The Washington Post demands an irrelevancy on Guantanamo

The editors at The Washington Post are again demanding of President Obama that he close Guantanamo. (Alternative link here, if you do want to waste time reading what the Post’s editors have to say on the matter, but don’t want to waste one of your five free views per month.)

It’s the usual tripe about the “blight that Guantanamo placed on the country’s international reputation,” but Obama’s plan would have made everything better if only he hadn’t been thwarted by those nasty Republicans in Congress:

Obama’s contribution has been to find new homes for all but three or four of those cleared for release — some of whom have remained in Guantanamo years after they were judged to be eligible for transfer. Those who remain include 10 who were convicted or are being tried by the commissions, and two dozen who cannot be tried and are considered too dangerous to release.

Let’s note that last line again: “and two dozen who cannot be tried and are considered too dangerous to release.”

In other words, the editors at the Post do recognize that Obama was just moving Guantanamo — and not closing it. They fail to explain how “the country’s international reputation” could be saved by moving Guantanamo to a prison in the U.S.

Their next paragraph doubles down:

As importantly, Obama demonstrated that it is possible to wage war against international terrorist groups without resorting to Guantanamo; on his watch, suspects have been interrogated on ships or in other extraterritorial locations, but none have been sent to Guantanamo.

So, it’s fine to interrogate prisoners aboard ships or in Arab countries, and it’s fine to lock them up without a trial in supermax prisons. The Post is just dead-set against us doing these things in Guantanamo.

John Oliver whines about Guantanamo

I was wondering how I was going to respond to John Oliver’s ignorant Guantanamo diatribe. It’s longer than it should be, but I went through it, taking notes.

Frankly, I might not have watched this at all. But the first report I’ve seen on it mentioned an “innocent” detainee without naming him. I knew he wasn’t really innocent, of course, but my curiosity got the best of me. So, I watched it all.

Still, I thought there’s simply too much there, and too much wrong, for me to write a quick post. Fortunately, Mike Brown of Inverse selected a few key items to cry about, and I can focus on those. He started with the notable ex-Gitmo detainee:

Shaker Aamer read Harry Potter during his 13 years in Guantanamo Bay, where he was held without charge. The idea of Azkaban, a wizard prison where all the world’s happiness is sucked away by monsters, felt very similar to his situation. It’s a bleak description, but despite efforts to close the facility, Guantanamo has remained open and could soon get a whole lot worse. John Oliver gave a sharp reminder on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight episode that power over the facility may soon transfer to Donald Trump.

There are several points of contention right here in this paragraph.

Let’s start with the “held without charge” nonsense. I covered that deception before. In a nutshell, it wasn’t a crime for a non-American to fight for the Taliban or Al Qaeda. We locked up thousands of German soldiers in WWII even though it wasn’t a crime for them to be members of the German army. That’s the way things work in wars. That’s why the Supreme Court says Guantanamo is legal.

So, any time someone says a Gitmo detainee is “held without charge” or “never charged with a crime,” you should know you’re being tossed an irrelevancy.

Much of Brown’s article repeats Oliver’s confusion over this, referring to detainees “who the U.S. believes have committed crimes, but there is not enough evidence to bring them to trial.” Well, not exactly. That’s only technically true in a few cases, and not relevant because it’s not the reason we’re holding them. (The above linked blog post goes into this further.) The fact is, if it was really only a matter of crimes and trials, the Supreme Court would probably have closed Guantanamo a decade ago.

On Shaker Aamer’s “13 years in Guantanamo Bay”: There are three things wrong here. First, he had a tribunal, annual reviews, and then a habeas review by a federal judge. It was legal to hold him. Second, he had been approved for conditional release years ago. The critics will often repeat this part, pretending they don’t understand this, as if it was an evil glitch in the bureaucracy. And to be fair, most of the critics are simply ignorant on this matter, having been deliberately kept so by the upper tier of the far left. Oliver and Brown had been misled, just like everyone else.

Third: The reason he wasn’t released is because he didn’t want to go home. You see, “home” for Shaker Aamer wasn’t in England. He was only approved for release to his real home, Saudi Arabia, and their jihadi rehabilitation program. (Here’s a clue, folks: Shaker Aamer doesn’t want to be rehabilitated!) And unlike the John Olivers of this world, the Saudis weren’t stupid enough to fall for this stuff. They wanted him back. It may not seem like it sometimes but al Qaeda is an enemy of the Saudi government. I would have preferred Guantanamo, too.

