Fearing the supermen of Guantanamo

By Bernd Debusmann
May 28, 2009

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate–Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own–

Americans need to be afraid, very afraid. If President Barack Obama has his way, the country will soon be at serious risk of terrorist attacks coordinated by Muslim men held in maximum security prisons from where no-one has ever escaped.

These inmates possess superhuman strength and cunning. Even in solitary confinement, they might recruit fellow inmates to the cause of al Qaeda and incite riots. They might succeed where the worst of the worst American criminals failed – break out and disappear, seamlessly blending into the community. Next thing you know — a mushroom cloud.

Such scenarios come to mind when one follows the debate over Obama’s plan to close the infamous detention center at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base on the eastern tip of Cuba, and move some of the inmates to prisons in the United States.

This has prompted expressions of dismay both from the political right and from Obama’s fellow Democrats in Congress, and the language used in the debate has taken on a surreal quality. Phrases like “releasing dangerous terrorists into our neighborhoods” and “relocating terrorists to American communities” convey the impression that Guantanamo detainees will wander the streets, shopping for sandals and guns.

“To … bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be the cause for great danger and regret in the years to come,” according to former Vice President Dick Cheney. “We have to make sure that streets and neighborhoods don’t think that they’re going to be the repository of Guantanamo prisoners,” warned Barbara Mikulski, a Democratic Senator.

A group of Republican congressmen drafted a “Keep terrorists out of America Act” early in May. America, for the purposes of the act, means American prisons.

It is ironic that politicians in the U.S., which holds more people behind bars than any other country, profess to have so little faith in a system that costs billions to run and includes high-security “supermax” institutions where dangerous inmates spend all but four hours a week in their cell.

If these fears are more than just political theater, are they justified or are they the security equivalent of other mass psychoses, say the irrational belief that house prices would go up forever? “In terms of escaping, U.S. prisons are extremely secure,” says Alan Elsner, a Reuters correspondent and author of Gates of Injustice, a book on the American prison system. “The fears being voiced now are driven entirely by emotion.”


And lack of rational reflection. Not to mention a generous dose of NIMBY (not in my back yard) politics and a bad case of mishandling a delicate issue on the part of Obama, who left it too late to explain where the 240 detainees held in Guantanamo would go once the prison there is closed as planned, by next January.

His fellow Democrats in the Senate joined Republicans in a 90-6 vote to block $80 million in funds to pay for the closure.

Barely noticed in the hubbub: the federal high security prisons in Colorado and Indiana where Guantanamo inmates would probably move already hold convicted terrorists linked to al Qaeda, including Zacarias Moussaoui, found guilty of helping to plot the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the twin towers in Manhattan and the Pentagon, and Ramzi Yousef, who led the first attack on the World Trade Center.

How many of the detainees still held in Guantanamo qualify for the “worst of the worst” label is anyone’s guess. After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the military rounded up 779 suspected “enemy combatants” and shipped them to Guantanamo. More than 500 were released without being charged.

There have been only three prosecutions under a much-criticized military tribunal system authorized by President George W. Bush to try foreign terrorist suspects outside regular civilian or military courts. One defendant pleaded guilty, one was convicted in a contested trial and one after putting up no defense.

Where and when the rest of the detainees will be tried is not clear. What is clear is that Obama will try hard to fulfil his pledge, made on his first day in office, to close Guantanamo, whose existence, he says, “created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.”

Stalwarts of the Republican party, an organization in deep disarray and looking for an issue that could draw from a bi-partisan well of fear and xenophobia, did not quite see it that way.

“In my view, what is driving this issue is a quest for popularity in Europe, more than continuing policies that have demonstrably made America safe since 9/11,” said Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republican minority in Congress. Cheney echoed that thought in a speech harshly critical of Obama: “The administration has found that it’s easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo.

“But it’s tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America’s national security.”

Ah, yes, it’s all for those Europeans Obama wants to court. Echoes of the days when Bush and Cheney were riding high and French fries turned into Freedom fries.


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The arguements I’ve heard against terrorists in prison on US soil is not about them escaping, as much as making the prisons the target of future attacks.

And I didn’t think Obama had hid the fact that he was trying to improve the US reputation overseas. It shouldn’t be hard to imagine some of his policies being crafted with that in mind.

Great piece BD.

What about the 4 recently caught Terrorists in NY? I don’t hear the Senators from NY clamoring for those 4 to be shipped off somewhere else? Just how two-faced are these Senators, all of them? Gitmo is a sour subject, only because Republicans wish to make it an issue, an issue with which they are trying to impede the direction this country needs to take. I have to question the loyalty of some of these American Senators, from both sides. Where is their loyalty? To their contributors, to their fund raising managers? To their Business contacts?
Or do they have more Loyalty to Party instead of Country?

