Sunday, May 31, 2009

GitMythology debunked

In Commentary Magazine, Arthur Herman writes:

Obama’s order “closing” Gitmo actually left it open for a year, ostensibly until new arrangements could be made for the 240 or so inmates still detained there—though Obama admitted privately it might have to stay open longer than that. Later, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that, far from being “the Bermuda Triangle of human rights” that Human Rights Watch’s Wendy Patten had dubbed it, Gitmo was in full compliance with the humane-treatment provisions of the Geneva Convention. Meanwhile, the military commissions, which Human Rights Watch and others groups had denounced as a travesty of justice, were only being suspended for 120 days, pending a review—and, indeed, following that review, will be reinstated almost exactly as they were before.
• the twelve separate inquiries into the abuses alleged by critics and former detainees at Gitmo that found no evidence of those abuses taking place;
• the revelation during the release earlier this year of the so-called “torture memos” that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques had been applied to exactly three suspects in the course of eight years and had never been standard operating practice at Gitmo;
• the evaluation by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point that 73 percent of Gitmo detainees were “a demonstrated threat” to Americans;
• and, finally, the fact that the detention facility was created in the wake of a declaration by Congress in September 2001 that “all necessary and appropriate force” should be used “against those nations, organizations, or persons” [emphasis added] responsible for the attacks of September 11;

So why the opposition?

At least some of the blame goes to:

...the aggressive and unending efforts of a cadre of lawyers, activists, left-leaning Democrats in Congress, and civil libertarians against the facility, its purpose, its goal, and its existence. These efforts began even before it was opened, in November 2001, and continue to this day. The anti-Gitmo forces worked tirelessly to shape the public perception that Gitmo was the red-hot center of an aggressive policy approach that led the leftist financier George Soros to declare: “The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush.”

Some of the myths discussed are:

Most of the detainees aren't terrorists at all.

In point of fact, the military captured more than 70,000 men and put every one through a rigorous screening process. Ten thousand were released immediately. By the time the military had completed its work, only 800 remained in custody. These were the ones they had deemed hard-core trained terrorists who could not be released without running the risk they would rejoin the battle. The question was what to do with them.

And about the Yoo "torture memos":

Yoo was tasked with providing a set of ground rules for detention, interrogation, and trial of the detainees. The Department of Defense had wanted to treat these as three separate issues. However, Yoo and the OLC lawyers believed they had to be handled as parts of a single policy—especially since at the same time they were also setting guidelines on how the CIA would be allowed to question suspects that fell into its hands.

Those rules and memos were assembled over the course of many months bridging 2001 and 2002, in the immediate shadow of 9/11 with the possibility of a second massive attack looming on the horizon. Later, the press would brand them “torture memos,” and the Obama administration’s decision to release the full texts of those memos in April 2009 fed the frenzy. However, they could just as well be branded “anti-torture memos.” Yoo and his colleagues used them to define the boundaries at which interrogation of unwilling and uncooperative prisoners would cross over into the category of torture. Once those boundaries were breached, any action would be illegal under United States law and international treaties, including the 1994 United Nations Convention Against Torture. They looked to practices by Israeli as well as British intelligence services that had undergone legal scrutiny in their own countries, and they also considered historical norms about torture since the Middle Ages.

The OLC understood as well as any of its later critics that torture—the cruel and needless infliction of pain in order to dominate and control others or to exact confessions or information—was barbarism. It was precisely in order to prevent such barbarism that the memos were drawn up in the first place. It was also why then, and later, army and CIA interrogators tried to avoid even drawing close to those boundaries without explicit authorization.

Read the whole thing.

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