Guantanamo Detainees Commit Suicide

Three Gitmo detainees have committed suicide.

Three detainees at the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have died in what appears to have been a suicide pact.

The inmates, two Saudis and a Yemeni, hanged themselves in their cells.

The camp commander said the deaths – the first at the camp – were planned in “an act of warfare”. Rights groups said they were driven by despair.

I don’t know what to tell you about these suicides. It could simply be good riddance to bad rubbish. It could be the sad deaths of three men driven to despair by a hopeless situation. But that’s the problem: I don’t know. I don’t know if these were truly bad and dangrous men, some low-level terrorist peons, or three poor guys who got picked up in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is, of course, the entire problem with the Gitmo camps in the first place: we have no way of knowing if the people there are dangerous or not, and we have no timetable whatsoever for their release. To be fair, a lot of the original detainees have been released. But the system for such releases seems, at least from press accounts, to be haphazard and arbitary–which hardly inspires confidence. After all, it doesn’t do much good to release the guilty along with the innocent.

Gitmo has been a black mark against the Bush Administraition since Day One, and there’s no question in my mind that its existence is a huge detriment to our fight against Islamist terrorism. It undermines America’s reputation as a respecter of human rights and dignity, which exposes our troops to danger because it makes our enemies less likely to surrender. It also exposes them to danger because it makes our allies less likely to work with us–especially since we’ve had citizens of those same allies held without trial there. The list goes on.

It’s high time we had hearings for the people held there and shut the whole place down once their dispositions are determined.

UPDATE (James Joyner): It’s worth noting, too, that Alex’ position coincides with that of a specific ruling in this case issued by the United States Supreme Court two years ago: RASUL et al. v. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, et al. (June 28, 2004).

See also: Supreme Court Backs Civil Liberties in Terror Cases (WaPo)

FILED UNDER: National Security, Terrorism, , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Steve Verdon says:

    Buckle up Alex, you are going to in for a ride with the comments.

  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I think they should release them to your custody. These men were captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, by our military. What is it about that you fail to understand? I suppose you think our government would hold these men for no reason. If you do, you need to be re-educated. The one you got, failed you.

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    These men were captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, by our military.

    And yet, that same military has released some of them after making the determination that they were not combatants, terrorists, and members of the Taliban. Strange.

    I suppose you think our government would hold these men for no reason.

    I’ve no doubt the government thinks they’re holding them for good reason. But even President Bush himself has stated that they need to be brought to trial. (Of course, I’m not exactly sure what’s stopping him from doing so.)

    If you do, you need to be re-educated.

    So that I unquestioningly support the government no matter what they do? I’ll pass, thanks.

  4. Allan says:

    Are you seriously suggesting releasing committed jihadis?

    These guys aren’t stray wolves that we can attach a radio collar to their necks and keep an eye on.

    From a PR perspective, you make some good points. Perhaps the Gitmo guys could be transferred to a massive facility at Bagram. Since Afghanistan no longer exists in the minds of the media, the problem would be solved.

    But giving these guys a hearing and releasing them if we don’t have legal evidence is just crazy.

    There is a war on.

  5. Herb says:

    Every prisoner at GITMO should be issued a section of rope in hope they would use it like the three did a few days ago.

    Mr. Knapp:

    When it comes to terrorist, you have the solom duty as an American, to support the government “whatever they do”. Not to do so would be an indication that you have a loyalty problem and would in essence support terrorism and the 9/11 hijackers that, in case you forgot, killed 3000 innocent Americans.

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Allan,

    I agree that it’s a touchy situation, and obviously I wouldn’t want to let the jihadists go. But the problem is, without evidence, how do you know someone’s a jihadist? That’s my problem.

    Herb:

    Should I support the government when I think that they’re actions are actively aiding and abetting the cause of our enemies? Because I’m convinced that Gitmo does.

  7. Ringo says:

    But the problem is, without evidence, how do you know someone�s a jihadist? That�s my problem.

    Listen, Bush says that they are jihadists. He is the decider. If you happen to question Bush’s interpretation, then you are aiding the evildoers and are HURTING OUR TROOPS.

    Please ignore the fact that Bush has let nearly 200 “committed jihadists” who were held at Gitmo go free. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing.

  8. Herb says:

    Mr. Knapp:

    If you think for one minute that keeping the terrorists in GITMO “aids and abets the terrorist cause”, then an old saying my dad always used applies to you.

    “That’s your rear end talking, because you mouth knows better”

    And setting them free would cause the terrorist to “cease their terrorist activities”, com,on now, you know better than that. I hope.

  9. When it comes to terrorist, you have the solom duty as an American, to support the government â??whatever they doâ??.

    This has got to be the most insane comment I’ve ever read.

