A Distinction Without a Difference

We now have conclusive proof that there was no torture at the terrorists detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. A new Defense Department review of detainee operations at Camp Delta, that was prepared especially for President Obama, was released on Monday. The report concludes that the operations at Guantanamo Bay do not include torture, but rather treat the detainees humanely and in accordance with Geneva Conventions. Therefore, everything that President Bush said about the goings on at Guantanamo Bay were true.

While I certainly would not expect apologies to President Bush from our friends in the mainstream media, those on the left or President Obama, I do hope that the mainstream media and the anti-war left at least ask Mr. Obama why the 600 or so detainees in US custody at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan should not be entitled rights under our constitution. In a court filing on Friday, the Obama Justice Department sided with the Bush Administration in arguing that the Bagram detainees cannot use US civilian courts to challenge their detention.

In what lawyers call a distinction without a difference, the Obama Administration officials argued that Bagram is different from Guantanamo Bay because it is in an overseas war zone and the prisoners there are being held as part of a military action. The government continued to argue that releasing enemy combatants into the Afghan war zone, or even diverting US personnel there to consider their legal cases, could threaten security.

This is, so far, the only point on the War on Terror in which the Obama Administration is correct. Their mistake is that they do not apply this simple logic to those being held at Guantanamo Bay. As of January of this year, at least 61 former Guantanamo detainees have been recaptured or killed on the battlefield fighting against US forces or our allies. Why then is the Obama Administration not concerned about the release of the detainees at Gitmo? Could it be that in their rush to deliver on a campaign promise, they have decided to not consider the impact of their actions? That would be my guess. Political payoffs are easier than a true analysis of a major national security concern.

The review of Guantanamo Bay did not say that everything was perfect. It recommended that high value and violent detainees be allowed to pray and have recreation time in groups. I don’t think that it’s a good idea to put the most dangerous prisoners in such close quarters so that they can continue to plot their evil, but I will admit that I’m not an expert on prison socialization. But at some point, you’d think that common sense would set in. I wonder if the Bagram detainees will get to enjoy group prayer and soccer games or does that only apply if you have constitutional rights?

In a sane world, none of this would be discussed. Unlawful enemy combatants would be held indefinitely until the hostilities had ceased. We would not worry about their group prayers and their recreation. We would be concerned with such things as their returning to their old jobs upon release – you know, killing Americans, Jews and other infidels. I have no doubt that Danny Pearl still would have been beheaded even if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had known that he would be playing soccer with his friends and would be receiving three religiously appropriate meals a day.

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