Then there’s “the idea of Azkaban.” This is also plainly stupid, although it is clever the way Aamer plays lefties like the violin. I can imagine him laughing at them after he leaves the interview. An actual feeling of hopelessness would require Gitmo detainees being held unjustly. I already said they’re being held legally. It would only be unjust if the detainees really opposed al Qaeda and their jihad. Shaker Aamer does not.

He opposes ISIS, of course. They’ll all say that, and a lot of these reporters will lap it up. But it’s another irrelevancy. ISIS is an enemy of Al Qaeda. It means nothing for Gitmo detainees to say they oppose it.

Aamer will go a step further. He’ll say he opposes attacks in the U.K., and on civilians in general. Attacks on American or British forces overseas are another matter. He won’t say he opposes those, and the reporters aren’t going to ask him.

Oliver and Brown talk about “the beliefs the country was founded on” and “standing up for our highest ideals, even when it requires accepting a certain amount of risk.” They seem utterly clueless that the men who founded this country designed the system exactly this way: to hold enemy combatants until the end of a war. The media may not be aware of this, but the Supreme Court is.

And yes, I know, somebody’s going to whine about POW status. Don’t. That’s only for enemy combatants who qualify. The men who designed that system did so with the understanding that not every prisoner qualified.

That leaves the “sharp reminder” that Trump may (if we’re lucky) get the keys to Guantanamo next January, as if there’s some threat in that. I’ll have to leave that for another time. John Oliver is truly clueless.

Jihadi lawyers’ are a pro-bono firm of 2016

It’s alternatively funny and sick to see jihadi defenders acting like they care about human rights.

Now the website Law360.com is giving pro-bono firm of the year recognition to Covington & Burling, one of the bigger firms in the Guantanamo Bar. They specifically mention Guantanamo as one of their causes.

It was bad enough when they were whining that wartime detainees needed habeas corpus rights. The Supreme Court shouldn’t have given it to them, but they did. The court said Guantanamo was close enough, in a legal sense, to where they could have it — whereas they wouldn’t have had it if we still kept them in Afghanistan. Okay, they got it.

But that was years ago. Every detainee there now has had their habeas hearing. There is no question that they are being legally held even by some pretty generous standards. What are the lawyers doing that merits taking time away from other cases, including perhaps some truly worthy pro bono cases? What are they doing that merits such an award?

No, I don’t buy that these parole-style hearings are awardable work. Those are about trying to show that these detainees might not be too dangerous, after all this time. It’s not the same as making legal arguments.

It’s a popularity contest. The real shame is thinking that this sort of thing could make anyone popular, but such is the morality of lawyers.

If you want another reason to vote Trump, remember that Hillary Clinton will keep putting lawyers like this in charge of our Justice Department.

More anti-Trump nonsense on Gitmo

I came across this piece by Sean Colarossi, of PoliticsUSA.com, whining about how Donald Trump may want to try American citizens in Guantanamo.

What Trump is saying, Colarossi reminds us, isn’t legal. That’s technically true. The military commissions (trials for terrorists) are not for U.S. citizens — even if they’re jihadis caught fighting overseas.

The writer seems to be thinking that this is a violation of some ancient principle. It’s not. He may have forgotten that these military commissions were set up by Congress only ten years ago. They’re not for American citizens because they designed it that way at the time.

It’s as though Trump’s critics keep looking for things they can point to as stupid, ignorant and unconstitutional. This is none of those things.

The military commissions were originally set up by the Bush administration. They used the post-WWII Nuremberg trials as a model. What could be wrong with that? Most people would think that’s fine. Even lefties like to say they’d have been tough on Nazis. (I could argue that depends, but that’s an argument for another time.)

The Supreme Court decided (Hamdan v Rumsfeld, 2006) that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies, and that meant they could only be tried in “a regularly constituted court.” The Court further decided that meant it needed to be set up by Congress. Note that this was the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which came after the Nuremberg trials.

But most of that was just details to the left. Of what I’d just written in that last paragraph, the lefties mostly just heard that the military commissions were illegal, and had violated the Geneva Conventions. The lefties didn’t seem to understand that all the Bush administration needed to do was ask Congress to pass a law authorizing the trials, which is what happened.

And that’s basically where Trump would be if he decided it was important to try jihadis who were U.S. citizens in Guantanamo military commissions. He would have to ask Congress to pass a law similar to the one they passed before, with one minor change. Would Congress do it? They will if it becomes important.


