Thursday, September 22, 2005

Catch and Release Guantanamo Style

This should provide some food for thought for anyone wavering on the issue of the prison at Guantanamo. The facility was created to hold personnel captured fighting US forces, or committing acts of terror. Personnel who were not uniformed soldiers. The administration claims that it has the right to hold these combatants, in order to protect American lives.

Apparently the real problem with the process was not prisoner’s rights, but early releases. As in Iraq, some detainees have been unconditionally released. Declared to be “no longer a threat.” And as in Iraq some of these men immediately picked up where they left off.

According to a Sept. 22, London Daily Telegraph Report:

“More than a dozen prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to the ‘battlefield’ to fight Americans. The terrorists, freed in the belief that "they posed a very low threat", have either been killed, captured or wounded in attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Others are thought to be still organizing attacks with the Taliban or al Qa'eda.”

This dozen only represents those who have been found out. How many more constitute those others. So far 170 prisoners have been unconditionally released. So far a dozen plus have been killed captured or wounded. The purpose of the prison was to protect Americans, not to mention Afghanis building a democracy.

It is unlikely that this evidence will convince the left that this prison is a necessary evil of modern life. But there is hope that it will convince anyone who merely harbored doubts. It is unfortunate, that America, the symbol of democracy worldwide, must maintain such a prison. But we must remember why.

We didn’t ask to be attacked on September 11, 2001. We didn’t ask the Taliban to harbor al-Quaeda. We didn’t tell them to wage a war of terror. We didn’t force them to fight as non-state guerillas. And we certainly didn’t tell the prisoners we released to pick up arms again.

Americans, who are liberal on the law, have problems with the detentions. Even some moderates, including military officers have expressed doubts. The idea of due process is deeply ingrained in the fabric of our society. But we must remember what we are up against.

Despite the new designation of enemy combatants, these prisoners are more akin to prisoners of war than to criminals. The designation, which stripped them of certain POW rights, was assigned because they are not uniformed agents of a state. They are terrorists and guerrillas. They were captured in the act of waging war on America or her allies. Captured almost exclusively by military agencies. Overwhelmingly they are not American citizens, and were not captured on American soil. They were not arrested by law enforcement authorities.

As initially conceived and enacted the prison at Guantanamo had problems. Some of these problems have slowly been corrected. Conditions have improved at Guantanamo. The release of 170 prisoners shows that the military and administration are serious about trying to sort threats from the harmless

Other problems are more intractable. When we hear anecdotal evidence of abuses at Guantanamo, we should remember that such anecdotes come from every prison and jail in existence. Prisoner abuse is an act that occurs for complex social and psychological reasons. It is not a symptom of conservative politics. Prisons in Chirac’s France and Schroeder’s Germany have been found to tolerate abuse as well.

We should also remember that among the few prisoners released were many who remained our enemy. In our attempt to appear fair and honest we put the lives of American soldiers, and Afghanis at risk. And if one or more of those released prisoners goes on to al-Quaeda level mass terrorism we will have risked even more.

Do our liberals have any good answer to the problem? For years we’ve allowed murderers back on the street in America. Respect for the constitution has forced us to tolerate that. But the constitution calls on the Government to provide for self defense. It does not require us to allow foreigners to walk free while planning our destruction.


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