The Pentagon has admitted wrongly holding a Guantánamo prisoner for 13 years in a case of mistaken identity.
It seems Mustafa al-Shamiri was not "al-Qaida" after all. Even so, he was deemed one of those hapless "low-level fighters" or "foot soldiers", as the Pentagon and its faithful media stenographers categorise men who, in previous wars, were classified as combatants entitled to consideration as prisoners of war.
No journalists ever ask why men are being "cleared" for release who were never properly classified for detention in the first place, i.e. at the time of their apprehension, by following the requirements of the Third Geneva Convention and the US Uniform Code of Military Justice.
After the adoption of the Geneva Conventions in 1949, and until the war in Afghanistan, the US never failed to extend prisoner of war status hearings to opposing soldiers, even the Viet Cong.
Before Afghanistan, the US never claimed that a country it was fighting had no government; indeed, in the years before 9/11, Taliban officials were welcomed and entertained in George Bush's home state, discussing pipelines and oil wells.
When the war broke out in Afghanistan, commanding General Tommy Franks began preparations for the treatment of prisoners of war and the conduct of the independent "Article 5" hearings required under GCIII and the UCMJ. He was stopped by the Bush Pentagon.
The first Guantánamo commandant, Brig. Gen. Rick Baccus, had signs put-up around the camp explaining the prisoners' rights under the Geneva Conventions and was planning for the provision of the amenities allowed to prisoners of war by GCIII. He was summarily replaced by a commander who accorded no Geneva Conventions rights - not even the basic rights of Common Article Three.
Still, no media proprietors inquired - in 2002 or afterwards - why prisoners from the Afghanistan war were different, why they were never recognised as soldiers of Afghanistan, why they were denied en masse their Article 5 hearings without which they were presumedto be prisoners of war.
In fact, the trial judge in the Hamidullin case (see previous post) did ruminate on the matter before deciding he could try the Taliban soldier Irek Hamidullin for opposing US soldiers in Afghanistan.
Hamidullin has now been sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years for essentially nothing. No Americans were harmed.
According to one news report, the judge found Hamidullin "wasn't a lawful combatant because the Taliban and its affiliated groups lack a clearly defined command structure and don't adhere to the laws and customs of war".
There is no such requirement, however, for government forces. Article 4 of GIII states:
A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:
(1) Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.