August 15, 2016

A number of critics point out that it would violate the Bill of Rights to try U.S. citizens in a military commission. The Sixth Amendment says:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

Elura Nanos at LawNewz.com writes: “In Ex Parte Milligan, an 1866 case that is still good law today, the Supreme Court specifically held that trying civilian citizens in military courts is unconstitutional when civilian courts are still operating.”

Nanos raises some good points, but neglects to mention Ex Parte Quirin (1942), where eight German saboteurs were convicted in a military commission. Two of those Germans were legally U.S. citizens, and yet the Supreme Court ruled that the military commission was legal under the Constitution, despite their citizenship.

While people can argue with the differences between WWII’s Quirin and the Civil War’s Milligan cases, I’m just going to leave it at this. Trump isn’t really likely to want to do this anyway unless the war takes a hard turn for the worse.

There is no Guantánamo Bay

That’s right. In English, the name is “Guantanamo Bay.” There is no accent in the English spelling.

It’s not “Guantánamo Bay” in Spanish either. They call it “Bahía de Guantánamo.”

But we’re usually not even talking about Guantanamo Bay itself. Most of the time, we’re talking about Guantanamo Bay Naval Base or the detention center. Being American facilities, neither of them have accents in their names.

Do we do this for Deutschland or München? No, we call those Germany and Munich. We do this even though just about anybody dealing with Germany knows that they call it Deutschland.

Admittedly, this is a small thing. But I have to admit I find it funny.

Let’s be honest about what’s going on here.

First, most Americans are monolingual. Using an accented character allows people to feel pretendo multilingüismo. It’s like saying “internationale” when you really just mean “international.” (Yes, people actually do that.)

And second, let’s face it: Guantanamo is a hot-button issue that progressives like to claim they care about. Calling it by a half-Spanish name must appeal to their “¡No pasarán!” spirit of Résistance.

This is the kind of stuff you get when people learn Orwell from Stalinists.

How I would close Guantanamo

Camp_xray_2007
Camp X-Ray in 2007, five years after it closed.

My plan for closing Guantanamo would be rather different than President Obama’s.

I would first restrict the detainees’ access to news, and then stop their lawyer visits.

Then I’d feed them fake news. Make it look like Hillary wins the election, and that Al Qaeda is winning the war on terror. Make them think the war is ending, and Al Qaeda is victorious. Give them better food, and more benefits, as we’re ostensibly remorseful.

Tell them they’ll all be leaving soon, now that the war is ending. Promise each of them millions of dollars in reparations upon their return to the new Caliphate.

Our guards will need to audition so that they can act suitably humble.

Park a 747 at the airfield with a black-and-white color scheme suitable for an Al Qaeda airline. They’re going home in style. Some would surely have tears in their eyes. This is everything they dreamed of.

Finally, tell them the truth. Guantanamo is not closing. They’re not going home. Maybe, if we’re lucky, President Trump can deliver this news personally. Take away all the new benefits we gave them. Make Guantanamo worse than ever before.

Like Trump, I see no reason to close Guantanamo. The war’s not over yet.

The critics can whine all they want, but my idea isn’t really all that much worse than telling people you’re going to “close Guantanamo” when you’re really only planning to move it to a prison in the U.S. — the Obama plan.

It’s a pity they don’t do stuff like this in real life. Not precisely, anyway.


I am aware of one trick they did, reported in the file of detainee Jamal Al-Harith (ISN 490):

[D]uring a recent PSYOP/JDOG experiment in Camp Delta called “Dining Out” (where ethnic food was prepared for a select group of detainees), the detainee was noticed calling out to other detainees in other blocks that the food tasted just like that from a restaurant in Jedda, Saudi Arabia. According to the detainee’s story, he has never been to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Harith was released to the U.K. in 2004. He told stories of being served old food and dirty water — and the beatings. The human rights movement repeated those stories without a hint of skepticism. The British government gave him one million pounds for all his trouble.

The money must have run out. His last reported location was in Syria, where he now resides as a member of ISIS.

Never charged with a crime

Note: This could be a post I’ll be referencing in the future — not just a thought for the day. I could be making changes periodically. Apologies in advance for the length.  [shortcut: http://wp.me/p71dva-7V ]

A guest of Bill Maher recently complained of Guantanamo, “people have not been charged, or tried, and what happened to rule of law? That’s the whole principle of the Constitution.”

She apparently has been lied to, and it’s about time we clear this up. We see a lot of articles about Guantanamo detainees being “released without charge” or “never charged with a crime.” They want us to believe we’d have convicted them if they weren’t innocent.

The short answer is: The founding fathers knew charges and trials are for crimes. This is a war.

