Europe Guantanamo Help Slow Coming

The title of my essay “EU Agrees to Take Non-Dangerous Gitmo Prisoners. Maybe. Some Day.” is deservedly snarky. The substance, though, is this:

These objections illustrate the complexity of the situation. While there is almost universal agreement that locking up accused terrorists indefinitely without due process is unacceptable, it’s also the case that no democratic leader wants the responsibility of housing potential terrorists in their own country. Further, given the dubious nature of the human intelligence available, ascertaining whether a given prisoner is really a member of al Qaeda or otherwise dangerous is incredibly difficult. To say nothing of the fact that, even if a given prisoner was not a likely candidate for terrorist activity when captured, several years of being locked up by Americans and treated as a terrorist may have changed their attitude.

The bottom line, though, is that we’re likely not going to get much help getting out of the mess we’re in.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Terrorism, World Politics, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Rick Almeida says:

    “The bottom line, though, is that we’re likely not going to get much help getting out of the mess we’re in.”

    Well, we didn’t want help getting into it, so I’m hard-pressed to see this as unreasonable.




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  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Our European allies remind me of a line from the movie Cat Ballou:

    We’ll stay and do what we can.
    As long as there ain’t no trouble.

    I think that people complaining about prisoners being held in Guantanamo indefinitely but being unwilling to accept them themselves unless they can be certified as not dangerous is a problem. The prisoners aren’t being kept there for the fun of it. As best as I can tell they’re being kept there because nobody knows what else to do with them.




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  3. markm says:

    I thought Murtha had help coming from Pennsylvania??????….I do like the idea being floated to put them in Pelosi’s back yard…Alcatraz would be a good idea, though, oddly she doesn’t think so.




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  4. Drew says:

    “… even if a given prisoner was not a likely candidate for terrorist activity when captured, several years of being locked up by Americans and treated as a terrorist may have changed their attitude.”

    I don’t know about that. For example, I’m not aware that persons erroneously convicted for rape become rapists, or seek physical vengeance, if released.

    But your essential thrust seems right on, and why I have always looked dimly upon Bush’s Gitmo critics as pure political opportunists, shamelessly using an issue that should be above it.

    In the absence of a Gitmo one wonders how long it would have taken for complaints of “failing to connect the dots” to be heard had something happened. In seconds, I’m thinking a non-whole number between zero and one.




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  5. Ugh says:

    As best as I can tell they’re being kept there because nobody knows what else to do with them.

    Uh, we could, you know, let them go, which is what we usually do when we grab people and don’t have enough evidence to keep them incarcerated. We usually don’t waive our hands and say, “gosh, we’ve grabbed a 150 people, some of whom are dangerous, some of whom might be dangerous, and some of whom are not dangerous at all, but we don’t know who’s who due to our own incompetence, so we’re just going to keep them all locked up forever because we’re a bunch of cowards.”




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  6. tom p says:

    “… even if a given prisoner was not a likely candidate for terrorist activity when captured, several years of being locked up by Americans and treated as a terrorist may have changed their attitude.”

    I don’t know about that. For example, I’m not aware that persons erroneously convicted for rape become rapists, or seek physical vengeance, if released.

    Drew, I have to point out a couple of things, first off, Rape is a crime of pathological origins, I could not rape a woman no matter what was done to me. But I could be angry enuf to do other things… Which leads to your 2nd point: We have grown up within a system of law. We beleive in it. It breaks down from time to time but in the end we beleive that “the truth comes out.” It may be a misplaced faith, but we believe in it. The Gitmo detainees have not. They have come to believe that anyone can be locked up for any reason at all, or no reason at all, because that is the system they have been raised in. Gitmo only confirms that point of veiw and puts the “lie” to the ideal that is America.

    But your essential thrust seems right on, and why I have always looked dimly upon Bush’s Gitmo critics as pure political opportunists, shamelessly using an issue that should be above it.

    I was never a “political opportunist”… just a guy who thought the constitution (and the ideals contained there-in) were a little more important (“above” if you like) than the fear mongering of the unknown dangers from “innocent” gitmo detainees.

    In the absence of a Gitmo one wonders how long it would have taken for complaints of “failing to connect the dots” to be heard had something happened.

    As one who is not privy to all the dots… I have heard enuf “dots” to know that we are now spending more time chasing down phantom “dots” then we are chasing down actual “dots”…

    As to “innocent” detainees… Here’s a thought: Maybe we can let them go with a public apology and a stipend of, say, $5,000 per year ($5K goes a long way in Yemen)(hell, make it $10K, it is still a bargain compared to the cost of keeping them in Gitmo forever) I suspect most will go along with the deal. As to those who renege on the deal? Well, we cut off the money, AND they have a price on their head. Perfect? No. Will some turn against us anyway? Sure. But we have admitted our mistakes, tried to make them right, and besides…

    How much damage can a hundred Salim Hamdan’s do to us? And I feel the need to point out that the prosecution of Hamdan is equivolent (not perfectly) to prosecuting Bernie Madoff’s chauffer. The man needed a job. He got one. was his boss perfect? No. Neither was Bernie Madoff. But I have yet to hear a cry to “hang him from the highest tree.”




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  7. Dave Schuler says:

    Uh, we could, you know, let them go, which is what we usually do when we grab people and don’t have enough evidence to keep them incarcerated.

    If it had been left up to me, I’d have handled things differently than the Bush Administration did. I’ve been criticizing what they did since 2002.

    However, I don’t think it’s as simple as you’re suggesting. While I don’t have all of the details of each and every case, in some cases they’re reluctant to send them to their home countries because they believe that if they do so they’ll be executed.

    In some cases while they don’t have enough evidence to convict them in a U. S. criminal court they’ve got enough to know that they’re terrorists and are likely to go right back to work if released. Is that the right thing to do?

    Remember that these are either prisoners of war or illegal combatants. U. S. criminal law doesn’t apply to either.




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