If they are more Loyal to Party instead of Country, well, then they are DIVIDING the country when we need to become more unified against the growing threats of Venezuela, China, Iran, N. Korea, and other terrorists organizations across the globe.

United we stand, Divided we fall.

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive

While I wholeheartedly agree with Bernd’s article, I think that there is an underlying political and public fear that isn’t being clearly addressed, namely, that if Guantanamo detainees are brought to U.S. soil, they will have to be prosecuted according to the due process of U.S. law.

As the recent civilian murder conviction of a former Marine illustrates, criminal prosecution under U.S. civilian law certainly has the liability of producing different outcomes than military procedures.

The (inarticulate) suspicion behind the rhetoric is that, given access to U.S. rule of law, these detainees will be exonerated or not found guilty. This, of course, will release them into the public, both to tell their stories and to seek reparations under U.S. law.

The fact that we fear giving people access to our law system demonstrates the heinous betrayal of our values that has occurred at Guantanamo, which has been perpetrated falsely under the auspices of “protecting” “the American way of life,” in other words, “defending” our manner of accomplishing justice and government.

It is too late to make these people just “disappear” in order to cover or to justify our national duplicity.

We must bring the light of day and answer for who we have become, instead of rationalizing and propping-up the charade of having a moral higher ground, which we may have claimed before we compromised that very thing in the name of protecting it.

Posted by adam | Report as abusive

Mr. Debusmann fails to articulate the unintended consequences of transferring GTMO detainees to US soil. Once here, they fall under the auspices of the US Legal system. American taxpayers – once again – get stuck with picking up both the costs of maximum security and their new rights to a legal defense. And – for the record – escapes from maximum security prisons DO happen – hence the onslaught of recent commercial “max security” prisons and guaranteed imprisonment.
Since when do prisoners of war get the same rights afforded U S citizens – or any other country, for that matter? Is quid pro quo in effect? – no wait…they behead us – once they’ve interrogated U S soldiers!
Would have been cheaper and more expedient to end the matter in a clear “war” effort.

Posted by Stephen Ben | Report as abusive

I don’t see why holding them in one place instead of the other is worth the effort. We went through all the trouble of building this gitmo detention center. I don’t understand why they can not just be called “combatants” and we hold them till the “war” is over. It’s too bad we don’t seem to think that day will ever come, however if they signed up for the fight and the day never comes that we win then we hold them forever it’s not complicated. I don’t see moving as any kind of PR plus, a PR plus might be to let the IRC visit every now an then.

Posted by Reza | Report as abusive

The politics of fear are at play here on this issue. An attack on the supermax prisons? Terrorists wouldn’t be able to get past the front gate.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

And I don’t see an issue with paying for justice in our legal system when we pay so much more for the killing of thousands abroad. Kind of a double standard.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

Our founding fathers knew that when they signed the Declaration of Independence, they were possibly signing their own death warrants, guilty of treason against the Crown. During the war of 1812 (really our second war for independence) the British got close enough to victory to set the White House on fire. Every generation since then has seen the founding principles of this nation threatened, in what has always been a violent world.
Now, in this newest struggle, we want the “war on terror” fought “over there,” out of our sight. We give our leaders carte blanche to imprison without trial, torture and even kill an unknown number of prisoners of war, as long as we can pretend it’s not happening.
We have become a nation of cowards. I for one would welcome a prison for the Guantanamo detainees right in my neighborhood, if it meant knowing more about what my government is doing in my name. A government which can commit atrocities in secret with impunity, can commit those atrocities not just upon faceless “detainees” but on you and me as well. How could we prevent it? We can’t stop what we don’t know about. Secrecy is the enemy of freedom. Do you really trust your government never to use these powers on its own citizens? I don’t. Do you really trust your government to tell you the truth about who has been imprisoned, tortured and killed? I don’t. The truth will come out only if we demand to know. Too many of us don’t want to know.

Posted by Kelly | Report as abusive

@ Stephen Ben

who do you think pays for Guantanamo? The nation of Cuba? Surely you’re not that brain-dead? How much do you think its costing us to house a specific population of prisoners on foreign soil with an attendant military force to watch over them? Yours has to be the most idiotic argument I’ve yet encountered.

