Guantanamo as Backdrop for Bush's Trip to Europe

The U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo is not just a threat to the men held there, say online commentators in advance of President Bush's meeting with European Union leaders in Vienna today. It's a threat to Europe itself.

The suicide of three Guantanamo detainees earlier this month, and the comments of U.S. officials that the dead men had engaged in a "public relations" stunt, provoked renewed calls for the closure of the facility. Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel has said he plans to deliver that message to his American guest.

"Anti-Americanism has reached a climax in Austria," Die Presse (in German), the country's leading newspaper, reported this weekend, citing a poll that found 49 percent of Austrians believe that the United States promotes terrorism and only 14 percent believe the country has a positive influence on world peace.

"U.S. blindness to its treatment of detainees suspected of belonging to Al-Qa'ida, at Guantanamo," said the French daily Le Monde last week. "... exposes all the Western democracies to Islamist propaganda and radicalization. It is in our own city areas and within our own Muslim communities, in Europe, that Al-Qa'ida recruiters and other extremists supply themselves, using arguments kindly provided by the military leaders of the Pentagon and by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez."

Last week, the European Parliament recommended that Guantanamo be replaced by an international tribunal. Last month, the United Nations committee on torture called for the closure of the facility which is located in a U.S. enclave on the island of Cuba.

So did British Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, the senior law enforcement officer of the United States's main ally in Iraq.

"The tradition of the United States as a beacon of freedom, liberty and of justice deserves the removal of this symbol," Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith is not the only supporter of the U.S. invasion of Iraq to break with the Bush administration over Guantanamo.

The "breathtakingly dismissive" comments of U.S. officials "exposed beyond parody the US's inability to see itself as others do," said The Times of London, whose editors supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"If Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister, a strong supporter of the Iraq war, calls Guantanamo a violation of 'the very principle of the rule of law' then the US must know it has a problem," wrote foreign editor Bronwen Maddox.

The calls for closing Guantanamo also come from what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once dubbed "New Europe," the former communist countries that are generally more pro-American.

"Sure, terrorists must be punished," wrote Teresa Supova in Lidove Noviny, a center-right daily in the Czech Republic, "but they, too, deserve a fair trial in keeping with law. And that is not happening at Guantanamo."

Vaclav Havel, the former president of Czechoslovakia who rose to power as an anti-communist dissident, told The Independent in London that he was personally bothered by Guantanamo.

"On the one hand, you can understand that a way of fighting against terrorism must be found, and it will probably be necessary to choose harsher and more drastic measures than the ones we're accustomed to," he said. "On the other hand, I don't like at all what is happening at the Guantanamo base, even less so in that I'm a former prisoner myself."

For El Pais (in Spanish), Guantanamo, along with secret CIA flights over Europe, the Abu Ghraib abuses, and the alleged Haditha massacre in Iraq "are sinister realities which feed the hate of many Muslims and the ranks of Al-Qa'idah. ... If it is a matter of public relations, Guantanamo is above all an act of anti-propaganda by the Bush Administration against the USA."

The results can be seen in a Harris poll of 5,000 people in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The survey found that 36 percent of respondents identified the U.S. as the greatest threat to global stability, according to the Financial Times. That is twice as many as chose China and six percent more than those who named Iran.

By Jefferson Morley |  June 21, 2006; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Europe
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The continent has apparantly embraced dhimmitude and is well on its way to becoming the Islamic States of Eurabia.

Posted by: Paul | June 21, 2006 08:29 AM

I feel that the ruthless way in which the US has dealt with the `insurgency` in iraq (those people who feel strongly enough to defend lands against invaders), remembering the use of horiffic chemical weapons in faluja. Is this not also an afront to humanity? If israel had spent as much on rebuilding a Palestinian state as it has on protecting itself and assaulting palestinians I would be very surprised if they had one tenth of the problems they have today.

Posted by: Graham | June 21, 2006 08:30 AM

Bush has made the US an international pariah. Guantanamo represents the dark side of Ameica's soul.

