Sunday, September 23, 2012

Some Miscellaneous Guantanamo Thoughts

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."

On Torture

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.

Or I think of the Rape of Nanking by the Japanese, and the German doctors experiments on brain surgery and other surgeries on women and twins without anesthetic. The horrors were beyond my imagination as I read the accounts.

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.)

The thought of torture made me cringe. I felt sure I knew what it was, all right. And I felt sure my country didn't do those things.

As it turns out, according to the UN and organizations like Amnesty International, torture is much more than I thought it was.

Torture can be the act of making someone feel uncomfortable, inferior, controlled, humiliated, afraid, embarrassed. Making a person feel intimidated can have long-lasting emotional scars and even occasional sexual disfunction years later.

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.

Worst of all, I discovered that my own country tortures people mercilessly. They put prisoners in cages.  Guards react, often with obscene language, when urine and other bodily fluids are thrown through the bars on them. Often, it is said, American Marines will openly frown at helpless prisoners under their control, thus causing long-term feelings of inferiority and helplessness.

Americans need to be ashamed of this. And yet, is not the scorn of the world against the dastardly Americans also a form of torture in and of itself, according to the UN High Commissioner? Is not Europe, thus, also guilty of causing Americans to feel bad? Full of feelings of shame and inferiority? Bet your ass.

How I wish I had known all these things when I was a youngster, when my drill sergeant pressed his nose against mine and screamed obscenities in my face and described my low parentage in vivid and cruel terms. RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FELLOW DETAINEES! I mean "trainees." Is the statute of limitations still running on that? Can I still sue? Will the international courts hear my pleas of recurring nightmares while nodding sadly? Probably not.

If Americans think it is hurtful to have their premier city blasted by hijacked airplanes and watch as people burn and jump from high buildings to their death, how much MORE hurtful it is to offend the perpetrators and make them feel inferior, rather than simply inviting them to repeat the attacks over and over again. Treat them with respect and they will surely leave you alone.

On Waterboarding

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?

Not quite.

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.

President Bush:

"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.' "

Bush continues:

"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.

What balderdash!

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.)
Outside sources say there were no charges against Latif except the enemy combatant one which allowed the simple extrajudicial detention. However, records show that he DID have actual allegations against him, mostly as a group with other enemy combatants, to wit:

"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:

  • Agnahn Purhan Abjallil
  • Allal, Ab Aljallil
  • Allal Ab Aljallil Abd Al Rahman Abd
  • Abdelrahman Abdulla Abdel Galil
  • Adnan Farhan Abd al Latif
  • Afnahn Purhan Abjillil]
  • George Jones (kidding)
(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...


  1. Yes, absolutely right, all of it. I agree.

  2. You know, of course, that I don't agree.
    But here's a few points regarding my views. First, if someone attacks your country and is planning further attacks, then of course you are right to go after him and kill him.

    Yes, I support all efforts to root out and destroy those who are calling for and planning, and training for similar attacks, I'm in favour of not taking prisoners.

    If you do take prisoners, and you can identify them as being combatants, then sure, go ahead and get out of them what they know.

    It's what the Viet Cong used to do. And I seem to recall that America viewed their actions as wrong.

    1. How about if someone attacks your country and is NOT planning further attacks?

    2. I don't think the Viet Cong did much torturing, but the NVA sure did. I don't think they tortured to get information though - just to get the American flyers to sign degrading statements about their country. And for the fun and revenge of it, perhaps. Which reminds me: why would they keep them so long without habeas corpus and a lawyer?

      Hilarious that you compare the Americans' treatment of al Qaeda prisoners in Guantanamo to the NVA's treatment of American prisoners. You are amazing sometimes. Ever eat a cockroach?

  3. I was beginning to get rather concerned about your welfare. For you just up and left the blogosphere without leaving a note behind.

    Anyway, it is good that you are back. So, aside from the torture and other inconveniences, how did you like your stay in Cuba?

    In all seriousness, as if I wasn't before, I want the good guys to act like good guys. Granted, that involves doing some bad things while fighting a war--regardless of declared or otherwise. Nonetheless, there are some lines that should not be crossed, and I fear that they are no longer recognized. Of course, if I was in charge, I would inform Pakistan that we will be doing a clean sweep of the western tribal regions, which is an action that many (both here and abroad) would find completely unacceptable.