  10. Herb says:

    Michael Dumbons:

    While the statement mys be insane to you, your comment is just as insane to me. I can only assume that you “do not support our government in its anti terrorist activities and programs”. That means that you are part of the terrorist problem by not supporting those who have the job of keeping your rear end safe from those who want to kill you. Now, that is insanity as well as stupid.

  11. But the system for such releases seems, at least from press accounts, to be haphazard and arbitaryâ??which hardly inspires confidence.

    Yes, well, press accounts hardly inspire confidence either. Why is it that in the absence of information so many are always willing to assume the worst, but only, of course, if motives can be impugned along the way. The various so-called “human right’s” groups knee-jerk responses are as lamentable as they are predictable. Nevertheless, your statement that:

    we have no way of knowing if the people there are dangerous or not

    is a little too broad. Just because you and the press don’t know whether these people are dangerous doesn’t mean that the military doesn’t. Unsurprisingly, keeping the good people at NPR and AP fully briefed on everything they know isn’t their highest priority.

    I’m all for human rights, but perhaps we have a slightly different definition of what they are or which ones are more important. I’m not ready to throw in the towel because we cannot meet some utopian ideal that you or others may hold.

  12. Alex Knapp says:

    Just because you and the press donâ??t know whether these people are dangerous doesnâ??t mean that the military doesnâ??t. Unsurprisingly, keeping the good people at NPR and AP fully briefed on everything they know isnâ??t their highest priority.

    If we lived in a military dictatorship, that might be answer enough. But America’s tradition is one of civilian control of the military, not the other way around, and they should be held accountable. They’ve had almost five years to provide an explanation or evidence, and have not been forthcoming. Even if the reason for not disclosing evidence is that some detainees had valuable intelligence, surely after five years of separation from their comrades has made such intelligence next to worthless. The world’s changed quite a bit since then.

    Iâ??m all for human rights, but perhaps we have a slightly different definition of what they are or which ones are more important. Iâ??m not ready to throw in the towel because we cannot meet some utopian ideal that you or others may hold.

    I’m not asking to uphold a utopian ideal; just an American one.

  13. Gnatman says:

    This administration has blown it’s credibility when it comes to places like Gitmo. What could detainees that were picked off the battlefield in Afghanistan 5 years ago possibly tell us about what’s happening now that we don’t already know. What we do know is that some the “interrogation” techniques that made Abu Grab infamous were tested in Gitmo. (Anybody ever watch PBS, listen to the BBC, or watch something other then Fox news?) The place is a blight on the country and has outlived any usefulness it could have had.

  14. LJD says:

    Yeah, just give them a bunch of machetes and turn them loose on the next anti-whatever protest. Maybe some will realize how harmless they are then.

  15. RA says:

    This is great news. We should be handing out rope to all the terrorists. Give them their privacy! LOL

  16. Scott_T says:

    So they had 3 suicides at Gitmo. And??

    How many suicides happen at Federal Prisons every year across the US of US citizens?

    Just because the Army runs Gitmo they are supposed to take care of prisoners better than Federal Corrections officers.

  17. Please. Do you really think I advocate a military dictatorship because I don’t agree with you? Doesn’t operational security count for something while there is a war on?

    The rules have changed out of necessity when it comes to dealing with our enemies during wartime, and, yes, they are enemies and, yes, we are still at war. It has only been 60 years since we took a demonstrably harsher approach with a much larger population who arguably weren’t really a threat at all with Manzanar, et al. IIRC, people of Japanese descent held in the internment camps were not released until the war was over. Alas, the GWOT is far from over. It may not be completely fair to some held in Guantanamo, but then again, I’ve always found the perfect to be the enemy of the good. And not that it matters a whit, but my mother-in-law is Japanese, so spare me the wanting to lock them up straw men or the accusations that I now want internment camps for all swarthy looking people.

    Who said the military isn’t being held accountable? I, for one, certainly don’t consider the press as the arbiters of accountability in this matter. A deferral on this to Congress and the people through the November elections seems more apropos. Maybe the reason some of the captives are still at Gitmo is that we’ve declined to summarily execute them as we probably would have done in WW II with combatants captured out of uniform on the battlefield, but they remain too dangerous to be released, e.g., we don’t want to have to face them yet again.

    Bottom line, I don’t know and neither do you why most of the prisoners at Gitmo are still there. The “truth” will all come out eventually. Meanwhile, in the absence of factual information I am still willing to give the military and the administration the benefit of the doubt. As James has pointed out previously, the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact. It still seems to me that your concept of American ideals is too utopian to be practical given the changes that have taken place, but we’ll just have to agree to disagree about that.

  18. Bithead says:

    Look, let’s call this what it is; Nothing.

