On the Purpose of Guantanamo Bay "Prison"
What I think.
I think this place maybe was never intended to be just a regular prison where people were sentenced and served out their time, but rather a place to interrogate special prisoners to get information out of them that will help us get the top leaders of Al-Qaeda, and also to try and learn about their major plans for attacks so we can thwart them.
That would explain a lot. It would explain why only certain captives are sent to this place. It would explain our relentless interrogations instead of just leaving them alone like prisoners. And it would explain why we don't want to see them go free until they talk.
Obviously, that is just speculation; a thought that occurred to me.
Why Guantanamo Bay?
Apparently a prisoner who is taken on the battlefield who doesn't qualify for the protocols outlined in the various Geneva Conventions presents a problem to his captors as to how and where to detain him and under what circumstances.
Common fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan (un-uniformed belligerents shooting at American soldiers) were simply placed in prison camps in Afghanistan. However, some of the people captured on the battlefield (all that could be killed were killed, but some were only wounded or surrendered) were leaders and probably knew helpful information.
In a normal war, uniformed prisoners who are attached to a country of origin, are housed in POW camps per Geneva and interrogated only in the manner Geneva prescribes. At the time this writer was in the military, the Geneva Convention only required a prisoner to give his name, rank, service number, and date of birth. The enemy was supposed to be satisfied with that, and not beat the rest of it out of you. I don't know if that has changed; the Conventions are modified over time. Of course, one is not always lucky enough to be captured by a signatory to the Conventions, or be assured that one's captors will abide by the Conventions even if a signer.
Of course, Al-Qaeda isn't a Geneva signer and doesn't abide by Geneva's rules of war, i.e., Geneva requires soldiers to wear identifiable uniforms, be attached to a recognized country, and not behead people or blow up buses carrying women and babies. I think it is also against the rules of war (god, but that sounds funny, even ridiculous, as I type the words - "rules of war") to hijack jets full of innocent passengers and crash them into buildings with thousands of innocent people inside. But I can understand why much of the world is outraged at America for draping a damp washcloth over the faces of the masterminds of 9/11 and dripping water onto it. That does seem extreme.
Thus the Americans were faced with a unique problem. In earlier days, non-uniformed combatants, civilian night fighters and the like, were simply executed at the will of the commanding officer. Hanging or shooting such illegal combatants was commonplace. The British executed American guerillas in the American Revolution and the Germans executed French resisters and so on in every other war. The treatment of non-uniformed disorganized fighters on a battlefield or who blew up things at night was easy: you executed them when you caught them.
But Al-Qaeda was different. NONE of them were representing any particular country and NONE of them wore uniforms, and NONE of them wanted anything to do with the Geneva way of making war. At least not until they were captured.
What to do?
The Americans and other NATO forces killed as many as they could, but some were only wounded and some simply surrendered. What do you do with these people? I know what the Germans in WWII would have done with them, and what the Russians would have done with them back then. However, as terrible as the world thinks Americans act, they didn't seem able to bring themselves to simply execute the illegal combatants.
One other point as to trials and guilt: these people were "caught in the act" you might say. As are all POWs, actually. Normally, POWs are not given lawyers and trials. They are thrown into prison camps. And that is what the Americans did to the bands of free-lancers who were killing them and otherwise shooting at them. Threw them in prison camps for the duration of the war. Mostly. Some, however, the Americans wanted further conversations with.
Going back to the title of this post, "Why Guantanamo Bay?"
For this, not being there, all I have is the word of George W. Bush. Even though few of you reading this are likely to be disposed to believe President Bush, I have evaluated his statements and have personally made the choice to believe him about "Why Guantanamo Bay".
"Initially, most al Qaeda fighters were held for questioning in battleground prisons in Afghanistan. In November [2001?] CIA officers went to interrogate Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners detained at a primitive nineteenth-century Afghan fortress, Qala-i-Jangi. A riot ensued..."
Bush goes on to recount how one of the officers was killed, the first American fatality of the war, and how it soon became obvious they needed to come up with a better and more secure place to hold and interrogate these prisoners - or "detainees" as he calls them.
Bush goes on to say that they tried putting them on Navy ships in the Arabian sea, but that wasn't suitable. Then he considered putting the prisoners on some remote island with a military base, such as Guam, but Guam belonged to the U.S. and that would mean American courts might start extending constitutional rights (such as the right to remain silent) to the prisoners of war, something that had never been done in any previous war. That would never do since the whole idea was to gain intelligence from the prisoners. We desperately needed intelligence on al Qaeda early in the war, according to Bush.
