Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Shut Guantanamo Down

That's the best thing the US can do with detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, according to Thomas Friedman (registration required). He makes the expected arguments about the bad press from cases of prisoner abuse (most of which did not happen at Gitmo, but I digress), saying that the existence of the camp and reports of abuses do more to create more terror and terrorists than detaining these people is worth:
Guantanamo Bay is becoming the anti-Statue of Liberty. If we have a case to be made against any of the 500 or so inmates still in Guantanamo, then it is high time we put them on trial, convict as many possible (which will not be easy because of bungled interrogations) and then simply let the rest go home or to a third country. Sure, a few may come back to haunt us. But at least they won't be able to take advantage of Guantanamo as an engine of recruitment to enlist thousands more. I would rather have a few more bad guys roaming the world than a whole new generation.
He's really making the argument that we shouldn't detain terrorists unless we have enough evidence to convict them in a criminal court, since it Gitmo isn't adequate, neither is anywhere else the US is detaining these people. The fact is evidence gathered from the battlefield or from interrogation is not likely to be up to normal civilian standards and will likely to permit a whole lot of dangerous people to walk, allowing them another chance to kill our people. If he isn't saying that, what should we do with them?

One more question that puzzles me - if we can't detain these Al Qaeda folks, what is the likelihood that fewer prisoners will be taken in the first place? If the Coalition soldiers have to operate under a "catch and release" system, what incentive do they have to take prisoners, if these same people are going to be eventually come back and get another chance to kill Americans. It might in the heat of battle seem more sensible to just shoot them on the spot, thus saving American and Iraqi/Afghan lives in the future. Would that make better world opinion?

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