Guantanamo double talk
By PAUL BALLES
11th August 2007
The New York Times book reviewer recalled that the day after the 9/11
attacks, US President George W Bush declared the strikes by Al Qaeda
"more than acts of terror. They were acts of war".
Bush's "war on terror" was "not a figure of speech," he said. It was a
At the same time, the US government has classified detainees at
Guantanamo as "enemy combatants" rather than prisoners of war. They
have claimed the Geneva Convention (article 4) allows them to do so.
If, as Bush asserted, the strikes by Al Qaeda were "acts of war", why
have Guantanamo prisoners been labelled enemy combatants rather than
prisoners of war?
The answer is immoral and illegal: The US says "such a definition,
which allows indefinite incarceration, is justified because detainees
do not have the status of either regular soldiers or guerillas and
they are not part of a regular army or militia".
What sort of twisted reasoning allows the US administration to call Al
Qaeda's strikes acts of war while disallowing their classification as
men of war? What sort of double talk refuses to allow them even
The answer to that is simple: the double talk definitions self-justify
the illegal holding of prisoners indefinitely while torturing them for
If the government admitted that, they would have to also admit that
they believed the detainees to be a part of a "regular" army or
Self-justification is almost always a contradiction.
What about the detainees? Between 2002 and 2006, only 10 detainees
were actually charged with terrorist offences.
Yet, the US government continues to claim that it has justification
for holding the detainees indefinitely. If only 10 have been charged
with offences, it is safe to assume that there isn't enough evidence
to charge or convict the remaining prisoners.
According to Frontlines: "There is growing evidence that detainees at
Guantanamo have suffered torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment. Reports by FBI agents who witnessed detainee abuse have
recently emerged, adding to the statements of former detainees
describing the use of painful stress positions, extended solitary
confinement, use of military dogs to threaten detainees and prolonged
exposure to extremes of heat, cold and noise."
Experience suggests that when the US government has no evidence
implicating detainees of any crime or an Al Qaeda connection, even
after months and years of cruel treatment and interrogation, they send
the detainee back to his home country, assuming that the home country
When the released detainees arrive home, they don't want to talk about
their experiences at Guantanamo.
They say that they are so happy to be reunited with their families
that they don't want to be reminded of their imprisonment.
Four or five years of internment at Guantanamo have been enough to
completely silence its victims. Should anyone doubt this, try to
arrange an interview with an ex-resident of the camp to discuss what
it was like.
According to an earlier report in the GDN, one of the detainee's
lawyers said: "The US government had no desire to hold people who are
not considered to be a danger."
Does anyone believe the incredulous illogic of that statement? Why
would a lawyer make a statement that assumes it might take five years
to determine whether or not a detainee might be dangerous?
Evidence suggests that the released detainees have been instructed,
under threat, not to discuss their experiences in Guantanamo. Clearly,
many of the detainees were wrongly held in the first place.
Fleeing from US attacks on Afghanistan, many were wrongly captured,
tortured and finally released with sealed lips.
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