Posted by Brad @ 10:52 pm on May 28th 2009

Quote of the Day

I’ve asked this a hundred different times in a hundred different ways, so…

here it is again!

[H]ere’s my main question: what exactly is so hard about getting terrorists convicted in American courts? Under US law, even “providing material aid” to any “terrorist organization” is a felony. I mean, come on — the US can try university professors for “material aid” to a “terrorist” organization for recruiting donations to a Palestinian political and charity group that was not, at the time, considered a terrorist organization. How hard is it, really, to convict someone picked up “on the battlefield” in Afghanistan of having “provided material support” to the Taliban? [A]re you seriously telling me that the Bush Administration’s torture regime has so thoroughly bolloxed the entirety of the evidence regarding detainees at Gitmo that we can no longer even prove they were doing anything to support any group on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations? Any such group whose actions have resulted in “the death of any person”? If we can’t prove that about these guys, what are they doing in prison?

Simple.

This was never about justice.

No honest man can ever look at the full brunt of the reality of it and conclude otherwise.

17 Comments »

  1. Are they criminals or enemy combatants? Answer that and I will respond.

    Comment by James — 5/29/2009 @ 12:17 am

  2. Which ones?

    It’s tough to answer that question when we have no way of or inclination to separate the potentially guilty from the potentially innocent.

    At one time, even the military, under Bush, admitted that as many of 80% of them were there by sheer mistake. Most of the people at U.S. detention centers are there because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Again, even the military and intelligence command, under Bush, conceded that much. That is true both in Gitmo and Iraq (more, more more).

    Here’s the problem James. How is one to make an informed decision to designate them as either without evidence, review, or trial? Better yet: why would one want to? Riddle me that.

    Comment by Brad — 5/29/2009 @ 8:28 am

  3. The first trial ended in a mistrial. That indicates to me the case is weak.

    Then they introduced “secret” evidence from an Israeli government agent, and then they convicted.

    This trial was a farce and it is a distortion of American justice.

    Comment by daveg — 5/29/2009 @ 11:05 am

  4. What this was about was an army who had no language ability nor cultural understanding in the territories it was patrolling. They didn’t know who was shooting from who was civilian and, because they were scared shitless of casualties, they arrested people based on their feelings of suspicion. Then they held them because they were afraid of what would happen if they let them go.

    The problem was you had a city, which requires police force versed enough in the culture to show a little nuance to get to the bottom of crimes, and a war, which requires an army to dispatch with enemies efficiently and end conflicts conclusively. When the war ended, the occupation began. The army held the cities, but the cities didn’t need armies; it needed police. It needed an effective occupational government that knew what it was doing. What it got was the Bush Administration. Detain everybody, shoot to kill.

    And yeah, If you look here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resignations_from_the_Guantanamo_military_commission
    and watch here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4v-VzEIAGE
    you see that the evidence process at Guantanimo was another Bush Administration clusterfuck. It’s inexcusable. When your prosecutors start resigning because they have to defend the prosecutees from the shitty process put in place by Cheney’s Addingtons, there is something very wrong.

    Comment by thimbles — 5/29/2009 @ 11:25 am

  5. My little foray into the Addingon process versus the military process brought me this “quote of the 2 years ago”

    http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/12/hbc-90001929

    One of the myths of the Bush Administration regards its relation with the military. The facts are very stark. This Administration consists largely of men and women who evaded military service and who have little respect for those who serve in uniform. They have a passion for heavy-handed use of the armed forces, for foreign escapades which they pursue with little planning and shoddy design, but they are uninterested in taking the advice of the career military about how to pursue these matters. Their mantra is consistent: We know better. But in fact it should be: We know nothing.

    Peruse the whole thing. It’s got some interesting tidbits about military republican friction and the attempts to politicize the military because they were being to girly to torture.

    Comment by thimbles — 5/29/2009 @ 12:14 pm

  6. It’s tough to answer that question when we have no way of or inclination to separate the potentially guilty from the potentially innocent.

    At one time, even the military, under Bush, admitted that as many of 80% of them were there by sheer mistake. Most of the people at U.S. detention centers are there because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Again, even the military and intelligence command, under Bush, conceded that much. That is true both in Gitmo and Iraq (more, more more).

    Here’s the problem James. How is one to make an informed decision to designate them as either without evidence, review, or trial? Better yet: why would one want to? Riddle me that.

    Adding also, James.

    Cheney et al widely touted a New York Times story referring to an unpublished Pentagon story that said “1 in 7” Gitmo detainees, after released, rejoined the Jihad.

