Guantanamo: Reopening Under New Management

Posted on January 5, 2012

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In the past decade more than 775 individuals have made that journey, the vast majority have been released without charge after years of harsh captivity, 171 still remain – many cleared for release by the military but trapped by the restrictions placed on their resettlement by Congress.

The last prisoner arrived in Guantanamo in March 2008 but this spring we can expect the first new arrivals in four years to start trickling into the facility. The passage of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) means that Gitmo has now been reopened for business.

In tandem with opening up Guantanamo to new detainees, the NDAA has also given a shot in the arm to the moribund Military Commissions process. Military Commissions have heard six cases to conclusion since they were first established by the Bush administration in 2001.

By contrast Federal courts successfully prosecuted 523 terrorism-related defendants between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2009. Among those convicted were Al Qaeda members such as the shoe bomber Richard Reid and the Millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam. The Military Commissions convicted bin Laden’s cook.

Promoting an international global armed conflict paradigm as the most appropriate framework for confronting Al Qaeda has led the United States down some very dark paths in the past decade. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the military may have some pretty big hammers but not every problem is as straightforward to solve as pounding a nail.

Provoking the state to overreact, to undermine its own values and to discard human rights protections is a core staple of the terrorist playbook. It is a strategy you can find described in countless terrorist manuals dating back to the nineteenth century.  And it is a trap into which the U.S. Government has fallen.

Targeted killing has become a commonplace tactical tool with drones striking targets in countries in which US personnel are not even fighting, such as Yemen and Somalia.

Indefinite detention for suspected members of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and loosely defined associates has been codified in US law. A profound distinction now exists in US law between US persons and foreigners, a violation of one of the most fundamental principles of justice – equality before the law.

Amnesty USA

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