A couple days ago, a reader accused the United States of rounding up the detainees now being held in Guantanamo Bay by use of “sweeps” and through paid informants. This claim is, to put it bluntly, utter bunk, but typical of claims from the Left and demonstrates the mindset which opposes our troops, the war, and the security of our nation. That said, it is worthwhile to examine just how someone ends up at Gitmo.
The DoD has actually been quite open about how things work at Gitmo. I took the time to look at a few papers, including the process chart, and step-by-step walk-through of a detainee’s initial review, an explanation of the legal basis for detaining AL Qaeda and Taliban combatants, and a link to a website where updated information can be found and studied.
The United States has held somewhere between four and seven hundred detainees at Guantanamo at various times. The exact number is unspecific, not because the U.S. does not know how many detainees it holds (another Leftist lie being tossed around), but because like many detention facilities, detainees are arriving and leaving on a regular basis. Guantanamo, despite the bad press it receives, is actually an effective example of how the system should work in this type of conflict.
First, concerning the status of the detainees. Many on the Left wail over the detainee’s undefined status, legally. Again, this is a dishonest attempt to mischaracterize the people involved. The detainees cannot be considered Prisoners of War, because they were apprehended when plotting or committing acts of terrorism, under no flag or national corps. Thus, they are not POWs as defined by the Geneva Convention. Further, the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo is in no way abusive nor a violation of the standards dictated by the Geneva accords, especially in terms of religious freedoms and expectations of conduct. Further, the use of military courts is expressly approved in Article 87 of those very accords. So even by the Leftist standards, Guantanamo is a valid operational facility.
Referring again to the Geneva Accords, this time with regard to the definition of 'Civilians', these detainees fail the definition. Specifically, the detainees were all involved in deliberate and direct violation of Article 3, especially since the nature of Terrorism is directly counter to the expectation of decent conduct. Guantanamo again fills the requirements for an internment facility, as defined in Chapter II, Article 83. So, however one regards the detainees apprehended by Coalition forces, their treatment is just and fair under the terms defined by the very United Nations which now wants to dismantle Guantanamo for purely political reasons. That is to say, the UN is being hypocritical and dishonest, but as this is a common condition for the modern UN, I will leave that point for now.
Now, as to practice of detainment. The problem of what to do with captured terrorists and combatants is an important element in the War on Terror, and one the Liberal critics have completely failed to consider with any real practical focus. There are essentially five choices available, all of which are employed according to the judgment of the men at the location. Someone apprehended by U.S. forces may be set free after examination, they may be held for a time in a local facility, they may be held in an available prison or camp in-country, they may be deported to another country under certain circumstances, or they may be removed from the theater of conflict and held pending discovery of their identity and review of their actions. Of these, the decision to send detainees to Guantanamo has been a rare choice, as the low number of detainees relative to the number of insurgents and terrorists encountered demonstrates. It is a difficult decision for the on-scene commander to make, given that terrorists cannot be allowed to simply walk away and regroup to murder Americans, nor should they be kept in some location where their friends and conspirators can reach them to plan further violence. Again, the Left refuses to accept that the detainees at Guantanamo have been sent there specifically because they have been determined to represent a present threat to Americans and the mission; this is hardly done casually or on a wholesale basis, as they so falsely pretend. The detainees at Guantanamo all have involvement with groups or actions which demonstrate reasonable concern. If we were arguing a legal action, I should say that in all cases, the detainees are held on the military equivalent of very strong “probable cause”.
At this saying, I immediately recognize that the Left would rise in indignation, demanding that the detainees have been denied their rights, though in actual fact no such rights have been established. The ‘legal rights’ argument quickly falls apart when inspected. For one thing, no government maintains the same procedural code for hostile participants in wartime as they do for accused criminals in peacetime, especially given the character of the offenses. The U.S. Army has little interest in enforcing shoplifting or burglary ordinances, but has a keen interest in removing threats to the public and themselves from operation. Further, the Army is not a police force, nor should it be expected to perform police duties. Also, in wartime the military is not going to be available to testify against persons they observe in hostile acts; the very notion is unreasonable, and detainment of persons observed in hostile acts, even for years, is a reasonable action by a government and relatively mild in scope, given the historical model and functional alternatives.
It should also be mentioned, that the Guantanamo facility and the processes which are performed there are not only documented (unclassified actions are also made available for press and public review), but there are annual reviews by the Department of Defense General to verify conditions, treatment of detainees, and recommended actions or improvements. For example, the February 2006 review announced the recommended release of 14 detainees, 120 transfers to other facilities, and 329 continued detentions of persons presently held at Guantanamo.
This is an effective review process, given the available information and represented threat; those unhappy with continued detention of these detainees may do well to observe that the detainees apprehended by soldiers who are sent on to Guantanamo, are unwilling to cooperate with authorities or provide information on their identities and explain their actions. If you are an Army officer and your men capture a fellow with bomb-making material and he refuses to talk to you, even to identify himself, sending him away from the war zone to a detention camp is a perfectly sound decision. I repeat again, that of all the tens of thousands of individuals interrogated by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, only a few hundred get sent to Guantanamo, less than two thousand since operations began in 2001. That hardly sounds like a knee-jerk reaction or merciless standard.
The comfortable conditions at Guantanamo have been detailed many times, yet many people simply ignore the fact that detainees receive what can only be considered first-class treatment in terms of hygiene, food, and personal considerations. I defy anyone, frankly, to find any evidence of abuse or mistreatment at Guantanamo. Yes there have been allegations, yet not one of them has panned out. Yes, there are the recent suicides, which is an unfortunate development – one wonders why the Left never considers that the privacy demanded by detainees and access to pillows, sheets, and linens made these suicides possible, nor the fact that less than a month ago, staged suicide attempts were used to lure guards into an ambush.
Guantanamo is not a “secret jail”, nor a “gulag”, nor has any attempt been made to mistreat the detainees held there. The U.S. violates no treaty or human right to conduct the base as it has – indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find another facility run as well or as humanely. And make no mistake, many of the countries which publicly attack Guantanamo, have their own facilities which would hardly fare well in comparison to the American standard.