Also, technically, these aren’t “prisoners of war”. The “War on Terror” is not an official declaration of war from congress, its was a handy news blurb made up by the former administration to rally peoples emotions post 9/11. We either try both foreign and domestic criminals under our laws or our laws mean nothing. Get your head out of the blubbering emotional scare tactics that outlets like Foxnews love putting forth and use common sense.

Posted by CitizenLand | Report as abusive

I think terrorists are a threat to the worlds security.

Adam said
“I think that there is an underlying political and public fear that isn’t being clearly addressed, namely, that if Guantanamo detainees are brought to U.S. soil, they will have to be prosecuted according to the due process of U.S. law.”

The biggest fear the whole of America should have is that OUR government is IGNORING their own laws and OUR Constitution by denying due process.

What is to stop someone, like Cheney, from detaining a person, an American citizen, for disagreeing with him in political views?
We have had people for 8 years without a trail?
How can we denounce China and other nations for their violations on human rights, when we are doing the exact same thing ourselves?

What do we stand for? If it is the constitution, then those human beings need to be able to defend themselves, like any American should be allowed to do.

If not the constitution, then execute them and be done with this SHAME of human rights.

Of course this will prove to China, Iran, Venezuela, and other terrorists that we really are the Imperial, power hungry, bent on world domination with not care for any other race, nation, or religion that those people and countries claim we are.

So what are we people, we need to decide. And do it now.

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive

Good piece of info. Among President Obama’s thus-far very impressive and appreciated feats, this one is maybe just a little far out on the limb. I do believe that this man, like no other before him, has initiated a much-needed impression to the world that we as a people (America) are much more decent than the reckless aggressors that other parts of the world have perceived (or been manipulated to believe) us to be.

Very wise words in Cheney’s quote- he warned of “regret”. Too bad that word sometimes just blends in with the drone of political buzzwords, and people fail to stop and think “regret? ….you mean stuff we can’t like…..Ctrl-Z (undo) that will generate years of sadness and pain and make us wish we could turn back time…..?” Yes, that and potentially much more.

We tend to address even cataclysmic issues only AFTER they have become a crisis, and even worse, don’t even think of what we COULD have done to avert it. Just a random hypothetical example- let’s say one of the “supermen” was released into the general population (the non-penal one) on some technicality. Once he’s on this side of the barbs, his civil rights are protected, his weapons cache is actually nothing more than a hobby, and his actions- although resulting in mass regret, are “explicable due to his unjust and cruel confinement for so many years…..blah blah…..”(?!?!)

While this may be an outreach of humanity by a leader to make a positive statement on behalf of this country, it ain’t always wise to feed the hand that bit ya.

Posted by rich | Report as abusive

How soon people forget. It didn’t take long for people to forget that we are at war, no matter how you try to spin it. You don’t treat enemy soldiers as criminals, you don’t police up a battlefield for evidence for later prosecution. All the bleating from the left will go away after the unfortunate next attack that our new weak leadership is inviting. Some people don’t understand anything but strength and they see the desire to talk as weakness. Try to negotiate with these Islamist extremists and see where it gets you. I regret the need for another deadly attack to get the focus back to where it belongs. I laugh when I see people dressed as Abu Ghraid detainees, what about dressing like the people who jumped from the tops of the World Trade Center, how about dressing up like a beheaded westerner? That’s not currently cool or hip. It’s the same sad self loathing liberal guilt again, that’s what happens when people forget that war is a terrible thing. Good luck “restoring America’s virtue, much like virginity it’s gone and not coming back.

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive

There’s really not much to worry about. If those nasty, scarey terrorists are put in American prisons, in general population, they will be dressed as girls and doing the laundry of the big boys on the cell block within six months.

Posted by John peace | Report as abusive

How many of people who are kept in Guantanamo committed crimes on US sole. Apparently none. They have committed crimes against US overseas. They did not commit crimes against Taliban, government of Afghanistan during US invasion. There is no law system that would cover situation like this. I understand that people who are caught on US soil during criminal act must be tried according to American law (that is why the 20th hijacker was tried in court) Those people were caught by the army when they were committing crimes against the army without identification as an enemy. That is why there must be a special military law for those people, and that is why they were located in a military prison. We will create a disaster for our criminal system if try those people in our civil courts. Can you imagine if somebody would kidnapped Hitler during the WWII, because he committed crimes against humanity and US, and try him by US civil code? It is absurd.