"We decided to hold detainees at a remote naval station on the southern tip of Cuba, Guantanamo Bay." [...] "The Justice Department advised me that prisoners brought there had no right of access to the U.S. criminal justice system." [.,.]
"At Guantanamo, detainees were given clean and safe shelter, three meals a day, a personal copy of the Koran, the opportunity to pray five times daily, and the same medical care their guards received. They had access to exercise space and a library stocked with books and DVDs. One of the most popular was an Arabic translation of Harry Potter."---------
I used to think I knew what torture meant. Instinctively. When I thought of torture, images of the Japanese abusing British and American soldiers in WWII came to mind: how they starved them and beat them and crippled them and simply shot them. How they marched them without food and made them go nearly mad from thirst in the tropical sun. How they put them in hot boxes on rocks for days at a time with no food or water. Then there were the bamboo slivers pushed up under their fingernails.
I can't even talk about the routine tortures in Elizabethan England.
I read about the Spanish Inquisition going on when Columbus sailed for the New World in 1492. I learned about the ingenious devices for torture. Strappado and squasation. The pear. The Judas cradle. The cat's paw. The heretic's fork. The rack: how bones and connecting tissue could be made to make crackling sounds before they snapped apart. Burning flesh. Hot coals in tongs brought near victims' eyes (I read somewhere that that is how Sampson was blinded by the Philistines - the Palestinians and the Jews have been going at it for thousands of years, you know.)
As it turns out, according to the UN and organizations like Amnesty International, torture is much more than I thought it was.
In other words, torture can be anything at all. Detention after school. Being made to listen to boring lectures in college. You think I am making fun? Go read the the UN definition of torture. If a person doesn't want to be there, that's torture.
What is waterboarding? Sort of like being placed on the rack or the impaler, right? Sort of like having one's intestines removed while still conscious and smelling them being barbecued on a grill next your face, right? - like they used to do did for Good Queen Bess I in England?
Waterboarding consists of placing the subject on his back on a board (duh) and strapping him to that board so he is helpless. Then a wet cloth is placed over his face. Then water is slowly poured over the cloth. Although the water doesn't actually go into the lungs, it feels like it does. The gag reflex kicks in and a very real feeling of drowning pervades. You feel like you are going to die and you can do nothing about it, struggle as you may.
Well, not "nothing" exactly. You can say, "Stop this and I'll talk."
The closest I have ever been to being waterboarded is when I go to the dentist and I am lying on my back and the hygienist is spraying water in my mouth and I can't talk and the suction is not keeping up with the water and I am trying to close my throat instead of letting it run down my throat and gagging. If the water DID go down my throat I guarantee I would start gagging an coughing and (since my arms were not restrained) trying to punch her in the gut to make her move the water thing away, I digress.
Waterboarding is (or maybe "was") a fairly common component of college fraternity "hazing" or initiation in yesteryear. Even at West Point - several generals have admitted that they were administered the procedure when they were plebes. Who else? Well, the American interrogators get it done to them so they know how it feels. Navy Seals and Army Special Forces "might" have undergone waterboarding during interrogation resistance training. They won't say for sure.
It is very realistic. You BELIEVE you are drowning, dying. You don't want it to continue. You panic. You will do ANYTHING to make them stop. You tend to even forget your religion.
When I first heard about waterboarding, I thought thousands of al Qaeda got it done to them, the way the TV news and newspaper columnists went on and on about the horror of it. But it wasn't thousands. It wasn't even two hundred and thirty. How many, then? "Three" says George Bush. Three of the top ringleaders.
1. Abu Zubaydah, a top personal associate of bin Laden, senior recruiter and operator of the training camp in Afghanistan where the 9/11 hijackers had trained. He was planning to attack America again. He was to give up much, much valuable information about al Qaeda leadership and operations. He gave up the mastermind of the 9/11 attack himself, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
2. Hambali,* chief of al Qaeda's operations in Southeast Asia and architect of the infamous Bali terrorist attack that killed 202 people.
3. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed himself, planner of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, and personal killer of kidnapped journalist Danny Pearl. He was harder to break, but when he broke he squealed like the rat he is. He gave up Hambali too.