Posted by: Paul White | June 21, 2006 08:31 AM

US is losing the bogus war on terror

Posted by: ZZ | June 21, 2006 08:31 AM

Gitmo should be closed - it's been a mess from the word go. But it's clear the detainees aren't POWS under the Geneva Conventions, and treating terrorists caught in battle as typical criminal defendants is absurd (would you Mirandize them on the field? could they shut down questioning by asking for a lawyer? how about compelling attendance of witnesses at trial, or engaging in full blown discovery of all evidence in the prosecution's hands?)

we need to come up with a better approach - one that separates the bad guys from the merely unlucky ones, and one that allows us to find out what the bad ones know and hold them until we've exhausted their knowledge and are satisfied they won't go back to killing innocents if released.

Posted by: chris | June 21, 2006 09:53 AM

Guantanamo should definitely be closed. The situation with the detainees there reminds me of what happened to many of the German POWs in the Soviet Union after the end of WWII.

German soldiers fled enmasse to the western allies to escape imprisonment by the Soviets, not just for the wretched conditions, but because there was no time frame given for their release. Stalin actually demanded the western allies turn over X% of German POWs to be put to work in labor camps rebuilding the Soviet Union's shattered economy. Those who were unlucky enough to be prisoners in the SU were put to work for years and years, unable to have contact with their friends, family, etc... Naturally, this created a sense of hopelessness, not because they were interned, but because the Soviets would never tell them when they would be able to leave. It drove men mad.

An international tribunal might work, but I don't like the idea. I think they should be tried in american courts and those found guilty banished to our penal system. If they aren't technically soldiers, then that makes them civilians. If a civilian kills someone who happens to be in the military in this country, then they would be tried in civilian courts. Try them, convict them and then send them to prison with specific sentences. This goes for the Al-Qaida leaders that have been caught as well. The US government should be able to produce enough evidence to convict these guys and put them away for life.

Posted by: Brian | June 21, 2006 10:30 AM

Guantanamo must be closed. U. S. Federal Courts would be the best place to bring these people to trial. If the suspects were tortured, it will be difficult for the prosecution to get a conviction in U.S. courts. Through the Bush Administration's disrespect for the rule of law, Some of these people might literally get away with murder.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | June 21, 2006 01:51 PM

PJ, alleged torture may invalidate a resulting confession (assuming any have confessed) but it wouldn't eliminate all the other evidence against them - for ex, testimony that detainee so and so was captured in Afghanistan, under arms, and participated in the prison riot that led to the death of CIA agent Mike Spann.

we should treat them like German saboteurs in WWII - military tribunal, then firing squad for the guilty.

Posted by: chris | June 21, 2006 03:20 PM

With Bush visiting the country that brought Kurt Waldheim into the world, it is hard to imagine anyone more in gear with America than Paris Hilton. Until her story line converges with Guantanamo, taking torture to the level of theme park, the French will never be able to overcome hosting Euro Disney no matter how much they cut their own cheese.

Posted by: Reynolds | June 21, 2006 03:48 PM

In most countries, one would call Bush Massively Incompetent, but the cowardly press in America is unwilling to call him what he is.

Posted by: Will in Seattle | June 21, 2006 06:19 PM

If our gutless leaders in Europe had any courage, they'd have Bush arrested and jailed at The Hague pending a trial on war crimes. That this man is even allowed into the EU, and allowed to stand side by side with our law-abiding heads of state, is an insult to European values.
This man is a criminal. He must be put on trial.

Posted by: Mario | June 21, 2006 10:49 PM


You might want to re-think your effort at intelligent commentary. A few things to consider:

1. By my quick count, at least 10 of the EU countries supported and/or participated in the "criminal" invasion of Iraq.

2. Shortly thereafter, those paragons of anti-Iraq War virtue--Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac--were falling all over themselves to try get the West's arms embargo against China lifted. Very noble.

3. You appear to be confused over whether to praise your leaders as "law-abiding", or to chastise them for being "gutless". Which of those is the "European value" you seek to trumpet?