    Now, putting aside for a second that the author of that story had to backpeddle almost immediately (when she was called on, and realized, the fact that the study did not in fact make a distinction between Gitmo detainees who “rejoined” terroristic activities, or detainees who “joined” for the first time after being detained and tortured, i.e. they were never terrorists to begin with but became terrorists after their involvement with United States detention, for the first time. A rather critical distinction.)

    That Pentagon study found 1 in 7. Remember, the definition of “terrorist” is ridiculously, meaninglessly broad, and that the Pentagon has every stake imaginable to inflate those numbers. One could reasonably surmise that those numbers might be the most liberal estimates possible. And remember as well that Gitmo is not even a regular detention facility, the “black site” spots where we house “regulars”, but rather is specifically earmarked to house “the worst of the worst”, the High Value Detainees, who are flown there special because they are so bad.

    Now, that study was based on 540ish detainees who were flat out released. That, in itself, is amazing. They had been detained for an average of three years, the executive has absolute discretion to hold them indefinitely, even IF a court were to order them to be tried they would be tried in kangaroo court military tribunals where they are explicitly granted no due process and where the government doesn’t even have to show evidence if it doesn’t want to. EVEN THEN, we couldn’t justify holding 540 (we have had about 800 in custody in Gitmo). That, in itself, says something. These are purported to be the worst of the worst, but under THOSE conditions, where the Bush administration (and now Obama administration) can detain them theoretically forever on little more than their say so, EVEN THEN two thirds of them were just released into the wild. Their value, and the danger they posed, was apparently NOT EVEN WORTH THE COST OF HOUSING THEM ANYMORE.

    But even putting that aside, the number of those “worst of the worst” that were released that went back to (or maybe began for the first time) “engaging in terrorism”, under the most broad and political motivated definition possible, was 13.8%.

    Now, Dick Cheney took that as proof that these guys are bad shit.

    The question you ought to be asking is:

    What about the other 86.4%?

    Think they were rehabilitated or something?

    That represents 86.4% people that the United States government conceded it couldn’t even justify detaining even given absolute discretion to do so and no oversight, and that followup evidence suggests went back to lives that had nothing to do with terrorism. AND THIS IS A SAMPLE FROM THE DETENTION FACILITY HOUSING THE WORST OF THE LOT. Imagine what it is for just the neighborhood black site? This is the most skewed sample imaginable, and even then over 85%, all evidence would suggest, are nobodies, just random poor sonofabitch Arabs. Cab drives, common criminals, people that were turned over by local militias (with a fabulous amount of various nutty agendas) for money per head, assorted brown people.

    (worth noting, by the way, that only about 5% of American detainees were even captured by American forces).

    The United States has only pursued tribunal action in something like 12 cases (it has only gotten a single conviction, against an Australian). It says it expects to do so in maybe 80 more cases. For argument’s sake, let’s make that an even hundred. That’s a hundred, under the most blank check conditions imaginable, only a hundred are even worth bringing to kangaroo courts, from a sample of 800 that are purported to be the very worst lot of all detainees in United States custody.

    At one point, there were over 26,000 detainees in United States custody.

    26,000 detainees, filtered to 800 worst of the worst, filtered to a mere 100, rounded way up, that are even worth our time to get take action against.

    You do the math.

    (or I’ll do it for you: for the record, that represents 0.4%, rounded up).

    Interestingly, 100 is also pretty close, rounded way down, to the amount of detainees that have been murdered during interrogations in United States custody. We have tortured to death about as many detainees as we intend to even try. Chew on that.

    (though if you assume both sets are actual Super Evil Terrorist Soldiers, that still represents 0.4%. It’s such a small number it doesn’t even affect the rounding).

    Comment by Brad — 5/29/2009 @ 12:32 pm

  7. Are they criminals or enemy combatants? Answer that and I will respond.

    To put that another way, James.

    Only 1 out of every 250 detainees can even remotely be classified as either.

    Comment by Brad — 5/29/2009 @ 12:54 pm

  8. I think you either need to remove the % sign or move the decimal right two spots in the 0.004% number.

    Comment by Jack — 5/29/2009 @ 2:13 pm

  9. Err, yes.

    Thankfully, as an administrator I can edit my replies. Man, it’s nice.

    Comment by Brad — 5/29/2009 @ 2:29 pm

  10. Fair enough, Brad. But why the hell are they being held at all then? Why not spring them and save money on the Nike sneakers and vittles? I mean do you think the we are holding them on a whim? Do you think Obama continues to hold them on a whim?

    Why do their own countries not want to take them, let alone other countries? Something doesn’t quite add up here I’d say. Isn’t it remotely possible that the Bush administration and now the Obama administration might be privy to certain info that we might not have access to?

    Comment by James — 5/29/2009 @ 2:36 pm

  11. If you were any sort of an administrator, Brad, you would have made it so everyone could edit their own comments, but noooo. Instead we have to party here like it’s 1999.