    These are people who were willing to kill themselves a short time ago, all to further their Jihad. So, they killed themselves this last week, with the same purpose in mind… advancing the jihad. The only difference is, nobody else besides them, got killed. Their deaths were used as they would have been had they not been captured… against their enemy.

    In the end, the only way they succeed in their goal, now, is if we let them… which of course, such as the ACLU and the NYT seem quite willing to aid them in doing.

    And I wonder if I shouldn’t be including Alex and Steve in this, too.

  19. Alex Knapp says:

    Charles:

    Doesnâ??t operational security count for something while there is a war on?

    Of course operational security matters. But what security purpose is served by not allowing detainees to have hearings regarding their legal status?

    Who said the military isnâ??t being held accountable? I, for one, certainly donâ??t consider the press as the arbiters of accountability in this matter. A deferral on this to Congress and the people through the November elections seems more apropos.

    How are the people supposed to hold the military accountable through Congress if they’re denied the information necessary to make a decision?

    The â??truthâ?? will all come out eventually. Meanwhile, in the absence of factual information I am still willing to give the military and the administration the benefit of the doubt.

    If we don’t hold our leaders accountable, what makes you think that the truth will come out “eventually”? I’m afraid that this administration has bankrupted its credibility long ago.

    Bithead:

    These are people who were willing to kill themselves a short time ago, all to further their Jihad.

    How do you know? What’s your evidence?

    So, they killed themselves this last week, with the same purpose in mindâ?¦ advancing the jihad.

    How do you know? What’s your evidence?

    In the end, the only way they succeed in their goal, now, is if we let themâ?¦ which of course, such as the ACLU and the NYT seem quite willing to aid them in doing.

    And I wonder if I shouldnâ??t be including Alex and Steve in this, too.

    ** rolls eyes ** You know, I find it amusing that the desire to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States is, in the eyes of some, tantamount to treason…

  20. Bithead says:

    And aiding enemies in time of war, protects the constitution, how, please?

  21. Bithead says:

    “Where’s your evidence”?

    Oh, please… even the smallest effort on your part would have shown you…

    Harris said the joint suicides were clearly planned by the detainees as a way to advance their cause in the war on terror.

    “I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetric warfare aimed at us here at Guantanamo,” he said. “We have men here who are committed jihadists. They are dangerous men and they will do anything they can to advance their cause.”

    The three detainees who died had all participated in a hunger strike at one time, Harris said. The Yemeni detainee was a long-term hunger striker who had begun his strike in 2005 and just ended it last month, he said. The other two detainees participated in one hunger strike in 2005 and another short one this year, he said.

    The servicemembers at Guantanamo Bay are dedicated and, together with Joint Task Force Guantanamo leaders, have worked hard to ensure the conditions don’t exist to allow for suicides, Harris said. However, the enemy combatants at Guantanamo are a determined group that will do anything they can to advance their cause, he said.

    “These are dangerous men, and they’re not here by accident or happenstance,” he said.

  22. dutchmarbel says:

    This Report is the first effort to provide a more detailed picture of who the Guantanamo detainees are, how they ended up there, and the purported bases for their enemy combatant designation. The data in this Report is based entirely upon the United States Government�s own documents.
    This Report provides a window into the government�s success detaining only those that the President has called �the worst of the worst.�

    Among the data revealed by this Report:

    1. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.

    2. Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.

    3. The Government has detained numerous persons based on mere affiliations with a large number of groups that in fact, are not on the Department of Homeland Security terrorist watchlist. Moreover, the nexus between such a detainee and such organizations varies considerably.
    Eight percent are detained because they are deemed �fighters for;� 30% considered �members of;� a
    large majority � 60% — are detained merely because they are �associated with� a group or groups the Government asserts are terrorist organizations. For 2% of the prisoners their nexus to any terrorist group is unidentified.

    4. Only 5% of the detainees were captured by United States forces. 86% of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States
    custody.
    This 86% of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were handed over to the
    United States at a time in which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected
    enemies.

    Oh, and indeed, at least one of the people who killed themselves was to be released the next few days… but nobody had told him yet.

    Those people, most of them innocent, have been kept inprisoned for years, without even knowing what they are supposed to have done because that is ‘classified information’. Tortured without knowing when it will end, not seen their families (and quite a number might be breadwinners, or be needed to protect their families), deprived of rights that have been the basis of law in civilized countries since shortly after the magna charta (knowing what you were accused of was an important issue), and even the proclaimed innocent ones have only been released just before they would see judges.

  23. dutchmarbel says:

    Sorry about the formatting…

  24. floyd says:

    gnatman; this adminstration never had any credibility with you to begin with and i doubt they could care less. they’ve never betrayed you since they promised to do things you disapprove of from the start. as long as PBS has credibility in your eyes, the list of those wishing to earn your approval is going to remain short