    1. Hello Jerry! Thank you for coming by again and for your comment. I'll admit I don't think your idea of a military sweep in Pakistan is a good idea. I simply don't see how we could do that without making our enemies there feel uncomfortable or even nervously intimidated and fearful for their safety, even if we leave the weapons at home and just wrestle with them and their goats. And what happens if some of them surrender? Have you thought this through? If you just ignore them, they would shoot you as you walked away. And would you remember to bring lawyers with you to make sure they got their proper civil rights after they killed you? You must not be so rash in your strategic planning, Jerry. :)

      Don't worry, I promise not to take you seriously. I don't take people seriously who think the U.S. tortures people. :)

      Ah, well. The trip to Cuba was great. The evident freedom in downtown Havana would bring tears to your eyes as the Swedes screwed the children out of their trinkets.

      I have to apologize about the sarcasm because I have been around you know who too long and it has rubbed off. I appreciate your comment, and that's the truth.

  4. The choice has always been clear. Give us Barabbas.

    1. You make me think too much. Just when I thought I had it all figured out...

    2. On the other hand, "Give us Barabbas" was preordained just as surely as Eve eating the apple or Judas' betrayal. What if the crowd had said, "Give us Jesus" and Pilot had set him free and refused to crucify him. What then?

      Barabbas is not always the wrong choice.

  5. Ok, Max. I've read what you have to say. I'm still a little confused on what constitutes the difference between a 'real combatant with a uniform' to a radical, killing zealot who has no identifiable clothing. You consistently say the detainees are prisoners of a war in which we are engaged in. So we recognize there is a war in which we are fighting. We recognize the right to take POW's. But we don't recognize captives' rights under the Geneva convention rulings (mainly because we all have to agree to fight fair, wear the team colors and sign a piece of paper before we hit the ball field oops I meant the battlefield.) I can rest easy tonight knowing my country feeds, clothes and entertains our enemies with Harry Potter movies.

    I am utterly convinced on your assertion that Latif was involved in terrorist action against our country. Though you don't come right out and say it, I am assuming that you believe we are still involved in a 'war against terrorism'; we still have the need to detain prisoners of war; and Guantanamo is the designated place until further notice. Or until we occupy the lands of our enemies and claim ourselves victors. Or we pack up and go home.

    Can I ask when will this war be over? I know it is a simpleton's question, but the last thing I want my country involved in is another extended war against guerrilla fighters whose country we eventually must evacuate because we simply can't win.

    On the subject of torture: Apparently there is quite a bit of debate on what constitutes torture. According to you it seems to be to 'what degree' we do harm. I do appreciate your pictorial review of torture 'through the ages' and feel muchly relieved that we humans today are a much more enlightened and respectful lot in comparison to our ancestors. Indeed, we can comfortably point our righteous finger at our enemies - ALL of our enemies starting from the American Revolution - and claim we are the more humane, enlightened and morally just group of torturers on this planet. Oh right. We don't torture. We just interrogate.

    Finally, my overarching question, at my blog and here, has not yet been answered: how much longer do we need to detain prisoners who have already spent a decade at Gitmo? Do we still believe they have information that our terrifying but not harmful interrogation techniques have not yet forced them to give up? Can we not accuse and try them and find them guilty and execute them as enemies of the state? or send them to prison for life? or let them go?

    I know these are dangerous times we live in Max. I am forever reminded at the airport to stand in line with my papers, remove my shoes, make sure NO ONE touches my luggage or packs it for me AND for heaven's sake NEVER JOKE about terrorism lest I be pulled out of line and face my own interminable detention.

    You can never know when or where a member of the Taliban might show up and harm us. Maybe my turbaned Muslim neighbor is stealthily gathering intelligence information in the midst of our quiet, gentle neighborhood. Yes. These are times of war, and we must remain ever so diligent. I'm doing my part, Max. When my Muslim neighbor presses his hands together and bows to me across the street, I growl at him and bare my teeth - reminding him that he's the dog my country believes him to be.


