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The Burden of Guantanamo

Guantanamo is an image problem for everybody who is considered close to the Bush administration. As soon as the news about the suicide of three prisoners at Guantanamo spread, the German government stated that it assumes it will be briefed by the United States on the circumstances involved, although none of the three was related to Germany in any way. The press release continues:
The German government's critical stance with regard to Guantanamo remains unchanged. The German government was informed of the suicide death of the three detainees by President George W. Bush's National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley. (...) In an interview granted to the news magazine "Der Spiegel" earlier this year Chancellor Angela Merkel urged that the prison camp be closed down, saying an institution like Guantanamo cannot and must not be allowed to go on existing. Ways must be found to deal in a different manner with the prisoners.
The government's press release, however, does not mention Murat Kurnaz. For background on him read our post about The Guantanamo detainee from Germany. About half a year ago, Chancellor Merkel promised to work on his release. There have been press reports in recent months stating that the US and Germany were close to a deal, but nothing happened so far.
 
Mr. Kurnaz' lawyer, Prof Baher Azmy, describes his visits to Guantanamo in an op-ed for Die Zeit (translation at Dialog International) and claims:
 
The U.S knows he has no connection to terrorism, and logged this fact no less than five times in his classified "file." According to his file (that I saw but which was not shown to Murat) the U.S military itself concluded that "Kurnaz has no connection to al Qaeda, the Taliban or any terrorist threat," and "the Germans have confirmed he has no connection to al Qaeda."  (...)
Recent reports have confirmed what Murat’s representatives have long suspected – that the Germans took advantage of Guantanamo to interrogate Murat and, even after the U.S. offered his release, the German government chose to leave him there, knowing he had done nothing wrong.

I am not sure how credible these claims are. The parliamentary commissions to investigate the German federal intelligence service might reveal more soon. A more clear case of flip-flopping is Innensenator Thomas Röwekamp, a senior city government official from Bremen where Murat Kurnaz used to live, before he made the fateful decision to travel to Pakistan to study Islam in October 2001. He was arrested on a bus (not on a battlefield) and sent to Guantanamo, where he has been detained for the last four years without charge or trial.
One and a half years ago, Röwekamp said that Kurnaz could not return to Bremen, because he failed to renew his residence permit during his stay in Guantanamo, which is very cynical. This decision was then overruled by the courts. Two days after the suicides, however, Röwekamp, who is a Christian Democrat, reversed his position on Kurnaz and said that Kurnaz' continued detention is a violation of international law and unacceptable and that he has to be released because there is not any indication that he has been involved in terrorist activities, according to die taz
 
 
The Los Angeles Times writes about the increasing opposition to Guantanamo after the suicides and quotes some helpless and desperate responses from US officials:
Colleen P. Graffy, a senior official in the State Department's office for public diplomacy that is charged with improving the U.S. image in the world. Graffy told the BBC the suicides were "a good PR move to draw attention." (...)
Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris' characterization of the suicides as acts of "asymmetrical warfare" and a State Department official's assertion that the first deaths among Guantanamo inmates were "a good PR move" brought renewed outrage in the Muslim world as well as among U.S. allies in Europe. But Durand [a Navy Cmdr.  and spokesman for the prison and interrogation compound] said the admiral in command of the detention operations here stood by his view that the deaths "were not acts of despair but coordinated efforts by three committed combatants." (…)
 
Ten of the 460 prisoners have been charged with criminal acts, and the fate of those trials awaits a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the tribunal's legitimacy that is expected by the end of June. (…) European allies seized on the incidents to heap fresh scorn on Guantanamo for what they see as violations of detainees' basic rights and a counterproductive force in the U.S.-led global war on terrorism.
 

Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is quoted by Deutsche Welle:
"Those people have to be tried. There are tribunals established. Where we have evidence they ought to be tried, and if convicted they ought to be sentenced," said Specter, who said some inmates have been detained based on "the flimsiest sort of hearsay."
Bloomberg writes:
"We'd like it to be empty,'' Bush said June 9. "We're now in the process of working with countries to repatriate people, but there are some that, if put out on the streets, could create grave harm to American citizens and other citizens of the world.''
Guantanamo has drawn international criticism since it opened to hold those described by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as the "worst of the worst.''
Republican Senator Mel Martinez said already in June 2005 that Guantanamo has become an icon for bad stories and suggested the Bush administration do a cost-benefit analysis. Guantanamo makes it difficult for America's friends to support the United States.

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The human rights commissioner of the German government, Guenter Nooke (CDU), said on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Guantanamo that the prison with its 395 inmates was "not as special as it is portrayed in the public" given the "t

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David on :

Yesterday the Pentagon kicked all reporters out of Guantanamo. [url]http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002687978/[/url] This Soviet-style effort to suppress information is but another example of the Bush administration's contempt for the Free Press and the US Constitution.