    Comment by James — 5/29/2009 @ 2:38 pm

  12. Fair enough, Brad. But why the hell are they being held at all then? Why not spring them and save money on the Nike sneakers and vittles? I mean do you think the we are holding them on a whim? Do you think Obama continues to hold them on a whim?

    They are being held because we don’t know what to do with them. If we try to put them in American prisons, we A. have to charge them with something, and in most cases we either have no evidence whatsover or evidence that would never make it through court because it was gotten through torture or heresay or, frankly, just isn’t accurate, and B. the pussy brigades would cry and whine about Super Terrorist Nano-Soldiers being “released into the United States”, i.e. sent to Leavenworth. And you wanna be the one not sending them to prisons and just letting them out on the streets? Can you imagine the cry of the banshees?

    If we send them back, we have to do so in the care of governments that know nothing about them except that they were held in America as terrorist for four years. Most countries won’t take them for that reason alone. The ones that will (Egypt, for instance), will “disappear” them the first chance they get (worth noting to that in some cases, as with the Iraqi government, Sunni militias, Af-pac groups, etc., they essentially engaged in what Castro did, just shuttled us all their unwanteds or anyone they had a grudge against—and we paid them handsomely for the privilege But the truth is most of the time it was closer to the Salem witch trials, you find the one guy in a neighborhood who speaks broken English, ask him who he wants us to take away to secret prisons and disappear forever, and he’ll give you a list of names. Whether that list is any use to use or just a function of a bunch of random neighborhood politics we know nothing about is a different matter entirely).

    We have also spent a great deal of political capital (the Bush administration did) justifying and trying to hang on to their blank check executive authority by painting a cartoonish portrait of “the worst of the worst”, such that we basically painted ourselves into a corner.

    In short: yes, we are holding them at a whim, more or less. It was at first about rampant fear (we grabbed them because we didn’t have anything better to do), then about justifying power, and finally just a matter of bureaucracies doing what bureaucracies do well—which is to say nothing, except justifying their own existence.

    We essentially cast such a wide net, paying militia members and informants to rat on anybody they felt like who we then scooped up and sent to black sites on their say-so, or just American forces nabbing any muslim male in the neighborhood, that now we have all these people, an incredibly slim percentage of which are of any use or danger and the vast, vast, vast majority of which are just quite literally random young muslim men (or, you know, prostitutes, or young boys, or whoever was there at the time), who we have spent the last six years portraying as Fighting Devils Incarnate, and what the hell are we going to do with them?

    Then, of course, there’s the fact that for a great many of them, the United States tortured them, treated them very badly, denied them all the rights we purport to be founded upon and a beacon for, etc. etc. Right now, we can sort of control what information is out there in that respect, because we can control the detainees. If we let them out, of course, we can’t, and suddenly the Red Cross and Al Jazeera and the United Nations and whoever else has 25000 people screaming bloody murder (and they would be very justified to do so). So, a big part of the impetus to not release them is simply to cover our own asses, to try to sweep under the rug our own indiscretions.

    Why do their own countries not want to take them, let alone other countries? Something doesn’t quite add up here I’d say. Isn’t it remotely possible that the Bush administration and now the Obama administration might be privy to certain info that we might not have access to?

    Something doesn’t add up only if you take the position that surely the government knows best, even when the evidence is to the contrary, does only that which is right, and the things they do are logical and for the greater good. That the government is eminently wise and competent and serving everybody’s best interests.

    You don’t strike me as the sort of guy that takes that position, as a default one, in any other sphere. Why are you so inclined to fall back to it as your operating assumption here?

    I don’t understand the perspective where the less the government tells you, the more inclined you are to believe them.

    Comment by Brad — 5/29/2009 @ 3:51 pm

  13. I basically never think the government knows best, Brad, but it could be argued that in certain areas they know more. If they can’t be charged, then what’s the prob? Just let ’em go. Please. Maybe I am being naive now, but Obama isn’t stupid. If these guys (some of whom have been released and have returned to the battle) are not problem children, then I think our intrepid President would not have such agida about dealing with them. Do you?

    Comment by James — 5/29/2009 @ 4:09 pm

  14. Yes, I do.

    Also, some of whom have been released and returned to battle, yes. Although of that group, how many “returned” to battle, and how many joined the battle new, is tough to say. But don’t forget, that represents 1 out of every 250, if we go by Pentagon numbers (and I have no idea why you would). There is, of course, the other 249 out of 250 to consider.