    1. Thank you for taking the time to read the main points of my opinions about Guantanamo (and more.) I know it was a long post and it was one-sided. I guess all posts are one-sided. After reading your response, I am very clear about how you feel, and realize we are so far apart on our basic values and visions of how the world really is, that neither will “win” this debate. You have your beliefs and I have mine. Even though we end by not changing the other’s mind about anything, I feel I benefited - both by venting and by reading your opinions about how you see things. I think your response was truly original and from your heart, and composed entirely by yourself, and I appreciate that.

    2. Oh geez, Max. I can never tell when you are being honest or being disingenuous. Hopefully on one thing we both can agree: While I disagree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it. And THAT is one of things I love about my country.


    3. You have come a long way, Max, since advocating hitting Mecca with a dirty bomb. I have friends I dare not suggest this to, as they will hold it against the administration that we havent done so.
      One of them, just last night, was expressing his desire to hit Tehran with some nukes.
      After all, he reasoned, we did it to Japan, and 70 years later we are best of friends with Japan.
      I don't know how to respond to that. I'm just glad he is not in charge. I'm just glad I am not in charge.

  6. Max, despite it's length, this might be your worst thought out ramble I've read. That makes me sad.

    I know you're a proud American. I know you truly believe our country is doing "good" things war-wise (while having zero faith in its goodwill otherwise, which I don't entirely get).

    But, to my mind, there is nothing much sadder than proud Americans forced, for love of their country, to defend the indefensible.

    A right to trial isn't about protecting evildoers, it's about protecting the relatively innocent swept up with the evildoers and prevent the government from misusing its powers. If you WILL not/CAN not demonstrate proof of crime, it should not be assume the individual is guilty. That's the law for these shores, and should be how we treat others who are not an immediate threat.

    Because, who we are isn't depending on the evil of our foes, but on OUR OWN ACTIONS. If we respond in kind to horrors committed against us, we also eliminate the line of good vs. evil that separates us.

    (Really, Max, what were you thinking?: "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." Seriously? We're going back to the Dark Ages? And what about the times when we were aggressors and just took their stuff? Was it OK because we won? Would they be "good guys" if THEY won?)

    (Splitting into two so it will be accepted)

    1. Maybe. But you have to take into consideration you are a bleeding heart liberal. :)

      Well, I guess I don't absolutely believe ALL those things. Sometimes it's good to make people agitated enough to think about it.

      But you still have the same misconception (IMHO) that you can combine treatment of parties to war the same as you can treat social criminals. Or societal criminals, or whatever the word is. You just can do that, Stephanie. Two different sets of rules. You don't believe that, do you? That's mostly why we differ.

  7. I found it telling you didn't compare our action to any but the most heinous war crimes committed in the last century (Imperial Japan, Nazi Japan) and then had to go back to Dark Ages and just past for crimes committed by "good countries." These are our peers? Yikes. Yeah, we're gentler than the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem tribunal or William Wallace's executioners or Josef Mengele. No offense, but I don't think that's much of an achievement.

    Civilly, we got rid of that kind of cruel and unusual punishment and then Geneva kicked in so that torturing and tormenting combatants (sometimes dragged into war kicking and screaming) weren't treated as criminals and could be released at war's end. Coming up with rationales why we don't have to treat THESE combatants like prisoners of war is disingenuous. It's an excuse.

    If they are criminal involved in war crimes, try and kill them and be done, having proven the assertions. I'm fine with capital punishment. Professionals in the intelligence community have said (and keep saying) for decades that information gleaned via torture is unreliable.

    I am an advocate for capital punishment, but I don't advocate torture, not because I don't think it's ever just (it is, in some cases) but because that's one of the divining lines between evil and good. I like the evil eradicated; I don't want to join in. MY actions reflect on me; whatever is done to me reflects on them.

    Belittling the definitions of torture don't reflect well on you. Psychological torture is very effective and has been wielded for centuries. Just because you can't see the scars doesn't mean they're not there as many an "unscathed" US soldier can tell you. Nor can I quite get over someone who repeated calls me naive taking the assertion of three people total being tortured and/or waterboarded at face value. Remember the footage sent out about US guards in a detention facility in the Middle East? I remember counting more than four.

