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August 6, 2005
The New Gitmo Catch-22

Critics of the detention of unlawful combatants at Guantanamo Bay apparently cannot find any reasonable solution for handling terrorists acceptable. After announcing the approval of a new facility for Gitmo detention based on a model county jail system in Michigan to ease the concerns of human-rights activists, the same people complained about the planned release of 200 current detainees to their home countries for further processing:

In a few years, Pentagon officials say, the detention center at Guantnamo Bay, Cuba, will have undergone a radical transformation.

The sprawling detention site known as Camp Delta, with its watchtowers, double-wide trailers housing rows of steel cells and interrogation rooms will be mostly demolished.

Instead, a sharply reduced inmate population of those the military considers the most hard-core will inhabit two nearby hard-walled modern prisons. The newest of those, which is still under construction, is modeled on a modern county jail in Michigan and is designed to counter international criticism of Guantnamo as inhumane and, to some, a symbol of American arrogance.

The first step in changing the character of Guantnamo, officials say, is to relocate many of the 520 detainees. As part of that effort, Defense and State Department officials said this week that they had reached agreement with Afghanistan to transfer 110 Afghan detainees to their home country. Eventually, the population will be reduced to 320, the capacity of the permanent prison buildings.

This relocation has raised the ire of Amnesty International, which demands a halt to this effort. This, of course, is the same organization which claimed that Gitmo (and Bagram in Afghanistan, which will also release Afghanis to Kabul) formed an "American gulag" earlier this year in its annual report. AI says that because Afghanistan practices torture -- a charge certainly true under the Taliban, less certainly under Hamid Karzai -- the US should not and cannot release Afghani citizens to Afghanistan. On the other hand, they want them released from Guantanamo.

So where, exactly, would AI like us to send them? If we don't release them to their home countries, we would have to select a neutral country and get them to detain these people. The problem with that is twofold. First, these detainees not only conducted unlawful wartime operations against American forces, but also committed crimes in Afghanistan, not in some neutral territory. The neutral territory would have no jurisdiction to keep them detained and would have to release them instead. Second, since AI and other critics have insisted that America give these terrorists the same protections as uniformed soldiers under the Geneva Conventions, the GC requires released POWs to get repatriated to their home countries at the end of hostilities. It doesn't provide for third-party detention.

This exposes Amnesty International as a first-order appeaser of terrorists and a dangerous influence on the war on terror. AI wants these detainees completely released and free to conduct more acts of terror against Western targets. No humane treatment or upgraded facility will satisfy these junior Chamberlains. The Pentagon's efforts to create a facility that will impress such critics will amount to a waste of time and money unless it significantly improves the security of our men and women who staff Gitmo now and in the future.

UPDATE: The Washington Post editorial board sounds a bit more supportive of the concept, and points out the hypocrisy of the critics:

Repatriating detainees for incarceration at home makes sense. There is no good reason for America to shoulder the entire burden of locking up captives in the war on terrorism while allied countries wax indignant about treatment of their nationals who pose as much threat to their home countries as they do to U.S. forces or civilians. If these people are dangerous -- as review panels have found them to be -- it is reasonable to ask their countries to take some responsibility for them. In general, if the administration can accomplish this without releasing people who will quickly take up arms anew, it would be a considerable accomplishment.

The Post then follows with the obligatory human-rights handwringing for people whose rights have received a hell of a lot more attention than that of their victims. It makes sense that, if we cannot rely on the home countries of these detainees to respect basic rules of detention, that we continue to house these terrorists under conditions of our choosing instead. Access to the American civil system for terrorists captured abroad makes no sense whatsoever, and will only lead to an ever-increasing burden on our national security as American troops start getting treated like cops and hauled into court with each capture. Anyone advocating outright release gives up their credibility in any debate on handling captured terrorists at all.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 6, 2005 8:53 AM

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