    Realize, James, as well that we have let a great many of them go. Almost 80% of the people that we held for a year or more without charge and interrogated are now walking around. We essentially held them for nothing, tortured them for nothing, because of attitudes like “well, if the government detained them, they must be bad guys and thus deserve what they get.” You were arguing then, as I recall, that we had to hold on to them and torture them. Well, 80% of the people you were talking about, the United States government, CIA, and military had been lying to you about. They were just released right back into the wild because they weren’t worth the electric bill it took to keep them. Some existential threat to American safety, huh?

    My guess is we wind up releasing probably about 80% of those we have left for the same reason, the ones you are right now arguing we “must” have a good reason to keep.

    Theoretically, as we winnow that down our detainees, which we are in the process of doing (indeed, we started around 2005/2006), I might see how you’d think that the ones that remains are the worst of the worst of the worst of the lot. In reality, there are a lot of reasons why we might not just be able to “let them go”.

    Some of them are probably criminals or very low level Taliban grunts. More are people who either come from hostile countries or from provisional governments and local communities run by people that, for whatever reason, had targeted in the first place to sell off to the stupid Americans, so either those countries don’t want them back, or if they do, they want them back so they can either kill them, or more likely, torture them (more, I mean). Torture them for any number of reasons, I might add (they might want to know who the local leaders of an underground political movement are, or whatever). Many come from friendly countries that, nevertheless, also don’t want them back, in large measure because we’ve spent six years arguing to anybody that would listen that these are the Most Dangerous Human Beings alive, and then, behind the scenes, say “Hey, why don’t you take some of them off our hands?” Some are people we just plain don’t know anything about. They could be Kaiser Soze Al Queda figures, or they could be local drug dealers, or they could be shoe repairmen. Some people we believe to be genuine threats, most likely because other people, under torture or other duress, gave them up for one reason or another, and we stuck them to the Al Queda Family Tree on the wall and it looks real pivotal to the brass and it’s tough to say how much of that “intel” is bullshit, but probably a lot. And some, of course, are genuine threats, but we’ve gotten in so deep in terms of abuse and flagrant war crimes that we can’t ever risk letting them out in public. And some, of course, we keep because we believe they are a genuine threat to national security or have information we need to know, though probably more of the former than the latter, at this point.

    It’s hard to put a percentage to those varying categories, though I would make an informed guess that those OUTSIDE the range of “genuine threat to national security” make up the majority. But still, we have a system in place that makes no distinction, to which no appeal can be made, and in which we have no real way of separating out the wheat from the chaff.

    Comment by Brad — 5/29/2009 @ 5:26 pm

  15. I think you guys are talking around each other a bit, but I will also take a shot at James’ question. I think:
    – Some (dozens?) are no kidding Al Queda
    – More (scores?) are dedicated Taliban militia
    – Some (dozens?) are opportunistic mercenaries & bandits that are difficult to distinguish from the above two
    – Some (dozens?) are, like the 650 already released, of no threat, but we can’f find a country to take them

    Speaking of the first two or three categories: we are still holding them because we have so butchered the evidence, either through torture methodology or incompentance, that only a small minority could be put on trial for terrorim, and a somewhat larger percentage that we could “convict” at a tribunal style process, leaving the majority that we simply can’t convict without a complete abandonment of all principles.

    So I am with you, James, in believing that the remaining 250 or so GTMO detainees have a high percentage of terrorists and Taliban fighters, some unknowable percentage of which would “return to the fight.” But I am not with you in believing that we should simply keep them indefinatly detained. GTMO is an albatross, an international symbol of our hypocrisy. “Believing” they are evil men with bad intent is not the same as knowing it, and certainly not the same as having it demonstrated in a fair proceeding. We MUST either fish or cut bait. And that will mean trials for some, and repatriation for others, and I accept all the risk that goes with that option, just as I accept the risk of recidivism in every other area of criminal activity.

    Comment by Jack — 5/29/2009 @ 5:26 pm

  16. Also, re the “1 in 7 returned to the fight” story Brad referenced above, IIRC some former detainees were categorized ashaving “returned to the fight” based upon cooperating in a documentary about GTMO, and others (some Chinese Uighurs I think)for complaining to the media about how shitty their lives were, and that they blamed the US for detaining them. Pretty broad definations for returning to the fight.

    Anyone else recall that?

    Comment by Jack — 5/29/2009 @ 5:33 pm

  17. Speaking of the first two or three categories: we are still holding them because we have so butchered the evidence, either through torture methodology or incompentance, that only a small minority could be put on trial for terrorim, and a somewhat larger percentage that we could “convict” at a tribunal style process, leaving the majority that we simply can’t convict without a complete abandonment of all principles.

    Agreed. I thought I made that point already, but I think I got caught up in the some (many) that are, at least as far as terrorism or taking up arms against Americans are concerned, innocent.

    Comment by Brad — 5/29/2009 @ 6:50 pm

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