Eddie on :

Tried to send a trackback but it didn't work.... Anyway, this Gitmo business needs to end. Its ravaging America's image, rendering relations with critical and future allies dysfunctional, and corrupting a generation of good men and women into disrespecting, even perverting the law. As an active duty sailor, this is deeply distressing. We cannot fight a war against those who spread instability, chaos and mass murder and give up our morals and laws at the same time. Such a sacrifice is unnecessary and the fact it is occuring today is a testament of how extremist some people in this administration and their toadies in the military are. And above all else, from a strategic POV, we're just creating more enemies and limiting our room to manuever. This whole rubbish is absolutely pathetic.

Possum - At the Zoo on :

"Anyway, this Gitmo business needs to end. Its ravaging America's image, rendering relations with critical and future allies dysfunctional..." What's damaging America's image is character assassination by the anti-American European media. Allies? What allies? Our relationship with Europe was the relationship of a host and parasite. The fall of the Berlin Wall amounted to Europe's mask coming off. What proof of torture? Since when must enemy combatants during a war be charged with crimes or released? Why do Europeans dream up these irrational demands to justify their attempt to prevent us from getting actionable intelligence this way? If we have to charge and try them in civil courts, no ACTIONABLE intelligence can be gotten to save American lives. I would explain, but, for the 100th time it would all go in one Leftist ear and out the other. Then those we can't convict we must release to mass murder us, eh? Even if I did hate Bush, I wouldn't be willfully blind to what that means. Europe is hostile to America -- at least western Europe is. And all we can do about it is face that fact.

Jorg on :

What "ACTIONABLE intelligence" could there possibly be after four years?

Possum - At the Zoo on :

For example, there could be substitutions of people they don't know we have to infiltrate, revelations of complicity in current events from past knowledge. All it takes is a little imagination to figure it out. We prevent their networking. Have realeased some, one or a few at a time. And we have recaptured some of those again murdering Americans for being Americans. That means something, doesn't it? Why on earth would we waste our time on people we have no good reason to believe are terrorists? Why? I'd like an answer to that one. Torture dpoesn't even work on religious fanatics, so why would we do it? Just to do it? Just because Americans are that inherently evil? Or what? And when we do release them, the screaming meemies still scream. Because their home government may mistreat them (= everything every other enity in the wolrd does is America's fault = The rest of the nations of the world are children and America is their Daddy.) What's the implication of THAT screaming? It's that we must take these people who want to mass murder us into our homeland! Greater perversity there cannot be. And there is no proof of torture. But Europeans ASSUME Amerrican guilt on zero proof, while stubbornly doubting the evidence that these detainees are terrorists, ASSUMING that many are just poor farmers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. If Europe wants influence with America and Americans, this is NOT the way to get it.

Thom on :

Does any body know how many 9/11 co-conspirators where arrested and convicted in Germany? Because, wasn't it Germany from where the terror leader of 9/11 was coming from?

Chris on :

The Bush administration's desire to be tough and secretive (Cheney and Cheney) has done a great deal of harm to America's image, the effective governance of the country and the prosecutrion of the war on terror.

Zyme on :

Die Amerikaner können aber auch nichts gründlich machen. Sie wollen also "secretive" und "tough" sein.. Man stelle sich vor: Wenn sie nun gleich 2001 ein Standgericht einberufen hätten - dann wäre ihnen der ganze Wirbel erspart geblieben.

Anonymous on :

@ Possum, what makes you think all Gitmo detainees want to kill you? If you are so sure, why don't you give them a trial and put them behind bars or give them the death penalty? The US admitted that many mistakes were made. The US and Pakistani military just arrested many innocent foreigners in Pakistan and elsewhere due to stress and lack of clear rules. It's a joke to assume that they can still provide some actionable intelligence after all those years in Gitmo. Dream on, Possum.

Possum - At the Zoo on :

"Possum, what makes you think all Gitmo detainees want to kill you?" 9/11. What? I'm supposed to believe you, instead? You are quite willing to bet American lives on your belief. Since you bet them so lightly, Americans' lives then are cheap and dispensible as far as you're concerned. I point that out because the German press says that Americans are the ones who regard the lives of other peoples' as cheap and dispensible. Considering your assessment of cridibility, I have a bridge in Brooklynn to sell you. Also some property in Florida, sight unseen. This is a war. W-A-R. The enmy declared it publically, years ago. Remember? What's so hard to understand about that? And these are enemy combatants. So, what the heck are you talking about? Since WHEN do enemy combatants in a war have access to the civil courts? Since when need they be guilty of a criminal offense to hold them prisoner? Is it because they are UNLAWFUL enemy combatants that you claim they have MORE rights than lawful enemy combatants would? Must I point out that your thinking is upside-down? Yes, it's a war. I know that went in one ear and out the other. You just won't let that knowledge in, will you?

