Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Gitmo Letgo

Deroy Murdock’s fundamental point in today’s National Review Online is correct: “The U.S. government is preparing to return 68 percent of enemy fighters from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to their home countries, primarily Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Fraught with shortcomings, this risky scheme reeks of capitulation to Bushophobes.”
Specifically, as he avers, it appears to yield credence to the grotesque lie that the US has been anything other than the most generous combatant nation in the history of mankind in its accommodation of terrorist detainees at Guantanamo. But more importantly it creates a clear and present danger of release or escape by murderous thugs who will seek to do us harm. We have already seen previously released combatants return to the battlefield in Afghanistan, where they sought to kill American soldiers and Afghan civilians (“at least twelve of them already have engaged in terrorism after going home,” Murdock writes.)
Moreover, the risk of escape is hardly hypothetical. “Ten key suspects in al Qaeda’s October 12, 2000, attack on the U. S. S. Cole escaped from Aden’s [Yemen] supposedly well-guarded central-intelligence building on April 11, 2003. These fugitives included Jamal Ahmed Mohammed Ali al-Badawi and Fahd Muhammad Ahmad al-Quso, two top organizers of the terrorist operation that killed 17 American sailors and injured 40 more. In May 2003, a Manhattan grand jury slapped al-Badawi and al-Quso with a 50-count federal indictment for their crimes. Fortunately, all of these men were recaptured in March 2004. Who knows how much damage they did while at large for roughly 11 months.
“Also worrisome, in June 2002, Yemeni al Qaeda agent Walid Abdullah Habib fled a prison in Yemen. If American officials insist on repatriating Guantanamo’s Yemeni detainees, they first should send a locksmith there to tighten things up.”
Murdock is also correct in observing that the majority of “Guantanamo’s 510 detainees are worth keeping for their current and prospective intelligence value.
“‘We have and we are today still getting information that is relevant, that is actionable, and is supporting our service members in the field in the global war on terrorism,’ Army general and Southern Command chief Bantz Craddock told the Senate Armed Services Committee July 13.
“While some inmates may seem fresh out of information today, who knows what they could reveal tomorrow? Imagine that the FBI caught a terrorist in March 2006 named Mustafa al-Fissi carrying detailed diagrams of the San Onofre, California, and Seabrook, New Hampshire, atomic energy plants. Today, no Gitmo interrogator could ask detainees about the still-undetected al-Fissi. Next March, however, one or more Gitmoites might be persuaded to sing about al-Fissi, his contacts, his bankers, etc. Sending these intelligence sources beyond U.S. control will, at best, delay our ability to connect these dots. If our foreign friends limit access to transferred Guantanameros, FBI agents might stare at al-Fissi without knowing what some of his terrorist brethren know about him.”
Some might find a certain pleasurable schadenfreude in knowing that the Saudis, Yemenis and Afghanis will certainly not provide the same standards of 5-star care the detainees have received at Guantanamo. But Murdock is right also to suggest that what this really implies is a potential for violation of human rights. “The detainees’ Middle East destinations ‘are not countries with stellar human rights records,’ the Washington Post editorialized August 6. ‘Saudi Arabia’s is absolutely dreadful. Shifting the indefinite detention of enemy fighters from Guantanamo could, therefore, end up meaning worse treatment for the detainees.’
“Indeed, once departed, Gitmo’s current guests probably can kiss goodbye such conveniences as volleyball courts, extensive medical and dental care, and an 800-volume book collection from which, the Washington Times’s Rowan Scarborough reported August 8, ‘a staff of three librarians load up a book cart and go cell to cell.’” It’s difficult to weep over this change of circumstance, but the prospect of real abuse or torture (as opposed to the trivialities heretofore condemned) is real, and remains our moral responsibility.
Murdock makes an excellent prima facie case for opposing the proposed mass release. His editorial is marred by only a single flaw, when he suggests that “Guantanamo is incredibly secure. This Navy base overflows with well-armed guards and well-trained GIs. Any al Qaeda assassin who slithered from his cell soon would be neutralized. If he happened to reach the compound’s periphery, he would be greeted by barbed wire and watchtowers. If he snuck through, he could swim to freedom. Haiti is about 100 miles southeast across the shark-choked Windward Passage. Good luck.” It’s not that Guantanamo is insecure. It’s just that it isn’t some remote island. Swim just a few miles up the beach and you’re well into the home waters of Cuba – long-term sponsor of terrorism and sworn enemy of the American democracy.

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