Posted by dina | Report as abusive

We are better off keeping them in Gitmo, incommunicado, so their fellow terrorists don’t even know they’re there. If we publish their names their brothers in terror may start taking Americans hostage to exchange for them. It doesn’t make sense to subject Americans even to a hypothetical threat.
If we bring them to American soil then we’ll have to provide them with all the rights and lawyers. Lawyers are expensive, you know. These guys are not worth the expense. The American taxpayers already have to pay for too many things, better treatment of illegal enemy combatants should not be added to the bill.
If there’s a need to remove these terrorists from the security of their cells, the best way would be to load them all into cargo hold of a barge, weld the hatches shut, tow the barge to a deep place in the middle of the ocean, and sink it there.
I said it once, will not hesitate to repeat as many times over as needed for it to sink in.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive


“Very wise words in Cheney’s quote-”

Very subtle of you to start in with praises of Obama.
Then say Cheney is wise.
I know who you are
Subtle, slick, and sly

You will stoop to any low, even trying to subvert the peoples view and will.

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive


“We are better off keeping them in Gitmo, incommunicado,”

So your against the Constitution of the United States, which is the greatest document on human rights, liberties, and freedoms ever written by man.

You are no better than a terrorist, who of course hate our freedoms and liberties.

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive

While others here have covered the omissions made by BD, I want to address the issue he started to unravel, and then went into Republican-bashing (which is contagious, kinda like fear – all the cool kids are doing it).

Obama deftly dodged any discussions of how we would close Gitmo while on the campaign trail. Now we know why. He promised change, but on this issue, he may have had no idea of how hard that change might be (or more likely, he did). The very issues facing Obama, in regards to the detainess, are the very same reasons Gitmo prison was built in the first place. A man with no leadership experience, but plenty of pop-star experience, will always promise that which cannot be delivered. Everyone was worried about “What changes?”, instead of “How will you pull it off?”. We always save those questions for after the crisis has occurred. Is a half-truth considered a lie, or is it just audacity?

Posted by Patrick | Report as abusive

Dina, and Frank-

The problem is that you are assuming guilt. It has not been established yet what any of these detainees has been “caught” doing — according to the rule of law in the U.S., that is THE issue — accusation is not the same as fact or guilt and one may not be imprisoned without charge together with the subsequent (and speedy) right to a trial.

These people have not been accorded prisoner of war status either, otherwise they could have international guarantees of process and treatment.

Espousing policy of killing detainees based on suspicion, accusation or over-zealous definitions of “defense” is Anti-American and is in itself an attack upon this nation.

Corruption or violation of our core principles and law, whether by persons in elected position or under color of military or legal “service,” however creatively worded or executed, is also in reality an attack upon this nation, regardless of the presence or absence of any outside combatants or “war.”

It’s absolutely absurd to object to paying for legal process. It’s a mandate of our rule of law. It’s also absurd to do so in light of the hundreds of billions spent on this “war” on terror. Who was complaining about the cost for running Guantanamo the last eight years?!

Since Nuremburg crying, “War!” has failed for justifying abrogation of law or human rights. It’s insulting, dishonorable and atrocious to hear Americans making the justifying claims that Nazis made.

(C.D., I think you need to read my whole post before responding — the quote you cite means that the public dialog is not articulating or acknowledging the deep public fear and suspicion that some of the detainees may be exonerated if tried fairly and openly according to law. While such is the case with the public dialog, it is far from appropriate, in fact, it is appalling.)

Posted by adam | Report as abusive

Who will protect America from those who “protect” America?!

Posted by adam | Report as abusive

“Republican-bashing (which is contagious, kinda like fear – all the cool kids are doing it).”

We wouldn’t be doing it if they ran the country right in the first place now would we? I do place the blame squarely upon their shoulders. America has only had 2? TWO? democrats as presidents since Nixon was forced out of office? (What a great American that Nixon, SPYING on his fellow Americans(all for power), what exactly did he do in China? Now American Business is in bed with Communists? I thought Communist China was the enemy, the bad guy, someone you’re not supposed to be in bed with.)


Your last post is a lot of words, but it basically defends the right of this government to indefinitely hold a human being without accusing him of anything!
What is next? Americans being put into political prisons for disagreeing with the government? ANY Government that holds people in prison indefinitely with no proof of wrongdoing is Totalitarian, Authoritarian, a Dictatorship if you will.
Obama wants to rid America of this stigma, get Americas image to a level of pride.
But Republicans keep blocking this action. Why? Why do they wish to keep the image of the country in the gutter?
What do they gain from such actions?

The Constitution stands for Human Rights, Liberties, and Freedoms. Obama is trying to restore that, what are Republicans trying to do?

We either stand for the Constitution, the ideals of Liberty and Freedom.