Joerg on :

"And these are enemy combatants." How do you know? US courts and the military disagree with such a generalization. Why don't you nuke the entire Middle East? Than you will feel save. And since you consider all Europeans to be anti-American: Why don't you nuke Europe as well. Solves all your problems.

davod on :

You are kidding yourselves if you think closing Gitmo will satiate the dribbling media and Euro trash. The only people living well in Europe are the politicians and the elitists. They need the US to keep the masses minds off their sorry lot in life.

Joerg on :

@ Possum > For example, there could be substitutions of people they > don't know we have to infiltrate, revelations of complicity > in current events from past knowledge. Please clarify. > And we have recaptured some of those again > murdering Americans for being Americans. Really? Do you have a source for that? > Why on earth would we waste our time on people we have no > good reason to believe are terrorists? Why? I'd like an > answer to that one. Because you made mistakes when you or the Pakistanis arrested them. Your intelligence isn't the best and you were under a lot of pressure to capture terrorists after 9/11. Then you sent them to Gitmo and now you don't know what to do with them. Now you are afraid that many detainees will attack the US after their release. Well, I would not be surprised that someone hates Americans after having spend several years in Gitmo. How would you feel, Kathy? [url=http://atlanticreview.org/archives/168-The-Guantanamo-detainee-from-Germany.html]I have told you before that high ranking US military personell believes that many mistakes were made[/url] Why do you refuse to acknowledge this and instead repeat your talking points? Please click on the above link, read all sources, do some googling and then respond > Torture dpoesn't even work on religious fanatics, so why > would we do it? Just to do it? Just because Americans are > that inherently evil? Or what? What does this have to do with my post? Why do you think that torture does not work on religious fanatics?

Possum - At the Zoo on :

>> For example, there could be substitutions of people they >> don't know we have to infiltrate, revelations of complicity >> in current events from past knowledge. >Please clarify. Clear enough. Like I said, many things are possible when the enemy doesn't know whom you hold. All it takes is a little imagination to figure out the possibilities. Some we have tried to release, but their countries won't take them. Why play Catch-22 with the US over that? Others we have realeased. As for those later recaptured on the battlefied, I have heard that many places (18 or 19 in all), most memorably from senators and representatives in Congress. So, Google it if you doubt me. What makes you so sure we are holding people who were wrongfully scooped up? Every prisoner gets his case reviewed -- annually if he wishes. On the basis of these hearings many have already been released. That too is a matter of public record. Don't put words in my mouth. I never claimed that no mistakes were make. But I object to this irrational demand that we close Gitmo and give all these enemy combatants access to the civil courts. I want to know why American lives are so cheap that for the first time in history Europeans are demanding such a thing of a country at war. The stuff about torture is common knowledge too. Even the KGB didn't use torture. It doesn't work on idealogues (unless you want to know one thing right now -- like which plane the bomb is on). And I am not going to Google all that common knowledge for you. Why don't you Google proof that I am wrong. Former detainees are more credible than the US? People who say they were former detainess are more credible than the US? Right. If I were innocent and scooped up, I'd probably hate the Pakistani or Afghan who lied about me. In any case, I wouldn't want want to do anything to end up back in Gitmo again. By the way, what about the other prisoners on the same island? Those Castro is abusing?

Joerg on :

"Don't put words in my mouth." I did not. "But I object to this irrational demand that we close Gitmo and give all these enemy combatants access to the civil courts." Why not? If you are so sure that they are enemy combatants and want to kill you, it would not be a problem to convict them. "What makes you so sure we are holding people who were wrongfully scooped up?" I have repeatedly given you the link to quotes from high ranking military officer and US judge. There are many more people. You are stubborn and it is pointless to discuss anything with you. "By the way, what about the other prisoners on the same island? Those Castro is abusing?" I am not making a fuss about Gitmo. I have just pointed out in my post that you are losing friends around the world and motivate your enemies due to Gitmo. If you want to weaken the US, then you should continue to support Gitmo. I seriously doubt that the detainees provide you with any intelligence info after four years in Gitmo.

Possum - At the Zoo on :

But you did put words in my mouth. You claimed that I was denying any mistakes had been made. I don't think that's what's losing us friends in the world. I think that has nothing to do with it. What made them mad way back on 9/10? Something ELSE we did? There will always be some excuse, won't there? Since when did it become an issue about whether any innocent people had been scooped up? Everybody knows that happened. And those people were freed. Long ago. Why the irrational demand that we must let the rest go free to attack us again? I have no doubt that Germany would never let holier-than-thous preach it into doing such a self-destructive thing. And your theory that innocent people taken to Gitmo and later freed would become terrorists is interesting. So, that's what makes terrorists, right? Not Islamic religious crackpots. If that's the case, there should be terrorists overrunning the planet, making war on almost every country in the world because of the way these people were treated in their prisons. Indeed, I know there are cases of torture in German jails and in the German military every so often. When will a jumbo jet airlinere be crashed into the center of Berlin because of it? This has been revealing. I am surprised you didn't know about the prisoners released who turned out to be terrorists after all and were later recaptured. You didn't know torture doesn't work for gathering useful intelligence. Obviously the European media do not report things like that. Weaken the US? Hot air doesn't weaken anyone, let alone the US.

