Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Prolonged" Detention

Triangulation is a political strategy,
not a national security strategy.

-Dick Cheney, 21May2009

It's not often that I find myself in agreement with the former VP, but he's right on that one -- and, I might add, triangulation doesn't serve very well as a model for ethical behavior either. Cheney argues that if we are only partly safe from the terrorist boogie men, we're not safe. I argue that if our actions are only partly ethical, they are unethical.

(That bastion of ethics, the Roman Catholic Church, might disagree with me, having recently pointed out that "most" of the boys molested by the Christian Brothers in Irish institutions over the years were victims of "inappropriate touching" rather than, say, anal penetration -- but does that mean the boys who were diddled a bit rather than forcibly raped should be happy about it? And, anyway, is being locked up for the rest of your life with no trial more analogous to a diddling or an ass fucking? You decide.)

Yes, I know. Our President now has read all the secret documents, and somehow has concluded that there are a number of Guantanamo detainees who could not be convicted, by a federal court or even by a newly revamped military commission, due to absent, insufficient, or tainted evidence. How could such a situation come about? Let's see.

If the evidence is insufficient or nonexistent, we can assume that some "trusted asset" of the CIA or the military said something like, "Oh, that fellow, he's a really bad guy!" In the unlikely event the "trusted asset" was asked to back up his assertion, he told a few unverifiable stories that were swallowed, hook, line, and sinker, by the eager agent or officer. (Somebody with the proper security clearance should count up how many times the "trusted asset" took over the "bad" guy's farm, or celebrated victory in a longstanding family feud.)

If the evidence is tainted, we can assume the poor bastard was tortured until he confessed to whatever his interrogators thought he might have done. As for egomaniacs like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- who would happily have confessed to every high-profile attack for the past fifty years even without waterboarding -- we can count on them to confess once again, in open court. Hell, they totally want to be martyred, and will be unhappy with anything less than the death penalty.

How many detainees will fall into the "prolonged detention" category? Twenty? Thirty? Fifty? Last week, we were told that one out of seven Guantanamo detainees released so far has "returned" to terrorism, but let's look at a worst case scenario. Let's say there are fifty of these genuine "bad guys," and we put them back more or less where we found them. Let's say we release them near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where all fifty immediately join up with the 10,000 Taliban already fighting there. That would, effectively, increase the ranks of the Taliban by one-half of one percent.

To me, that is a small price to pay for maintaining our standards of justice. Consider, too, that the chance of a released detainee gaining access to the United States is virtually zero. We have their fingerprints, retinal scans, physiognomic profiles, DNA, and more. The Cheney-Obama argument for keeping them in detention disappears.

Fear eats the soul.
(R. W. Fassbinder; 1974)

1 comment:

rich schulman said...

Thanks for your views Vic.. I always find them insightful.

Politics in this case Chaney reminds me of a horrible Gym teacher I had when I was 11. He was right and all 11 year olds were less than a hang nail. I am still wondering
how I made it out of the sixth grade.