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Sunday | June 01, 2003

Failure at Gitmo

Officials: Rumsfeld trying to make foreign policy
Knight Ridder Newspapers


In an April 24 memo, Rumsfeld tried to hand the State Department responsibility for the hundreds of suspected al-Qaida and Taliban detainees, most of them low-level rifle-toters, at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

With the United States under increasing international pressure to charge the detainees with crimes or to release them, the defense secretary demanded that the State Department negotiate the return of hundreds of the detainees to their home countries, on terms that would guarantee the United States "total access" to the returnees and the right to retake them anytime in the future.

In a separate Rummygram, also on April 24, Rumsfeld said the United States no longer would detain new "low level combatants" at Guantanamo and demanded that the State Department arrange for Afghanistan to house them in Afghan prisons, at Afghan expense. The proposal also demanded unfettered U.S. access to the prisoners at all times.

Afghan Premier Hamid Karzai - who already has problems with security and finances - is unlikely to welcome the idea, and Bush administration officials said there were no files on the Guantanamo prisoners that Afghanistan or other countries could use to prosecute them, not even records of their interrogations

Placed at the end of an article on Donald Rumsfeld's foreign policy iniatives, this time bomb and it is nothing less, says that our strategy of holding prisoners at Guantanamo has failed miserably. Rumsfeld's plan, which would bre ruled illegal in Australia and Britian to start with, is the clearest sign that our policy is a failure. The vast majority of our Cuban Gulag's prisoners clearly belong held as official POW's and not terrorists or some other ginned up definition.

Therefore, we have violated international law to hold POW's who could have been held in the US, under the eye of the Red Cross. What is even worse is that if they are released to their home countries, there is little chance of a successful prosecution there.

The US policy has treated Al Qaeda as a fixed paramilitary structure, like the PLO, where there are clear lines of command. AQ is nothing of the sort. Osama has the people he personally controls and a group of people he funds like a grant board. If he likes a plan. the venture capitalist of terror then ships some money their way. He doesn't seek to run every operation.

So holding children and legitimate combatants in a gulag under the broiling Cuban sun is not only a policy we can no longer sustain, it is a tremendous waste of time and effort.

Why was there such a rush to subvert institutions which worked? The Hague, US courts, the military justice system, all were and are adequate to deal with whatever threat these people pose. Yet, instead of using systems which worked and could give legitimate outcomes to any proceedings, we rigged up an extralegal system which our own government now wants to back away from.

The failure of Guantanamo to work as a prison or as an intelligence collection point has been obvious for some time. AQ is dynamic, all we can get from people we caught in Afghanistan is history, not fact, because the facts are changing. The people running AQ today have been recruited from civilian life or promoted from the ranks. They are not tied to the structure of AQ in 2001.

All Gitmo has done was erode our credibility in the eyes of our allies. It is yet another reponse to 9/11 which has failed to the rest of the world. Instead of working on realistic responses, we work on dogma and that dogma is failing us over and over. The UN, while flawed, works. It is credible to most of the world. So are the courts at the Hague. The exceptionalism which seems tro drive Bush policy doesn't work. The more we try to live apart from the world, the more it fails us.

Steve Gilliard

Posted June 01, 2003 11:23 AM | Comments (28)


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