Sunday, June 25, 2006
Prisoners of War In the Year 2006
I think back on events that have happened that have set this country in a new direction. Specifically WWll and The Civil War. The same issues surfaced then as now.
What do we do with prisoners captured during wartime? How much information can be available to the general public without jeopardizing our armed forces.
Abraham Lincoln had a great answer to the latter. He put journalists and news publishers in prison. When that didn't work, he had them put on prison ships. During the Civil War prison conditions were rather poor for Confederate POW's. But you have to consider that times were bad for the entire nation, North and South.
During WWll German POW's were transported to the southern USA and treated rather well. They were put to work farming. They probably were treated as well or better than in their home country, considering the homeland was being bombed and invaded.
Now we have the ACLU and Amnesty International saying that the treatment of enemy combatants held in Guantanamo Bay is inhumane. According to them, the men have Constitutional rights and rights to a trial guarenteed under the Geneva Convention.
I happen to disagree with the ACLU and Amnesty International. The captured men are the enemy and are under military law. Therefore they should be tried before a military court. This is more than is offered to our brave men and women that have been captured, tortured, beaten, put before a video camera and told what to say. Most have sumarily been executed thereafter. What has Amnesty International or the ACLU done about this? Not a damned thing, because they know if they go poking their big noses into Al Qaida's goings on, or into the business of any of the terror cells in Iraq or Afghanistan they too will be killed.
This week the case of a former driver for Osama bin Laden may help decide the fate of dozens of Guantanamo Bay detainees, and perhaps all of them, as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on his legal challenge to the first U.S. war crimes trials since World War II.
The court, which is expected to rule as early as Monday, is considering a range of issues in Salim Ahmed Hamdan's case, including whether President Bush had the authority to order military trials for men captured in the war on terror and sent to the Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
President Bush recently suggested the ruling will help him determine what should be done with all the prisoners at Guantanamo, where the U.S. holds about 450 men on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.
Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday that Bush doesn't need a court decision to close the prison, which has drawn intense international criticism. The case has nothing to do with the prison itself, they said.
"Bush can close Guantanamo, but this (court) decision can't," said Ben Wizner, an ACLU attorney who monitors Guantanamo. "That's not a question before this court."
The ruling, however, could determine whether the government can proceed with military trials for Hamdan and nine other detainees who have been charged with crimes.
Air Force Col. Morris Davis, the chief Guantanamo prosecutor, said about 65 more detainees being held at the U.S. base are likely to be charged with crimes if the Supreme Court upholds the process.
Prosecutors are preparing additional charges, including some that could incur the death penalty, Davis told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Washington.
"We're pressing on, anticipating a favorable decision," he said.
Hamdan's attorneys argued that the conspiracy charge filed against him is not legitimate. The government has charged each of the 10 detainees with conspiracy, and seven of them _ including Hamdan _ currently face no other charges.
If the Supreme Court upholds Hamdan's challenge, the government could "relatively quickly" file new charges such as aiding the enemy, Davis said.
Hamdan, a 36-year-old native of Yemen, admits working as a driver for bin Laden but denies conspiring to commit terrorist attacks on the United States. He fled Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, was captured in Pakistan and turned over to U.S. forces.
The U.S. military says Hamdan was also a bodyguard for bin Laden and would have at least had knowledge of al-Qaida attacks. They also say he delivered weapons to members and associates of the terror network. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
His military-appointed attorney, Navy Lt. Cmdr Charles Swift, said the lawsuit is aimed at moving the case to the civilian court system or to a traditional military court-martial. Lawyers for several defendants contend the tribunals lack guidelines and favor the prosecution.
"This is about a fair trial, not a free pass," Swift said.
The Supreme Court was also asked to consider whether fair trial provisions of the Geneva Conventions apply to the military tribunals.
Another issue is whether the Supreme Court even has a say in the matter. The administration argues the Detainee Treatment Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush on Dec. 30, strips the federal courts of much of their jurisdiction over Guantanamo detainees.
Let us hope that righteousness and good sense prevails.