 30, 2007 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment

#67290 by Point Blank on 4/30 at 11:29 am

‘Sick? You bet!’ very point.

well get it all out, you will feel much better for it, mind the 4000 word limit. smile

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By nonsequitor, April 30, 2007 at 11:56 am Link to this comment

#67236 by Point Blank on 4/30 at 5:31 am

you are one sick blank-point.

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By nonsequitor, April 29, 2007 at 11:33 pm Link to this comment

#66859 by Point Blank on 4/27 at 5:35 pm

to blank point:

Go to Iraq or Iran and try your “holier than thou” crapola and see how long you keep your head.

do you know this or are you just shooting blanks?

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By Jualt R Christos, April 29, 2007 at 10:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I applaud musician Patti Smith for her song Without Chains, which focuses on Murat Kurnaz, one of hundreds or more held without charges at Guantanamo.  While I can sympathize with our government’s desire to protect citizens from potential or actual terrorists, I think that the situations of these people should have been handled faster.  Some remain without charges, without representation, held indefinitely, incommunicado, some in solitary.  And while they are held in a military facility outside of the U.S. to “legally” be outside of rights afforded to U.S. citizens, I think that it is those rights which “we” were seeking to defend…  Unless we protest against this situation, then anyone at any time can be grabbed, and bundled off without charges, without communication, without representation, simply because of an alleged suspicion…  Now that to me could be a form of terrorism…

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By Hammo, April 28, 2007 at 10:09 am Link to this comment

There are much better ways to conduct intelligence gathering than kidnapping, torture, kangaroo courts and other approaches of the Bush-Cheney administration.

We may win the battle but lose the war in the international community, and within ourselves due to this kind of ethical corruption.

Thoughts on this in:

“Modern consciousness research, World War II lessons combine to win hearts and minds, war and peace”

American Chronicle

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By Michael Boldin, April 27, 2007 at 10:35 am Link to this comment

This administration and its supporters claims these people in Guantanamo don’t have rights -

They claim that THESE people are somehow less human that you and I are. Really a disgusting position, in my opinion!

The reality though, even though they make this claim, all people are born with the same inherent rights.

It’s the Constitution and Bill of Rights which makes this clear - and limits what the government can do (or try to take away) when dealing with people.

The Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to American people. It doesn’t apply to foreigners. It doesn’t apply to people at all.

It applies to the government. Period.

For more on this important issue, read the following:

“To Whom Does the Bill of Rights Apply?”

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By dale Headley, April 25, 2007 at 11:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Guantanamo is the blister on the pox that has invaded the American conscience and turned a justice-oriented society into a nationally chauvinistic bully for all the world to fear.

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By QuyTran, April 24, 2007 at 9:08 pm Link to this comment

If Dick Cheney is still saying that al-Quaida was connected to Iraq…so we can ask him that to whom he’s connected ? His answer is : Halliburton (huge)
benefits sharing without paying taxes !

The King is draft dodger. The Vice-King is taxes dodger. Both is the same !

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