Another "No Exit" Strategy Is Failing

The current edition of The New York Review of Books has an excellent overview of the self-defeating nature of the government's strategy and tactics toward the Guantanamo Bay detainees-- this one written by the acclaimed journalist Joseph Lelyveld.

The Pulitzer-Prize-winning author offers in clinical detail the elements of the case against the Bush Administration's policy of "indefinite detention" for the hundreds of men still being held in the terror prison on the island of Cuba. The question, writes Lelyveld, "hangs over our discussions like a far-off thundercloud, darkening a little with each passing year and each report of another suicide attempt at Guantánamo. From the standpoint of the detainees, nothing much has changed over the years." Nothing much, indeed, despite the best efforts of the White House to process the detainees using unfair procedures (subsequently rejected by the Supreme Court) or the submission of the Congress, which just a few months ago through the odious Military Commissions Act of 2006 enabled the executive branch to try once again to accomplish its goal

And it's not just the government's policy toward the men who are still being held that offends Lelyved. It's the policy toward the men whom the feds have seen fit to release. "None of those released from Guantánamo," he writes, "has received an acknowledgment that there appear to have been no reasonable grounds for his detention, let alone an apology for the years snatched from his life, let alone even a modest attempt at compensation. In fact, Congress has had the foresight to bar damage suits by former detainees."

Lelyveld continues: "Whenever questions are raised about cases in which reasonable grounds for suspicion are hardest to detect--the teenagers, septuagenarians, and Muslim travelers in war-afflicted regions who, whatever their motives or sentiments, never had a chance to get training as soldiers or bombers--official spokesmen can be relied on to allude to damning material in classified files that cannot be disclosed without damage to national security."

The fate of the detainees, and of the Pentagon's policy of "indefinite detention"-- detention so long as the nebulous "war on terrorism" lasts-- is now in the hands of the federal courts. I'm guessing not too many federal appeals court judges, especially ones who sit on the conservative 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, get The New York Review of Books. That's too bad. Lelyveld's voice is an important one in this ongoing legal debate over what we stand for, and what we ought to stand for, in the treatment of these men.

By Andrew Cohen |  February 5, 2007; 8:00 AM ET
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With an Australian Citizen (David Hicks) locked in Guantánamo and only just charged, it would appear that the neither the US Government or the Australia Government care about Human Rights. This may well be a vote change issue in the forthcoming Australian elections.

Posted by: Oliver Townshend | February 5, 2007 08:58 PM

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