Possum - At the Zoo on :

Missed part of your last line in my reply. First whether the detainees themselves provide useful intelligence yet, is but one of two reasons for detaining them. You seem to keep forgetting the other one: The other is to keep them from mass murdering people for the "crime" of being American. Second, people we have replaced them with -- infiltrators -- can very well be feeding us useful intelligence to this day. We obviously can't let them go while an agent posing as them continues to serve us. Third, they know of connections and can give us information on those connections that may help us figure out current events. Knowledge of that sort doesn't get out-of-date that fast. Fourth, they weren't all captured four years ago. This is ongoing. Didn't you know that? Come on, you can figure this out as well as I can. Ideally what you want is "conversion" of the prisoner. Not a false confession. not an answer to ticking-time-bomb question -- real conversion into a cooperative informant. Torture won't accomplish that. It won't get anything but false information out of an idealogue or religious fanatic. Then you may have to keep him in PROTECTIVE custody afterwards. Haven't you heard about the nice part of Gitmo for the cooperative ones who can be trusted to behave? What's the bottom line? "You Americans must do as we say or we won't like you." So what? You assume that Europeans liking us is important. If in the last 50 years we haven't succeeded in making the German people like us, it's safe to say that it is impossible for us to ever make the German people like us. You know, when you're unpleasable, people sooner or later stop trying to please you. That's the growing mood here.

Joerg on :

My post was mainly about Murat Kurnaz. Please, read my post and links and then tell me why the US kept him there for four years. Why didn't you just release him and send him to the German embassy in DC? Why do you think that Murat Kurnaz wants to murder you?

Possum - At the Zoo on :

Oh, so you shift the grounds of the debate yet again? I don't know about Murat Kurnaz, and I don't care. What makes you so sure he isn't out to murder me and any another person who happens to be an American? Credibility, sir. When I find 99 accusations a source has made are false, I know ANTI-credibiltity when I see it. But you Euros seem to think that the 99 false accusations discovered so far in the pile mean that at least some of the accusations must be true. Sorry, sir, can't think backwards like that. But, could the reason possibly be because of what Germany will do with an American-mass-murdering terrorist? Could it be because Germany would set him free? Naah. Germany would never do that, right?

Anonymous on :

"I don't know about Murat Kurnaz, and I don't care. What makes you so sure he isn't out to murder me and any another person who happens to be an American?" If I will ever meet you, I will arrest you, because you might be a mass murderer.

Don on :

"Why didn't you just release him and send him to the German embassy in DC?" Does the German government want any part of him? Would they accept him? Or as in other cases (like the Uighurs) would Germany wash it's hands of the entire matter - except to tell the US to 'take care of it'?

Joerg on :

"Does the German government want any part of him? Would they accept him?" Yes, I think so. However, as I pointed out in the post, his lawyer says that the US offered his release, but the German government chose to leave him there. I don't know how credible that is. If that is or has indeed been the case, then the US should have just dropped him of at the German embassy in DC and let them deal with the problem. Or drop him of at any German institution/organization/car dealer/whatever.

David on :

I AM making a fuss about Gitmo: it is a concentration camp where prisoners are being held indefinitely outside of any known laws. I would point out to Possum that it is not the hated Europeans who are the most vocal critics of Guantanamo. Rather, the loudest critics are American lawyers, journalists and ordinary citizens like me who believe the US Constitution embodies universal principles that have been grossly violated by the Camp. Guantanamo will forever be a stain on the history of our nation.

stehpinkeln on :

"This Soviet-style effort to suppress information is but another example of the Bush administration's contempt for the Free Press and the US Constitution." To you maybe. To me it's another example of MSM arrogrance and elitist leanings. We can agree that a Zebra has stripes, but if they are black stripes or white strips is a matter of POV. First, the members of the press have no more rights then ANY other citizen. At least that is what the Supreme Court says everytime the 4th estate claims it has rights others don't. A New York Slime reporter recently did jail time over that. There IS NO 'Right to Know' in the Constitution. If you think so, please show me those words. The DoD does have both a right and a duty to keep people out of Git-mo. By Law and treaty. You are the one showing contempt for the Constitution by putting things in there that just don't exist and treating it as a bludgeon to use against your political enemies. As far as the Soviet part goes; 'I don't think that word means what you think it does. Cut the rope.'

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