Or we are no different that Communist China whose record on Human Rights is clear for the world to see.

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive


Can you read?

I said the-rule-of-law-demands-the-process-of-t rial.

Like I said, please read the post before responding.

Posted by adam | Report as abusive

It all hinges on whether you truely believe in adherence to and observance of the principles of the constitution. The moment you promote an end as justifying putting it aside in order to utilise a means you declare not.

This dilema is not new and was considered by those that framed the constitution.

“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

“Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged against provisions against danger, real or pretended from abroad.”

James Madison

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

A Man for All Seasons (1966)

Posted by John | Report as abusive

And are we not spitting on our Constitution by denying human beings that process.

Our hatred at a (Innocent until proven guilty) person, where did that come from? Honest Politicians (who have nothing to gain by enforcing an image of hate) telling us they are terrorists, but not showing PROOF!

HOW DARE we have pride in ourselves for allowing such a thing. PROOF i need PROOF, if it is not provided, it is not the fault of the INNOCENT MAN who for years have had no justice, but it is the FAULT of those who lied, falsely imprisoned humans being simply because it was convienent for them, these Politicians.

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive

This unhappy episode will stain the reputation of the USA for years to come.

Posted by mrjohn | Report as abusive

Ok, **sigh**

One more time…

1) The public dialog has fears underneath it that it won’t acknowledge.
2) The fear underneath the public dialog is that (some) Guantanamo detainees may be exonerated.
3) This is not good, because we shouldn’t fear the outcome of due process. It is our way of life.
4) Having this fear means that the public suspects that injustice may have been done and yet it is unwilling to acknowledge that this may be the case.
5) Having this fear is also not a just cause for policy.
6) People who appeal to these kinds of fears to justify unlawful kinds of detention are not following American law or values.
7) Even though the public may fear that some may be exonerated, we still need to follow due process.

8)The real issue is not about detention safety; it is about whether or not the public will recognize due process in spite of its fears.

Posted by adam | Report as abusive

If it comes about, that to satisfy men who have been unjustly imprisoned, it would satisfy my sense of justice for those responsible to go through the same situations the accused had been through. Arabia is known for harsh treatment of criminals. I am not saying death, no. Simply the same kind treatment, I think that would satisfy most men, if they could watch if they wished. No one else. It is not amusement.
Just justice.

Posted by C. D. Walker | Report as abusive

Due process most of these guys were picked up off of the battle field and according to the Geneva Convention can be held until the end of the conflict. Further more in the Geneva Conventions it also states that an organized fighting force can be tried as spies and executed, so I would say the US Government has handled this well the facilities while still a detention center are nice, the detainees are catered to and I might say treated better than our military guarding them and no one has been executed. The Arabs were in Afghanistan before 9/11, why were they there? They attended terrorist training camps, they fought against US forces or supported those that did, and they belong to organizations that wanted to over throw their own government. One group even went through two cities slaughtering everyone at night while they were asleep to include all new born babies.
The real threat of moving these people to the United States is the recruitment of individuals to do their bidding in the US and if they are released in the US well we just helped them reach the area they ultimately wanted to attack.
As far as trials well I do not remember the Germans going before US courts back during the World Wars while we had German POWs in the United States so why would we let the Taliban or Al Qaida go before US courts?
Thanks for your time.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

who says the Geneva Convention is right on everything? It is how old? And not this situation i doubt was conceived at the gathering of Nations that created the Geneva Convention.

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive

Our own constitution and related federal statues from the founding of the nation state clearly that international treaties take precedence over federal law (federal tariff laws were even rewritten to accommodate every new trade deal).

If one chooses to manipulate the Constitution for clearly illegal actions, you still can’t get around two basic points:

We signed the Geneva Convention.
We championed the Geneva Convention.

Throw in that I once took an oath to support and defend the Constitution…not a president, party, religion or current agenda…against all enemies, foreign…wait for it…AND DOMESTIC.

Everybody from the president down the local cop takes that same oath.

Read what our first several presidents had to say on the responsibility of the government to protect the Constitution, and their fellow citizens, under whose sufferance they were privileged to serve.

If the Constitution and our laws are useless if not followed and applied. Using the Constitution to guarantee one’s rights to speech, assembly and all the rest while using a manipulated version as a blunt weapobn against those who oppose is not good governance, and objectors are not unamerican.

I thought we had gotten past the McCarthy era before I was born…apparently not.