Bush on Abu Zubaydah:
"Zubaydah had been severely wounded in a gun battle prior to his arrest. The CIA flew in a top doctor who saved his life." [...] "The FBI began questioning Zubaydah, who had clearly been trained on how to resist interrogation. He revealed bits and pieces of information that he thought we already knew. Frighteningly, we didn't know much." [...]
"Then Zubaydah stopped answering questions."
Bush goes on to say that the CIA believed Zubydah had more information to reveal, was hiding other important things, and we needed to avoid another attack on the U.S. Bush asked the CIA what the options were. Bush says he rejected one option outright. He doesn't say what it was. Bush says he was assured that all interrogations would be performed by experienced professionals who had undergone extensive training, and that medical personnel would be present to guarantee the "detainee" would not be physically or mentally harmed. Bush further claims that the Department of Justice and CIA lawyers conducted a careful review and concluded what they were about to do would not violate the constitution or even the laws that ban torture. Bush gave the go-ahead to waterboard Zubaydah.
The "new techniques" proved highly effective. Zubaydah revealed large amounts of information on al Qaeda's structure and operations. He also provided leads that helped reveal the location of Ramzi bin al Shibh, the logistical planner of the 9/11 attacks. The Pakistani police picked him up on the first anniversary of 9/11.
At this point, Mr. Bush says something I found at first unbelievable.
"Zubaydah later explained to interrogators why he started answering questions again. His understanding of Islam was that he had to resist interrogation only up to a certain point. Waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold, fulfill his religious duty, and then cooperate. 'You must do this for all the brothers he said."
That's hard to believe. That's hard to swallow. And yet, in some odd way it makes sense and unlocks a portion of how these people think. I'm not sure I fully believed Bush when I read this part. But, later, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured and waterboarded, he ended up saying much the same thing, and suddenly began cooperating fully, after taking what he felt was an honorable amount of duress.
"Kalid Sheikh Mohammed proved difficult to break. But when he did, he gave us a lot. He disclosed plans to attack American targets with anthrax and directed us to three people involved in the al Qaeda biological weapons program. He provided information that led to the capture of Hambali..." [...] "He provided further details that led agents to Hambali's brother, who had been grooming operatives to carry out another attack inside the United States, possibly a West Coast version of 9/11 in which terrorists flew a hijacked plane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles."
"Years later, the Washington Post ran a front page story about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's transformation, [...] "It described how Mohammed 'seemed to relish the opportunity, sometimes for hours on end, to discuss the inner workings of al Qaeda and the group's plans, ideology and operatives...He'd even use a chalkboard at times.' "
"Of the thousands of terrorists we captured in the years after 9/11, about a hundred were placed into the CIA program. About a third of those were questioned using enhanced interrogation techniques. Three were waterboarded."
*Possibly the third person waterboarded was Ramzi bin al Shibh instead of Hambali. Bush was not clear on who the third person definitively was.
On Muslims Hating America
Many people, for many years now, seem preoccupied with why Muslims hate America and want to kill Americans. Where did al Qaeda come from? Personally, I have never cared that much whether Muslims, or anyone else, for that matter, loved America or not. Their loss. I know I probably should care, but I just don't stay awake worrying about it. America steers her own course, except during weak indecisive times, like now and like Jimmy Carter's era. Perhaps that in itself pisses off other countries, that we don't consult with them enough. I don't know.
In the case of al Qaeda, though, it isn't a nameless hatred. It isn't just Muslim kids being taught hatred by their teachers in grade school and it isn't just that Muslim "clerics" preach hate of the infidel to their flocks every Friday, either.
Saudi Arabia is key with al Qaeda hatred of America. America the infidel set foot in the holy of holies, Saudi Arabia, home of Mecca and Medina and The Prophet, during Gulf War One. bin Ladin is a Saudi. His insult and idignation knew no bounds when America used Saudi Arabia as a base to beat back Sadaam in the early 90s. Never mind that Saudi Arabia would have certainly be overrun by Iraq had not the Americans intervened. It doesn't make sense, but that's how the fanatics think. Stay the hell out of Saudi Arabia.
I once advocated to anyone who would listen that we should make a firm threat that if al Qaeda attacked America again - ever - we would bomb Mecca. Preferably with a dirty bomb that would thwart any thought of pilgrimages there for a thousand years. I still think such a threat is a good idea. No, even I can't recommend that. But it is sort of like taking a hostage without having to lift a finger. The fanatics understand that. Even they have a few things they care about more than martyrdom and virgins.
