Tina K. Russell

July 24, 2008

The Worst of the Worst

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:14 pm

Op-Ed Columnist – Madness and Shame – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com
Donald Rumsfeld described the detainees at Guantánamo as “the worst of the worst.” A more sober assessment has since been reached by many respected observers. [New Yorker journalist and author of The Dark Side] Ms. [Jane] Mayer mentioned a study conducted by attorneys and law students at the Seton Hall University Law School.

“After reviewing 517 of the Guantánamo detainees’ cases in depth,” she said, “they concluded that only 8 percent were alleged to have associated with Al Qaeda. Fifty-five percent were not alleged to have engaged in any hostile act against the United States at all, and the remainder were charged with dubious wrongdoing, including having tried to flee U.S. bombs. The overwhelming majority — all but 5 percent — had been captured by non-U.S. players, many of whom were bounty hunters.”

Holy living–! Of course, it’ll take more scrutiny (and meaningful trials) to determine how many wrongdoers there really are at Guantánamo, but I’d always been generous and imagined at least one half. Eight percent? As cynical as I have become, I never thought it was as bad as that.

Let me be clear that even if Guantánamo had a 100 percent success rate it would still be deplorable, as we should be treating even the worst prisoners humanely, showing the difference between us and them. (Besides that, wars become intractable if lasting hatred forms through abuse of prisoners. Securing victory is difficult and costly if the enemy fights to the bitter end.) However, we should not hold a person who is innocent longer than is necessary for a fair and speedy trial, and I do not think military tribunals and seven-year waits succeed on either count.

I should discuss the central argument of Guantánamo’s defenders: that we are in a time of war, and different rules apply. First of all, it is true that different rules apply in war, and I do not see those rules, such as the Geneva Conventions on holding prisoners of war, being applied. (Breaking those rules in a time of war endangers the safety of our soldiers.) Second, a “war on terror” is a propaganda win for al-Qaida, giving them dignity, as soldiers, that they do not deserve. They are criminals, and only when they are brought to justice as such will the case be settled. Declaring war rallies recruits to their cause and makes it harder to fight their toxic influence.


  1. A bit off topic but some photos of GTMO on the other side of the bay where the airfield is. I used to fly patrols out of there when I was in the Coast Guard. GTMO is also considered an unofficial nature preserve because the Cubans out side the base have hunted most wildlife to extinction.

    I’m sorry the links to the full size photos don’t work.

    Comment by John — July 25, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

  2. Yeah, I don’t see anything. Thanks for trying, though.

    I just looked at your linked profile. Oooh, you’re Coast Guard… (I’m guessing you explained this in a comment, before, and I’ve since forgotten. Sorry!) A very fond friend of my dad’s is former Navy. I guess that’s the only connection to the military I have.

    Comment by Tina Russell — July 26, 2008 @ 1:08 am

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