There has been a series of articles in both the NYT and the WaPo over the weekend detailing the "flawed, amateurish" manner in which the prison in Guantanamo Bay has been run since 2002, and why it may never be closed.
What began as a jury-rigged experiment after the 2001 terrorist attacks now seems like an enduring American institution, and the leaked files show why, by laying bare the patchwork and contradictory evidence that in many cases would never have stood up in criminal court or a military tribunal.I've been writing about terorism since I first cranked up this blog almost four years ago, and the themes never seem to change. As usual, the government's response has been to focus more on the "outrage" over the messenger rather than the message.
The dossiers also show the seat-of-the-pants intelligence gathering in war zones that led to the incarcerations of innocent men for years in cases of mistaken identity or simple misfortune.
The files — classified “secret” and marked “noforn,” meaning they should not be shared with foreign governments — represent the fourth major collection of secret American documents that have become public over the past year; earlier releases included military incident reports from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and portions of an archive of some 250,000 diplomatic cables. Military prosecutors have accused an Army intelligence analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, of leaking the materials.WikiLeaks has been roundly condemned by the U.S. government, and questions have arisen over the treatment of Manning, and whether he's being renditioned and/or tortured here within our own borders.
But the chronology of the Obama administration's collapse regarding closing Gitmo, and the hysteria generated in political circles (including the absurd notion that the U.S. has no facility secure enough to house these "worst of the worst"), is probably the most disturbing aspect of these stories. In it, we see bringing terrorists to justice as not the end, but a means to an end; the war on terror is merely a tool by which politicians savage one another and win elections.
“I think the president will find, upon reflection,” [former Vice President Dick] Cheney said, “that to bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come.”As if the United States, which has more people behind bars than any other country on the planet (including scores of high-value terrorists), wasn't up to the job of punishing bad guys.
As someone who has followed closely the ad hoc prison institutions created to house these "worst of the worst" (Gitmo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, etc.), it continues to amaze how amateurish and seat-of-the-pants it's been handled.
Not to go the Nazi card, but I will anyway: the Nuremberg Trials took place between 1945-1946. By October of 1946, the "worst of the worst" Nazis responsible for the Holocaust and other related atrocities (the deaths of millions) had been charged, tried, convicted, imprisoned and/or executed. A mere 18 months after the end of the war, justice had been carried out.
We are now rapidly approaching the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and to date there have been only a handful of ancillary convictions related to the terrorism of that day. No major players have been brought to justice, though several supposedly reside in "beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay."
It begs the question, is justice really being pursued? Or is this just so much a source of political capital; guttural musings from politicians who wish to keep Guantanamo Bay open for "future generations of politicians to gawk, have their pictures taken, and thump their chests about how tough they are."
The War on Terror is like the crazy uncle who won't leave your house. Or the STD you contracted that you can't get rid of. We're stuck with Uncle Doofus and a lot of rash and discomfort for the unforeseeable future.
And "justice" will remain elusive.