Posted by Brian Foulkrod | Report as abusive

Sorry, Bill-

No one has yet made public in trial precisely how these people were “picked-up” or under what circumstances or according to which accusations. That is exactly what they would have the right to challenge in U.S. or international courts.

If you don’t want them tried on U.S. soil (your German POW argument), then do what was done then, open it up to international trial with public testimony at an internationally neutral venue.

BTW, do you consider waterboarding someone 183 times “decent treatment?” Would you condone that such “decent treatment” should be performed on U.S. POW’s captured in war?

In the little information that has been released so far, it appears that the U.S. has “picked-up” these people in their homes and home countries based upon the word of informants.

We cannot simply declare entire countries as battlefields and “pick-up” whoever we wish, in any circumstance and claim that they are “combatants” disguised as civilians. Trial by law is what establishes these things.

Are we at war with Pakistan or Afghanistan? Are we at war with Saudi Arabia?

When does your “conflict” end? When no person anywhere in the world wishes the U.S. harm?

You claim a war with no rules that is not officially declared and that is conducted upon battlefields that are not defined, against any person of your choosing, civilian or not, for as long as you wish.

That, my friend, is the very definition of “terrorism.” If you wish for America to conduct itself as a terrorist organization then we have already lost the war on terror, for we become its object.

Posted by adam | Report as abusive

A trial and conviction vs detention rate of 700 to 2 is not very efficient so the purpose of abu ghraib and guantanamo was not convictions but window dressing for a very frightened country. Grabbing poor taxi drivers in other countries worked for a while .
Real islamic terrorists ARE scary- they treat women badly, they despise any other view,they bomb without any consideration of the innocent. Their stated aims and actions are incompatible with tolerance for any alternatve society.
How does a reasonable country interact with such people?
America. by contrast, dominates the world in much more subtle ways-through economic bullying,resource theft, and by aggressively imposing the system they call democracy as it is most easily manipulated from the outside. Democratically elected leaders who do not fit the USA mould are killed or marginalized or their countries sanctioned. Insidious organisations funded by the USA military industry like Libertas are introduced to attempt to hamper social-democratic unity as in Europe for example.
Guantanamo negatizes all the best things about america but closing it will not restore the idea of a secular power for good in the world that was envisaged by americas founders.
Until america starts to reduce its guzzling of the worlds resources, recognizes the legitimacy of other ways of living and respects the right to self determination of other nations it will continue to attract the attacks of 9/11 copycats

Posted by phrage frenta | Report as abusive

CD, you fail to address my point that Obama was wrong, and probably knew it, and didn’t think that was important during the campaign.

And your stat on Democratic presidents, I will let speak for itself. I’m glad you like Jimmy Carter-2.0, but I remember what happened the first time. Hence, the only Dems to get elected to the Oval Office since were the man who said “Big Gov’t is over” and the one who said “Change we can believe in”. Neither have happened. (By the way, I deplore the Republican party, too, but I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to believe in “The One” either).

Posted by Patrick | Report as abusive

Why bring them to the US and give them constitutional rights they never had in their homelands? What will Obama do with the new prisoners he gathers up?

Posted by rfpzzzz | Report as abusive

It’s time to give Cuba back to the Cubans. People taken from Afganistan should be put back there. The US needs to start making friends, not interfering in other countries business – that’s what caused their current problems. Barak was democratically elected therefore the majority of US citizens support him.

Posted by J Breeds | Report as abusive

For all the constitutional scholars, please point out where due process applies to non citizens. Also have you read the Geneva convention, if so where non uniformed insurgents fall under it?
Our esteemed leader talks of a false choice between our security and our principles, sadly it’s not a false choice. You can’t have both, not in reality. All this concern about people who would behead you if given a chance, forgetting the loss of innocents on 9/11. That’s Unamerican, or should I say progressive or whatever liberals call themselves these days. Self loathing guilt ridden pointy headed liberals who never see America doing anything right, unless it’s begging Europeans for forgiveness for defending herself and the rest of the civilized world.
It’s okay, things will swing back once the emboldened terrorists attack on American soil again. Then the average American will remember we are at war and remember who the enemy is. The liberals will have to hide again, find a new name and wait until enough time passes for people to forget again. Then they can start the guilt cycle again and allow our enemies to flourish again.
Don’t think because you have others slapping your backs here and agreeing that it won’t happen again. The American people are wishy washy on these things. Don’t forget that Bush was once quite popular as was the war on terror. It was only once we started losing our resolve and forget about the attacks that the liberals popped their guilty bleeding hearts out. Thankfully these people don’t make policy for long, it just sucks innocents have to die when they do.
Deny it if you will, but Americans will choose security over principle every time they are truly threatened.