Posted by: LWP | June 22, 2006 02:36 AM

Torture is pointless as well as morally wrong. Confessions under torture are worthless, of course, but so is any evidence you gather. When you torture someone they will say whatever they think you want to hear to get you to stop.

And that's all on top of the fact that torture is evil. We're supposed to be the good guys, remember? The global outrage (and terrorist recruitment incentive) that is Guantanomo outweighs any benefits it might generate.

Posted by: DavidP in the UK | June 22, 2006 04:25 AM

US has to learn to take a hint from their European allies. Our foreign policy needs an overhaul.

Posted by: Jay | June 22, 2006 08:34 AM

So let me get this straight: the United States, which still has the gall to consider itself exempt from international law, practises torture and unlawful confinement, carries out abductions, is operating a gulag of secret prisons, engages in illegal invasions, shows contempt for other nations and for the rule of law.
And you think your nation, your values, are superior to ours?
Please, spare us the sanctimony.
Your nation is today a force for darkness and cruelty.
Thank God public opinion here in Europe is forcing our governments to say No to America.

Posted by: Sergio | June 22, 2006 10:51 PM

Watching the Dim Bulb Gonzalez' news conrference this morning, one is reminded with such horror that THIS little Bush buddy is author of the torture policy (or at least it's mouthpiece)...that now so infuriates and worries the rest of the world--and thinking Americans. He's impossible. We are in such a mess. Astounding how short a time this administration took to bring America so far down. Worry

Posted by: Helena | June 23, 2006 10:46 AM

Americans' capacity for self-delusion never fails to astonish me.
Take this quote from Michael Greenberger, who teaches the law of counterterrorism at the University of Maryland law school, in today's New York Times.
"Obviously they (Supreme Court justices) felt strongly not only about the legal issues involved but about what this meant for the United States' position as the pre-eminent supporter of the rule of law worldwide," Mr. Greenberger said.
"Pre-eminent supporter of the rule of law?"
You've got to be kidding.
The U.S. has done everything imaginable to undermine the rule of law worldwide. It has scuttled international treaties on arms control and global warming. It has refused to recognize and has actively attempted to undermine the establishment of the International Criminal Court. It has claimed its own laws are superior to international law -- a recipe for permanent war, for when the most powerful nation on earth does this, it only encourages all other nations to do likewise. And it has shown contempt for the most fundamental principles of natural law by carrying out illegal abductions in foreign lands, building a gulag of secret prisons and practising widespread torture in its cruelest forms.
"Pre-eminent supporter of the rule of law worldwide?"
No, I'd call the U.S. today the world's pre-eminent outlaw state.
And judging by opinion polling done around the world, the vast majority of humanity shares my view.
Your nation has become the enemy of the rule of law, and therefore the enemy of humanity.

Posted by: Carl | June 29, 2006 01:47 PM

Blame Bush for most of it, bad intelligence and a power struggle in this, another election year for Congress. The Republicans are scared and running

Posted by: Zzyzx4608 | July 5, 2006 11:41 AM

Blame Bush for most of it, bad intelligence and a power struggle in this, another election year for Congress. The Republicans are scared and running

Posted by: Zzyzx4608 | July 5, 2006 11:41 AM

Blame Bush for most of it, bad intelligence and a power struggle in this, another election year for Congress. The Republicans are scared and running

Posted by: Zzyzx4608 | July 5, 2006 11:41 AM

Blame Bush for most of it, bad intelligence and a power struggle in this, another election year for Congress. The Republicans are scared and running

Posted by: Zzyzx4608 | July 5, 2006 11:41 AM

Bush is a lazy frat boy. He has stated that "diplomacy is hard work"...well, duh!

It is much easier to strike out or isolate those with whom you disagree. It requires very little thought or consideration, but the consequences are always a cycle of spiraling responses leading to ever-increasing violence. It is simply stupid and childish, but the current foreign policy of the U.S. is operated on this very childish level. It is not just incompetence. It is incompetence combined with laziness.

I long for a time when adults will be in charge again.

Posted by: Tim | July 18, 2006 01:19 PM

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