Now, that is the spark that set al Qaeda off against America. There is an older and more personal reason that they hate America, and that reason is at the root of all the terrorism against us. It stems from the fact that America recognizes Israel as a legitimate entity, a real country.
Will all the hatred subside and all the fighting stop if suddenly Israel were to magically disappear? No, America would still be hated because it ONCE supported Israel. The fighting would also continue unabated. They would simply begin fighting among themselves as they did before Israel existed. It is their nature to feel slighted and seek unending revenge for this or that perceived injury. It is just the nature of the beast.
All of the friendly Palestinians have long since moved to Dearborn.
Knowing this, your job is to simply support the people who treat you with respect and with friendship while protecting yourself from the crazies as much as possible. No, don't think that switching sides and condemning Israel will make any difference with these people.
The Palestinians never miss a chance to miss a chance. Don't forget that. This is a sport to them.
How do you tell who the fanatics are?
Islam is a peaceful religion. We hear that all the time and I believe it, generally. Even though the Quran is pretty violent in places. But there is a way to single out the fanatics who are NOT peaceful and who want to kill you. Here's how: sit in an embassy compound and when a group of "protesters" approach yelling "Death to america!" and begin shooting at you and cursing you and try to bomb you and burn your flag and hang the President in effigy, this is a clue that these are your enemies. These are the fanatics. These are the non-peaceful segments of Islam. Kill them all. Kill them each and every time they congregate. You will be killing people who hate you and want to reenact 9/11 on America tomorrow. You will be doing America a favor. You will be doing yourself a favor. You will be doing peaceful and friendly Muslims a favor. You will seldom be able to kill that many of your enemies together in one convenient place, knowing without a doubt that they ARE your enemies. Such things are gifts from providence.
Or you can try to reason with them and win their hearts and minds over. You can try to capture them and give them fair trials. Perhaps they will love you and America tomorrow if you do.
I'm guessing not.
I see a breath of fresh air in Libya now, though. Today, Muslims of good will took to the streets to confront the haters who attacked the American consulate last week, killing a good friend of Libya. It almost restores my hope. Godspeed to these peacemakers.
On Fair Trials and Habeas Corpus
Unless you can learn to separate military-style attacks and battles from criminal acts by people who live in a civil society, you will never understand why some are treated differently and afforded different legal rights.
I have heard silly statements on various blogs and newspapers, by otherwise intelligent people, such as "Everyone has a right to a speedy and fair trial" and "Habeas Corpus is basic human write that is inviolable." Or similar.
You can't equate civil rights and the rule of law in a peaceful society to acts of war! You treat people who attack your country much differently. First, you fight back as hard as you can and with as much military force as you can muster and you kill your enemies and take the fight to his land and take what he owns. You subdue him. You put your foot on his neck and keep him at bay and away from your shores. You don't worry about if you offend him or not or if you treat him poorly and unfairly. Fair treatment and human rights are for people who are not trying to destroy your country and your way of life. See? They really are two separate things.
1. Do what you have to to protect your land, property, life.
2. Worry about the civil rights of your enemies after the war is over.
It's quite a simple concept. It's called self-preservation.
When someone attacks you and doesn't win, why, you get to take their stuff. If you are not nice, you get to enslave them. You change the lines on the map to show you now own what they used to own. They will call you "occupiers" and cry to the world to make you give their stuff back, but you don't have to because they attacked you and lost. So Israel was attacked several times, and each time Israel took more and more of their enemies' lands because they won those wars. They gave some back. They may give more back in the future if they feel they won't be attacked by those people again.
The U.S. was attacked. It now holds some of those attackers in a prison camp called Guantanamo. Speedy trials? Innocence or guilt? Civil rights? Well, those things are up to their captors. It is a sad consequence of you attacking and losing, you see. Since they were taken from battlefields and safe houses, there is really no need for a trial. They are simply at the mercy of those they attacked.
I know, I know, you still can't get it out of your head that these people are human beings, by god, and innocent until proven guilty, just like your next door neighbor. Well, it just doesn't work that way in war, bucky. In war, they take you off the battlefield and throw you in a prison camp. For how long? Until the war is over or until you get traded for some of our prisoners. Don't you get a trial? No. You stay in the POW camp until the war is over or you escape without being shot. No, no, no, no - don't get it confused with people who commit "crimes" on places other than battlefields. That is very different than war rules.