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive

“So your against the Constitution of the United States, which is the greatest document on human rights, liberties, and freedoms ever written by man.

You are no better than a terrorist, who of course hate our freedoms and liberties.”- Posted by C.D. Walker

Nope, I am all for the Constitution, and that’s one of the reasons why I oppose bringing these unlawful combatants to America.
Here in America we’d have to provide to them all the constitutional (and other) rights and protections even though they don’t deserve it – because the Constitution entitles them to these rights and protections. As long as we keep them away from the jurisdiction of the Constitution, they are not entitled to any of these.
And as for due process – that’s what is due to unlawful combatants:
“…an enemy combatant who without uniform comes secretly through the lines for the purpose of waging war by destruction of life or property, are familiar examples of belligerents who are generally deemed not to be entitled to the status of prisoners of war, but to be offenders against the law of war subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals.” – quoted from Wikipedia.
For these guys who were caught not in uniform but armed, and with a clear intent to harm, there’s only one due process: military tribunal to establish the fact they are unlawful combatants, and then an immediate appointment with firing squad or hangman. A trip to Guantanamo was leniency in and of itself. However it’s not too late to conduct trials in military tribunals and give them what’s due.
Releasing these bad guys would be a great mistake. One of former Gitmo prisoners was arrested recently in Jordan where he organized al-Qaeda cell and was scouting Israeli targets with intent to commit acts of terror. Hope Jordanians, unlike us Westerners, will be less scrupulous about his liberties and give him his just desert.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Adam, that quote from A Man for All Seasons is perfect. It should be invoked frequently in the ongoing discussions of Bush & Cheney’s stupid, brutal policies.


“And as for due process – that’s what is due to unlawful combatants:
“…an enemy combatant who without uniform comes secretly through the lines for the purpose of waging war by destruction of life or property, are familiar examples of belligerents who are generally deemed not to be entitled to the status of prisoners of war, but to be offenders against the law of war subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals.””

First off, “Unlawful Combatants” are still human beings, and under our Constitution (The greatest document on Human Freedom and Rights) ALL HUMAN BEINGS deserve due process.

“without uniform comes secretly through the lines for the purpose of waging war”

You want to talk about “LINES” on a map, Those “Unlawful Combatants” when did they cross into America, secretly, for the purpose of waging war?

However, Cheney,(One of the 4 horseman of the Apocalypse)
sent how many of his people, secretly, without uniform(Blackwater, other mercenaries) across lines for the purpose of waging war.

Straight out of Rove’s Political book, Blame others for what you are doing,.

The four horseman of the Apocalypse

Rumsfeld- Famine and Pestilence (G. D. Searle)
Cheney- War
Rove- Lies, deceit
Gramm- Money, greed

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive

If the prisoners in GTMO had just been interogated and executed on the battle field instead of a cell, would we be having this debate? I think that those people are still alive shows that the American government hasn’t completely abandoned its priciples.

GTMO may be violating the letter of US / international law, but is it violating the spirit of those laws? Sometimes you must act outside the law to shame its inadequacy. I think the poster “Frank Castle” would agree with that.


“If the prisoners in GTMO had just been interogated and executed on the battle field instead of a cell, would we be having this debate”

If they were executed on the field, that would defy the Geneva Convention and the Spirit of the Constitution.
The fact you would even say something like you did, shows me you just want to start moving the focus of the conversation away from the people ACTUALLY being detained.

Start talking about what “Might have happened” or “Would we be having this debate” and i know your subverting.

Posted by C.D. Walker | Report as abusive

CD -

I completely affirm your point. These detainees have not crossed any lines into American territory – thus, the problem!

Ironically, the same people (like anonymous) who are claiming that detainees should be treated as combatants because they have supposedly crossed such lines are also arguing that detainees should NOT be crossed into American territory, which would afford due process of law!

Talk about “double-talk!”


“Sometimes you must act outside the law to shame its inadequacy.” Did you ACTUALLY endorse this view(!??!!)

If you act outside the law, or “shame its inadequacy” YOU ARE A CRIMINAL, regardless of self-appointed flag-wrapping and nationalistic rhetoric.

No one has the right to claim that their own understanding of lawlessness is somehow more lawful or honorable than the law itself. PERIOD.


Summary executions on battlefields of any captured person is prohibited by international and national law.

You may pride yourself on not having the capacity to be “guilt-ridden” or “wishy-washy” over committing war crimes, but the rest of humanity does not agree, neither does U.S. law.