That’s not a flippant answer either. Where the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution says, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless…,” — right there you can see they are obviously talking about crimes. They were very careful about the words they used (much like the way they outlawed torture but only as punishment).

Then in the Sixth Amendment, it begins, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial…” Again, they were very specific that this was about crimes.

People have gotten the mistaken idea that one can either be a civilian entitled to due process, or a prisoner of war entitled to the rights and privileges of the Geneva Conventions, but nothing else. Well, that’s not true. We have often held people without trial during wartime without POW status — and in peacetime as well.

Continue reading “Never charged with a crime”

Colin Powell never thought terrorists should get POW status

I’ve written before about Trump following the law. There’s never been any doubt in my mind. And, as we’ve seen, the U.S. military would not follow an illegal order.

Rosa Brooks thinks they would. She’s a former Pentagon official under the Obama administration with a full assortment of left-wing credentials before that.

Among other things, Brooks uses as her rationale that we didn’t give full rights to our detainees. She writes:

Think back to the first few years after the 9/11 attacks. The Pentagon initially planned to treat Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners in accordance with the rules laid out in the Geneva Conventions, but the White House considered this inconvenient. (Under those rules, prisoners can’t be detained secretly and with no review process, and they most definitely can’t be waterboarded.) So the White House found some unusually compliant Justice Department lawyers, and by January 2002, the department’s office of legal counsel was instructing the Defense Department that Geneva Convention protections did not apply to Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters.

Colin Powell, the George W. Bush administration’s secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, objected immediately, as did several top active-duty military officials. The Justice Department’s position would “reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva conventions,” Powell argued, making the United States “vulnerable to domestic and international legal challenges” and creating a risk of criminal prosecution for American officials and troops.

Well, those were Colin Powell’s words, but he wasn’t talking about giving the detainees Prisoner Of War status. Or much of anything beyond what they received at Guantanamo.

As I explained in my book, This is War! Quit Sniveling, it’s true that Powell wanted the U.S. to apply the full Geneva Conventions to the War on Terror. But he never believed that terrorists should then be entitled to POW status. He doubted that any of them would qualify for it.

On that review process she talks about, Powell only concedes that “some” Taliban soldiers “might” be entitled to that. Most weren’t even entitled to that review. None of the al Qaeda detainees were.

Powell then said, “This would not, however, affect their treatment as a practical matter.” And ultimately, it didn’t for the Taliban. Of the Taliban detainees that Powell is talking about, Bush had already determined they would get Common Article 3 status anyway. It’s the al Qaeda detainees that didn’t get it until later.

Colin Powell’s January 26, 2002 memo has been added to the latest edition of my book. It’s also in my documents page here.

Rosa Brooks is a lawyer with a history of working for left-wing activist groups, George Soros’s Open Society Institute among others. Expect more like her in the Pentagon if Hillary Clinton is elected.

No new rights at the proposed Guantanamo North

We knew this, of course.

But Paul Lewis, the Obama administration’s man for moving Guantanamo, was working to sell the plan to the activists at Human Rights First. He’s trying his best to say that it’s not really “Guantanamo North” because the detainees will somehow have it better at the new, colder prison.

Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg has been tweeting the event, where Lewis makes the pitch:

He needed to be corrected in the next tweet:

In other words, it will be “Guantanamo North.”

Guantanamo orange is the new black

One of the reasons we’re supposed to move Guantanamo is because they say it’s a “recruitment tool” for terrorists.

No less an icon of truth than Politifact says that it’s not true. Yes, they do use it a bit, but it’s not a big sell. The jihadis’ victories are their real recruiting tool.

But you already knew that.

I’d really like to point to a festering boil of a wrong view, and now Eli Lake is repeating it. When brushing off the notion of Gitmo being a recruiting tool, he throws a small bone in that direction with this:

When James Foley was beheaded in 2014, he was wearing an orange jumpsuit, the same color as the jumpsuits worn by early Guantanamo detainees.

But I don’t see it that way at all. ISIS is not poking fun at how we supposedly treat prisoners.

When ISIS puts those jumpsuits on their prisoners, it’s more than a mockery of Guantanamo. They’re claiming to be a state. They want to appear equal to the United States. Those jumpsuits are a cheap and easy way to do that.

Had there had been no Guantanamo agit-prop, but simple news stories and pictures without the stories of scandal, ISIS would still be dressing up their prisoners the same way. It wouldn’t matter how many prisoners we took, and what conditions they were put in. What mattered is what it looked like.