Thursday, May 8, 2008

Return to the battlefield?? Updated

I am updating this story after reading the Washington Post version. It appears the story may be true and if so we are stuck with the uncomfortable fact that a man released from Guantanamo may be responsible for a suicide bombing in Iraq. There are lots of things to ponder in relation to this matter and much of that was discussed in the article that you can read by clicking on the title. The answer of course is not to lock up forever people who showed no signs of being an enemy when picked up. This man apparently went on with his life for several years before he decided to do what he did. I also will remind you that our government lies so much that we cannot believe anything they claim but if this man did in fact become a suicide bomber he would be the only verifiable detainee that was released who has been shown to engage in any illegal activities after being released. I find that pretty amazing given how these men were treated. Anyway, last time the government/military claimed 30+ were on "back" on the battlefield and my law clerk did the research... seemed at the same time they were saying 9+ and 5+ and a handful and 14.... were back on the battlefield (as though these random and contradictory numbers justified keeping everyone else). And when someone finally demanded names (I believe it was congress that asked not the media...) they hemmed and hawed and came up with a few names... a few... like 3 or 4... and 1 of those "back"on the battlefield was still sitting in gitmo (probably in his dreams he was in the battlefiedl but I don't think that counts) 1 or 2 were never on a list as having been at Guantanamo, 1 guy had not only returned to the battlefield but was killed (according to the media reports dictated by the military) but they forgot to tell him and he was quietly rebuilding his life.
I am sure there are those of you who think we should try to ascertain everyone who has harbored ill thoughts about our government and lock them up... but that is not the american way... at least not the america I knew. We have trials. We determine guilt or innocence and then we punish the guilty. Perhaps if a system had been put in place when this man was held the outcome would have been different. Lastly I would just point out that this man was released because of a political deal between the US and Kuwait... the same way every man has been released so far... political deals, not court processes.


Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary, Candace.

My question, though, is this: Why would people who have been so abused by our government not harbor such animosity that they would want to strike back at us or our surrogates? That doesn’t justify killing innocent civilians; but how long can we go on denying that our actions, particularly the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, have no effect on the people in Iraq and throughout the Middle East?

This guy may have been a monster, but I suspect he was a monster we created.

the talking dog said...

Well, it's kind of that last point (i.e. the release was political) that matters; I have already seen some hostility expressed out in blogworld toward Tom Wilner, who represented Kuwaitis (including the alleged suicide bomber)... but as usual, the derision toward him ignores the fact that Tom had nothing whatever to do with his client being released-- as you noted, this was entirely a political decision by the Bush Administration, which, other than the strange Hicks plea bargain, has not brought a single man to trial there in over six years. And funny- no derision among Bush's cheerleaders will be expressed toward Bush for the arbitrary decision to release him, just as there has been no outcry for the arbitrary decision to detain so many men (now down to around 280 at GTMO, still over 10,000 counting Afgh and Iraq).

With respect to the "we made him a monster" argument, I'd really rather not go there. The whole point of this-- the real point-- is that by refusing to set up a transparent system, by insisting on nothing but kangaroo courts designed to get preordained political outcomes, the fact of the matter is that now over 6 years into this, it is clear that the government and the military have no idea who it is holding, or who it is releasing. We have everything bass ackwards: if anything, there should have been a higher threshold for holding "suspected terrorists" to make damned sure we were holding the right ones, instead of no threshold at all other than political convenience, which is where we are now.

To whomever the Democratic nominee is, for the general election, he or she might well want to consider adopting the mantra "So, do you feel safer now than you did 8 years ago?" Because the arbitrary decision to lock up swarthy men with Muslim names without legal course is not something that I think makes us any safer. QED, recent events...

Anonymous said...

Why shouldn’t we go there? Why should we refuse to even discuss the fact that our actions affect the way people view us overseas? This is a conversation we’ve refused to have since 9/11.

My argument about “creating the monster” is part and parcel of the whole thing. All of the problems you identify with Guantánamo and the military commissions sham feed into these bitter anti-American feelings … feelings which enable murderous thugs to recruit people like al-Ajmi to carry out suicide bombings. That doesn’t excuse al-Ajmi or the murderous thugs who manipulate guys like him. But why should we not hold the Bush cabal responsible for their part in shaping the man?

You say Dems should repeat the “Do you feel safer now” mantra, and I agree. But if I’m right and Guantánamo helped create a suicide bomber out of a man who would not otherwise have been a suicide bomber … that means that Guantánamo makes us less safe.

the talking dog said...

Well, I concede that we can certainly go there; in fact, if we don't go there, we won't get to the bottom of torture, Abu Ghraib, the shredding of Geneva Conventions, etc., so that said, I fully agree: we kind of have to go there.

I should have made myself clearer on that point. I will simply say that it is entirely unknown (and probably unknowable) what made this particular person, A.S. al-Ajmi, join this particular suicide attack, i.e., whether he was radicalized before, during or after being in U.S. custody (or all three). Frankly, I fear that the proposition "see what happens when we release these bastards?" sentiment may make it harder to get the other arbitrarily held men any semblance of justice, let alone released. As Candace notes, one can't predict the future. I will say, though, that we really had, and have, no reliable system set up to determine just who should be held and who should be released (other than the vast majority should be released).

BTW, this is hardly the first fellow let out of GTMO who later caused trouble; an early releasee,9171,501041025-725179,00.html named Abdullah Mesud comes to mind.

What's interesting about this is that the Bush Administration is always torn between the rhetoric surrounding "keeping us safe by keeping the worst of the worst off the battlefield" and the fact that it is utterly incapable of doing so (and its kind of not publicizing that the Administration has already released nearly 2/3 of those consigned to GTMO, and to this day, has no real clue as to who it is holding (or who it has released) because it never really cared: it is far more concerned with the ability to acquire and abuse power than it is with the ability to use that power in any constructive way.)

Anonymous said...

Yes, Talking Dog, I agree – we don’t know what caused this individual to act this way.

My point would have been better made simply by raising the question rather than presuming the answer. And truthfully, I don’t presume to know what made this person do what he did. When it comes to domestic criminal law (a subject about which I know just enough to be dangerous), I am fairly certain our penal system creates more criminals than it converts from criminality to lawfulness; so I tend to apply the same sort of logic to the abusive treatment detainees have suffered at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Base and so forth. Perhaps that’s too facile an analogy.

I suppose my real point is this whole system is so inherently screwed up that it has created far more problems than it could ever avert. On that, I suspect we agree.

Excellent blog, by the way.


The Law Office of H. Candace Gorman said...

I don't know the answer either but I would suggest that this man who had been released and seemed to be living a normal life for more than three years probably was never treated for the psychological problems that no doubt developed from his previous three + years in US captivity. He probably snapped like many of our own soldiers do from the stress of war... by the way thousands of our own soldiers are not being treated too. There are many ticking time bombs out there and more torture is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree, Candace. Though not all the released detainees from Gitmo and Abu Ghraib ended up in Iraq, I note that the few mental health professionals who lived there before the war are now largely gone. Here’s a country that once had something like 25 million people, now has some 2 million internally displaced people, and has only a handful of psychiatrists and psychologists remaining to serve the entire nation. Not that there’s any, y’ know, PTSD in Iraq or anything …

And you touch on a subject that’s near and dear to me – the mental health crisis facing our returning soldiers and marines. It’s simply unacceptable, particularly when vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan commit suicide at a rate that is something like 4 times the rate for the population at large.

Is there any aspect of this fiasco the Bush administration hasn’t totally “effed up”?