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Wilkerson: Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld Knew About Innocent Detainees At Gitmo

Via Radley Balko, it appears that former Powell aide Colonel Lawrence Wilkinson has singed what I assume to be a sworn affidavit to the effect that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were aware that innocent people had been detained at Guantanamo Bay and tried to cover it up.

The accusations were made by Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to Colin Powell, the former Republican Secretary of State, in a signed declaration to support a lawsuit filed by a Guantánamo detainee. It is the first time that such allegations have been made by a senior member of the Bush Administration.

Colonel Wilkerson, who was General Powell’s chief of staff when he ran the State Department, was most critical of Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld. He claimed that the former Vice-President and Defence Secretary knew that the majority of the initial 742 detainees sent to Guantánamo in 2002 were innocent but believed that it was “politically impossible to release them”.

General Powell, who left the Bush Administration in 2005, angry about the misinformation that he unwittingly gave the world when he made the case for the invasion of Iraq at the UN, is understood to have backed Colonel Wilkerson’s declaration.

Colonel Wilkerson, a long-time critic of the Bush Administration’s approach to counter-terrorism and the war in Iraq, claimed that the majority of detainees — children as young as 12 and men as old as 93, he said — never saw a US soldier when they were captured. He said that many were turned over by Afghans and Pakistanis for up to $5,000. Little or no evidence was produced as to why they had been taken.

I already knew that most of the Guantanamo detainees were not captured on the battlefield and largely detained on the basis of bounties paid rather than evidence, but if Colonel Wilkerson’s allegations are true, and the Administration avoided releasing innocent people from prison for fear of political fallout, then that is simply monstrous. Maybe I was naive to think that the Administration was merely incompetent and foolhardy when it came to setting up Guantanamo–they did, after all, eventually release several hundred prisoners, so I gave them some benefit of the doubt.

Sadly, the Obama Administration isn’t much better in this respect. Replacing Gitmo with Bagram and starting a program of assassinating U.S. citizens based on secret evidence is hardly an improvement.

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About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp writes about pretty much everything under the sun, including politics, art, religion, philosophy, sports, music, culture, and science.

Comments

  1. Steve Plunk says:

    Yawn.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  2. john personna says:

    I don’t want to let Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld (and Steve’s response just makes me feel ill), but … one thing that came to mind during Iraq II, is that it is just bad luck to be a average person in the path of history.

    I guess it’s sad that our path through Iraq was for those guys, just some random invader, stocking prisons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. john personna says:

    meant to say “let … off the hook”

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  4. Nothing more yawn-worthy than holding innocent people in prison.

    After all, they weren’t Americans, so who cares, right?

    Indeed, if I remember properly, they couldn’t have been innocent seeing as how only the worst of the worst were ever imprisoned at Club Gitmo, which is really more of an island resort than a prisoner anyway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. PD Shaw says:

    Prof. Taylor, there were hundreds of thousands of Americans detained during the Civil War for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, being accused by a liar, etc. Military detention is an incident of war in which innocence has really nothing to do with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  6. Stan says:

    Steve Plunk, what you’re condoning is the same kind of attitude that kept Dreyfus on Devil’s Island long after the high command of the French army knew he was innocent. Here’s Colonel Picquart’s summary of his conversation with General Gonse after Picquart’s investigation of the relevant documents:

    Gonse: “What can it matter to you whether this Jew remains at Devil’s Island or not?”
    Picquart: “But he is innocent.”
    Gonse: “That is an affair that can not be reopened; General Mercier and General Saussier are involved in it.”
    Picquart: “Still, what would be our position if the family ever found out the real culprit?”
    Gonse: “If you say nothing, nobody will ever know it.”
    Picquart: “What you have just said is abominable, General. I do not know yet what course I shall take, but in any case I will not carry this secret with me to the grave.”

    Picquart was a conservative and more than a little antisemitic. Yet he was honest. Do you really think he was wrong?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. PD:

    Indeed, initial detention may very much have everything to do with wrong place, wrong time. However, there is a difference between that unfortunate scenario and a policy of holding persons for indefinite periods sans a process of determining guilt and especially of, as the post charges, knowingly holding the innocent because it would be politically problematic to release them.

    Indeed, we already knew that this was done, as the case of Uighurs showed: they were declared not to be combatants, but held for some time afterward because no place to release them could be found and it was considered politically nonviable to release them in US.

    Further, the Bush administration assured us, repeatedly, that only the worst were being held at Guantanamo.

    And really, your example doesn’t seem to be any kind of defense for the Bush administration’s actions–rather you seem to be saying “thems the breaks” or am I misunderstanding your point? It seems to me that in a democracy, especially one that claims to use its military might virtuously, that we should hold leaders accountable for their actions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. UlyssesUnbound says:

    Sadly this didn’t strike me as surprising. Lack of attempts to bring accountability to this, let alone prosecutions, will be just as unsurprising.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. Steve Plunk says:

    How many of these “innocent” detainees are still there? I’m not condoning anything but I do understand the term “fog of war”. Things get crazy in war time.

    Innocents should be released but sometimes it takes a while to get things right. In the meantime they were fed, housed and treated better than they would have been in their own country.

    Once again, yawn.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  10. PD Shaw says:

    Prof. Taylor, I simply think “innocence” has no relevance here. It’s not because I think the person is guilty or evil either. During war people are detained in furtherance of military objectives; they should be released when that military objective would no longer be at risk from that individual’s freedom.

    The Uyghurs weren’t determined to be non-combatants, they admitted to training with the Taliban/al-Qaeda at Tora Bora. They were later determined, after the situation in Afghanistan had changed and an opportunity had been given to evaluate their purported motives for being in Afghanistan, to be “no longer enemy combatants.” There was no longer military necessity to detain them, so long as they could be placed safely.

    The “innocence” framework assumes a status must exist that justifies indefinite detention, which in this case might resemble a life sentence. The detention as a tool of war framework is kinetic. The first is not necessarily better from the detainees perspective.

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  11. john personna says:

    In the meantime they were fed, housed and treated better than they would have been in their own country.

    Oh yeah, body cavity searches by marines, and living in a chain link cage, so much better than being home, with family.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. tom p says:

    In the meantime they were fed, housed and treated better than they would have been in their own country.

    You do know Steve, that people have died at GITMO? Even the Pentagon says they would rather be dead than live their forever.

    Yawn.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. anjin-san says:

    Yawn.

    Gotta love the right. This is how they react when core American values are flushed down the toilet.

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  14. Bill H says:

    The longer Col. Wilkerson tells his story the more dramatic that story becomes, which is the mark of somebody that is making stuff up. When he first spoke out he didn’t know how much the executives knew, now he does. All of this stuff may be true, but Wilkerson is a self serving, publicity seeking liar.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  15. anjin-san says:

    All of this stuff may be true, but Wilkerson is a self serving, publicity seeking liar.

    Do you have any actual proof that he is a liar? If not, it seems like you are just, you know, making stuff up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  16. Franklin says:

    Colonel Lawrence Wilkinson has singed what I assume to be a sworn affidavit

    I’d actually love to hear someone sing an affidavit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. Eric Florack says:

    Yawn is right.

    but if Colonel Wilkerson’s allegations are true,

    (Doubtful)

    and the Administration avoided releasing innocent people from prison for fear of political fallout, then that is simply monstrous.

    I wonder if Scooter Libby would have anything to say on that.

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