Given the false choice between principles and safety, let us choose principles and live and die as true Americans, rather than as fear-tormented former patriots who sold-out their country’s honor and heritage for craven “safety.”

Absence of conscience is not noble defense. It’s sociopathology.

Posted by adam | Report as abusive

CD, I think you misunderstood the piont of my question. I wasn’t suggesting they should have been executed in the field. I was asking if people would be as upset about a few more faceless numbers in the death total as they are about prisoners held without trial.

I don’t think they would.


The part you quoted is from the movie “The Punisher” that came out in 2003, and I only included it because “Frank Castle” is the Punisher’s name. Sorry if that went over(under) your head.

And I didn’t mean it in any kind of nationalistic, flag-waving way. More of a “punish the guilty people when the law can’t” kind of way, a la the Punisher.

There’s really not much live after you ignore security for principle. It’s mostly die, and despite what you may read on these forums most people don’t choose that option. Particularly when they have families and children to think about. Easy to act the tough guy and staand up for your principles when it’s just you to worry about. Don’t let all the bleeding hearts here, or amongst your friends let you think that the majority are going to allow their children to die for empty principles in an unprincipled world. You may forget the mood in this country after 9/11, I however don’t. I regret it will take another tragedy for people to remember we are at war and who we are at war with. All this talk of principle is fine when we have had years of security, once we are attacked again, at the invitation of our weak willed democratic socialist leadership, you liberals will go back into hiding and be fringe kooks again. I still have no answers as to how the US constitution protects foreign enemy combatants.

Posted by Frank Castle | Report as abusive


Whether or not it’s a quote fails to change the fact that it was endorsed by you.

The problem again is that you are assuming and presuming that one can establish guilt outside of the law AND act upon that presumption as a self-appointed punisher.

Such activity is still criminal. It has no moral higher ground or foundation, since it is itself guilty, morally AND legally.

Committing illegal actions to “get the bad guys” doesn’t exist. When you commit the illegal action, you ARE the “bad guy.”

Every criminal act of violence justifies itself as a “deserved” entitlement.

If “the law can’t find a way” then no just way exists to be found. There IS no way.

Espousing a position like this is fundamentally anti-American. We are not a vigilante state; we are a state founded upon the rule of law.

No one is a faceless battlefield number, regardless of allegiance; whether people notice or not is irrelevant.

Go to the Tomb of the Unknown; sit down and think.

Posted by adam | Report as abusive


“There’s really not much live after you ignore security for principle.”

Quite the opposite; animals live only for survival.

In reality there is nothing much left after you abandon principle for safety.

By your position, there is nothing of value in nation or family, either. The parents would care for their own safety at the cost of love or loyalty to their children.

Your position is, “Safety first! Principles are expendable! Every man for himself! Leave the morals behind! Push the Old ones and the children out of the way and grab the lifeboat yourself!”

You disgrace the memory of the victims of 9/11 when you justify war crimes in their names.

Posted by adam | Report as abusive

This made me laugh on a related note, the U.S. spy released from Iranian prisons.

Couple questions

Would the US have released an Iranian spy in the US so quickly?

Would the US have only interrogated with words like Iran or used waterboarding?

Would we have given an Iranian spy a chance to defend themselves or just thrown them in jail for an “undisclosed” period of time?

How any of you people have any faith in the Republican party, Democratic party or US gov’t in general absolutely stuns me.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

I think you’re confusing ‘moral’ with ‘legal.’ the two intersect often, but are not the same thing. Several immoral things are legal, and several moral things are not legislated.

“First off, “Unlawful Combatants” are still human beings, and under our Constitution (The greatest document on Human Freedom and Rights) ALL HUMAN BEINGS deserve due process.”- Posted by C.D. Walker
Looks like you failed to read my post in full. One of the points was that, as long as they are not on American soil, the Constitution does not apply to them. That’s the fact, and that’s how I’d rather keep it, instead of bringing them here and, as a consequence, needing to afford to them all the Constitutional rights.
Besides when necessary the Constitution and everything can be ignored. Remember the American citizens of Japanese descent being detained during WWII? Was due process applied to them, or California desert was not American soil? These guys at Gitmo are orders of magnitude more dangerous than Japanese American kids and housewives were. And if you say “Pearl Harbor” I say “9/11/01″.
Also you lost the fact that the kind of due process they deserve is the one that applies to unlawful combatants. Same with Adam. You both wrongly interpreted the phrase “comes secretly through the lines” as “crossed into America” whereas the right interpretation would be “crossed into combat zone”.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive