U.S. Has Detained 83,000 in War on Terror
The AP reports that the United States has detained 83,000 foreigners since the beginning of the war on terror, with roughly 14,500 currently in custody.
The United States has detained more than 83,000 foreigners in the four years of the war on terror, enough to nearly fill the NFL’s largest stadium. The administration defends the practice of holding detainees in prisons from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay as a critical tool to stop the insurgency in Iraq, maintain stability in Afghanistan and get known and suspected terrorists off the streets. Roughly 14,500 detainees remain in U.S. custody, primarily in Iraq.
I would note that many college stadia are bigger–many holding well over 100,000.
More seriously, the sheer number of people is irrelevant: All those truly dangerous to the United States should be confined; none who aren’t should be.
Aside from that, the total number ever “detained” is meaningless as a statistical measure. How many of those were simply brought in for questioning and released? As we’ll see several paragraphs later, almost all of them.
The number has steadily grown since the first CIA paramilitary officers touched down in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, setting up more than 20 facilities including the “Salt Pit,” an abandoned factory outside Kabul used for CIA detention and interrogation.
In Iraq, the number in military custody hit a peak on Nov. 1, according to military figures. Nearly 13,900 suspects were in U.S. custody there that day _ partly because U.S. offensives in western Iraq put pressure on insurgents before the October constitutional referendum and December parliamentary elections.
It stands to reason that the number would go up while we’re at war. And since Afghanistan and Iraq are the main battlefronts, that’s where they’re going to be captured.
Some 82,400 people have been detained by the military alone in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to figures from officials in Baghdad and Washington. Many are freed shortly after initial questioning.
To put that in context, the capacity of the Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field, the NFL’s largest, is 91,704. The second largest, Giants Stadium, holds 80,242. An additional 700 detainees were sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Just under 500 remain there now.
In Iraq, the Defense Department says 5,569 detainees have been held for more than six months, and 3,801 have been held more than a year. Some 229 have been locked up for more than two years.
Again, the comparison with sports stadia is silly. How many people are locked up in America’s domestic prisons for committing crimes? Well over two million. To put that into perspective, that figure is nearly as high as the number of poorly conceived articles published by the Associated Press each year.
What’s interesting is the low number of long-term detainees given that this is an ongoing war. Indeed, one could likely write a much more shocking story about the number of people –like Safah Mohammed Ali, who bombed a hotel in Jordan–formerly in U.S. detention and then released only to kill innocents.
I’ve been a consistent critic of the use of torture on detainees and of the holding of people, especially American citizens, as “enemy combatants” without reasonable due process rights. Those are separate issues entirely. But it’s rather silly to suggest that, while fighting a war, we should not be taking prisoners.