How about the Geneva Convention, dadgummit? Well, aside from the fact that, again, these folks don't qualify for Geneva Convention protections under Convention rules, we are still trying to treat them humanely by not letting them starve or live in filth and disease. This is because we are a civilized country. They are not, you see.
But what if they are innocent victims? Holy Moley! What about THAT?
Again, these people, these supporters of savage, rabid, senseless slaughterers of innocent civilians minding their own business, were not taken at random from movie theaters in Karachi or Kandahar. They were captured on battlefields engaged in mortal combat with America's finest. Except for the cowardly ringleaders and planners of mass murders who were in hiding and had to be tracked down, and except for some fighters who were on their way to the battlefield and got interrupted.
Now here's a bad thing that we did: Bush caved in to demands by outsiders who weren't involved in the war, like the UN and mindless protesters at home who apparently don't care if their country was attacked or not, and gave these military prisoners lawyers. Yeah! We did that! Can you imagine lawyers in a military prison camp? I can't. The only thing more ridiculous is the notion that these wartime fighters should be entitled to habeas corpus. Are you kidding me? Military fighters don't go before civil courts. C'mon. Two different things here. Get a grip.
Military tribunals will decide who can leave and go home, who will be sent to another prison for life, and who will be executed. That's how these war things work. They need to quit dragging their feet and get on with it so any of those who were small fry can get released to a prison in their own country and get their civil rights back when they arrive. The civil rights of their home countries, not ours. In the meantime, at our sole discretion as captors, we decide if they are still a threat to the U.S. We have been pretty poor judges so far, in that those few released seem to have a penchant for just returning to the battlefield and continuing the fight.
On Adnan Latif
Adnan Latif was a Yemeni national who traveled to Afghanistan at the wrong time. He says he thought it was a good time to get medical help in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The U.S. says he was with a crowd of other Arabs of various nationalities who were on their way to help fight the Americans in Afghanistan. He spent his time in Guantanamo being belligerent and uncooperative, unlike someone who wanted to convince his captors that a mistake had been made. In such a situation, a person who was mistakenly imprisoned would, one assumes, be overly cooperative and make continual pleas to be allowed to talk to someone about his innocence. One assumes such a person would not spend as much time as Latif did spitting in the guards' faces.
Despite the Bush administration's contention that the prisoners at Guantanamo were not entitled to Geneva Convention provisions, the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2004, ruled that the prisoners were entitled to be informed of the allegations against them and were entitled to try and refute those allegations.
Most prisoners of war are detained "extrajudicially", usually simply as enemies of the state without presenting any other formal charges.
"Why am I being held prisoner?"
"Because you are an enemy combatant against the United States of America in time of war."
Case closed. Unless he can refute that allegation. For example, by demonstrating he was really a French citizen on holiday in Islamabad at the time of his capture.
Here is a picture of Latif. The orange jumpsuit signifies he is considered a "non-compliant" prisoner (troublemaker.)
"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif is an al Qaeda fighter."
"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif traveled to Afghanistan for jihad."
"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif took military or terrorist training in Afghanistan."
"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif fought for the Taliban."
"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif was one of the captives whose "names or aliases were found on material seized in raids on al Qaeda safehouses and facilites."
Here are his names and aliases:
(Why in the world does an innocent traveler seeking medical attention need that many aliases?)
"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif served on Osama Bin Laden's security detail."
What? A bodyguard for bin Laden? Could this be why we thought he had important information he wasn't sharing? His name showed up on a captured list of bin Laden's personal aides??
"The U.S. Military alleges that Latif was an al Qaeda operative."
At any rate, his supporters assert the U,S. Government and military is lying and that Latif was just a harmless poet criminally detained.
Latif says he was force fed with a tube and that it caused great pain when it was placed up through his nose and down into his stomach. Those of you who have been in a hospital probably have had such a tube placed up your nose and down into your stomach, but for continual evacuation, not feeding. At any rate placing the tube is not really torture. He had a history of going on hunger strikes. Were the Americans wrong to keep him alive by force-feeding him like that? If it really hurt, then I suppose he could have just started eating again the normal way. If it really hurt, I personally would have been tempted to feed him in 8 or 10 daily snacks instead of in one or two big meals. But that's just me.
Latif died in prison recently and is considered an example of U.S. torture and inhumanity.
On America Supporting Dictators in Central America
To be continued...
On America Supporting Dictators in Central America
To be continued...