    (Nor did I understand the foray into pointing out the religious fringe crazies of the Muslim world. Every religion has fringe crazies and most countries. Wonder why Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh got trials? Or doesn't it count when you do it to your own country?)

    It's true that "mild" torture and psychological torture are unlikely to do as much damage to hardened terrorists, but can be life-transforming for someone innocent--which cycles me back to the original point: if we don't have the proof to try them, as "good guys," we shouldn't assume their guilty.

    And, yes, I don't expect you to agree with me.

    1. "I found it telling you didn't compare our action to any but the most heinous war crimes committed in the last century (Imperial Japan, Nazi Japan) and then had to go back to Dark Ages and just past for crimes committed by "good countries." These are our peers? Yikes. Yeah, we're gentler than the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem tribunal or William Wallace's executioners or Josef Mengele. No offense, but I don't think that's much of an achievement."

      I guess I just couldn't think of when we had actually tortured. You mean when fighting the Indians? Or what?

    2. But you are right, I don't think anything we've done in the recent wars, and certainly at Guantanamo, arises to my definition of torture.

    3. (Hypothetical) If you closed down Guantanmo tonight, would you just let them go, or what?

    4. "Civilly, we got rid of that kind of cruel and unusual punishment and then Geneva kicked in so that torturing and tormenting combatants (sometimes dragged into war kicking and screaming) weren't treated as criminals and could be released at war's end. Coming up with rationales why we don't have to treat THESE combatants like prisoners of war is disingenuous. It's an excuse. "

      I didn't mean to say we shouldn't treat them like real Geneva prisoners of war, even though they don't strictly qualify, or even if they are cutting our heads off on the battlefield (not themselves going by the Geneva Convention, I mean). But usually you don't let POWs free until the war is over or their country frees them by force. That could take 20 years or more in a "war" like this one. But you can't let them go to fight again (and they seem to do that) and then capture them again, etc. We are a long way from being able to parole them like other wars. They come back and fight. You know that. I don't think you put POWs on trial either, except big war criminals after the war is over. So it is confusing: trying to treat them as POWs by having military courts and rules, but still wanting to have civilian trials too. That's what I meant by asserting the two are really different things.

    5. "If they are criminal involved in war crimes, try and kill them and be done, having proven the assertions. I'm fine with capital punishment. Professionals in the intelligence community have said (and keep saying) for decades that information gleaned via torture is unreliable."

      Well you can't kill people for actual war crimes on your own. Even I am not that evil. :) Not convinced that planning the 9/11 attack and carrying it out is an actual war crime though. An act of war to be sure. You have to wait for an international court to decide after the war is over, to make your accusations. You can hold them until the war is over though. Some you could maybe put up before a military tribunal and execute them before the war was over. Dunno about that. Not up on the fine points of the Geneva Convention. I suppose if they killed a guard in POW prison, you could try them and execute them. I don't think even the big al Qaeda guys will be executed though. Do you? I mean not by just us. You never can tell though - Americans are so evil.

      While I agree with you that information given out under REAL torture is unreliable to say the least, simply putting the head guys under duress like we did yielded good and useful battle information as well as other names and safehouses. Now, had we actually tortured them instead of waterboarding them, then they would have told whatever they thought we wanted to hear, even made up fantasies.

    6. It would take a year to rebut all these fantasies of yours. You give so many bones for me to chew on. But we've been over much of this ground before. I know it doesn't matter how plain or logical I explain, you are still going to think things like captured soldiers in POW camps get trials and stuff. And that taking away a toothbrush equals torture. Maybe we can still do a couple?

  8. Well, that was interesting. First I read this:
    And now I've read your post. It confirms my believe that every story has two sides. I'm looking forward to your advice on how to vote in the upcomming election (the US president election, not Miss America).

    1. Rob, who to vote for for President? That's easy: Gary Johnson.

    2. Mmm is Ross Perot still in the race?

    3. Scoff if you want to but I only vote for people I want to win, and that precludes the two current front-runners. Unlike a horse race, nothing extra is paid for picking a winner. :)

      Living in the land of windmills, I would think you would understand the temperament of a dated Don Quixote. Let the other two make war while Gary and I tend our harmless herbs and weeds.



Related Posts with Thumbnails