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Friday, November 21, 2008

Shutting Down Gitmo

While the most visible military action is in Afghanistan, America is acting elsewhere. We now have troops in the Philippines, helping to train that country's armed forces to go after terrorist cells that have executed an American, and still hold hostages. Our soldiers, working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorists who were plotting to bomb our embassy. Our Navy is patrolling the coast of Africa to block the shipment of weapons and the establishment of terrorist camps in Somalia.
-George W. Bush, 2002 State of the Union address

Yeah, about those terrorists in Bosnia -- Bush's case against them was just thrown out of court. Judge Richard J. Leon of the Federal District Court in Washington has said the government's evidence was too weak to hold the five Algerians. Six years after Bush bragged about arresting them, they were ordered released from the concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay. The case against them rested entirely on "a classified document from an unnamed source," the judge said. "To rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this court’s obligation."

This was the first legal test of the evidence against the men and the case against all of them gets thrown out. This is the kind of evidence we've been relying on to justify throwing people in a hole for years -- evidence so thin it practically gets laughed out of court. Meanwhile, the five men have lost six years of their lives to our tropical prison camp.

Far from making us safer, Guantánamo is actually losing cases. People leave there with a deep hatred for the American government. Think about it, if you were snatched out of your bed, flown halfway around the world, locked into a prison camp, abused, tortured, and then sent home, wouldn't you give very serious thought to becoming a terrorist? Slap any other name than the United States of America on that country and wouldn't you see a moral justification in bringing that nation down? That's what the prison at Guantánamo Bay is doing for us. And that's all it's doing for us.

Remember how the neocons defended torture? Remember how we absolutely had to use "harsh interrogation techniques" or terrorists were going to get away with everything and we were all going to die? Remember that?

It turns out that by using "harsh interrogation techniques," we're letting terrorist get away with everything.

American Civil Liberties Union:

Less than a month after throwing out an alleged confession obtained through torture, a judge late Wednesday rejected more evidence gathered through coercive interrogations in the military commission case against Afghan national Mohammed Jawad. Army judge Col. Stephen Henley held that evidence collected while Jawad was in U.S. custody cannot be admitted in his trial. Previously, the government had told the judge that Jawad's alleged confessions were the centerpiece of its case against him.

"For the second time in less than a month, the judge has thrown out evidence at the heart of the government's case against Mr. Jawad because it was obtained through torture. All of Mr. Jawad's alleged confessions have now been suppressed and the government is left with no case," said Hina Shamsi, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "If the government continues to prosecute this case, it will only provide further evidence that the military commissions system is a sham aimed at obtaining convictions regardless of the facts or the law."

If you're one of those people who just can't get it through their heads that torture is not only wrong, but literally evil, then consider this -- it's screwing up our case against the people we're torturing. Innocent or guilty, torture has made it a damned good bet that Jawad's case will go in Jawad's favor. Maybe we're lucky with Jawad, maybe he really is innocent (like that better, torturing an innocent man?), but we can't be this lucky forever. Relying on evidence obtained through abuse guarantees -- with nearly 100% certainty -- that a guilty terrorist is going to be dealt a Get Out of Jail Free card.

Torture is not making us safer. It's nearly inarguably putting us at risk. Those are the facts and the facts don't care whether or not you like them. Guantánamo isn't making us any safer either, since the innocent people in there are just learning to hate the US. It turns out that -- just as all we pansy-assed, weepy liberals said all along -- there's nothing about any of this that qualifies as a good idea. The hard-headed neocon realists turn out to be blockheaded neocon dreamers; Guantánamo has failed.

There's a way to correct this amazing, astounding, astonishing failure. Get Obama to close Gitmo. Not eventually, but immediately. The longer it holds prisoners, the longer it causes us problems in the long run. The ACLU has an online petition to urge Obama to do just that.

Dear President-Elect Obama,

I was deeply moved by your recent affirmation that you will close the Guantánamo detention facilities and shut down the military commissions, which have been a stain on America here, at home and abroad.

Nothing would make me prouder than to see you act on your first day in office to restore America's moral leadership in the world.

With one stroke of your pen, you can close Guantánamo Bay prison, shut down military commissions, and ban torture.

If this strikes you as somewhat unrealistic to expect Gitmo to shut down day one, it probably is. But in politics, it's always a good idea to ask for more than you expect to get. That way, you have something to compromise down to. Gitmo is going to be closed, we just have to keep that closure a top priority. Go sign the petition and help bump this up on the radar a little bit.

If something's not working, then there's no reason to waste any time in stopping it.