Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Re: For Purely Political Reasons There Almost Surely Will Be No Major Release Of Prisoners Held At Gitmo And Other Prisons.

June 19, 2006

Re: For Purely Political Reasons There Almost Surely Will Be No Major Release Of Prisoners Held At Gitmo And Other Prisons.

From: Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
VelvelOnNationalAffairs.com

Dear Colleagues:

A few days ago Tom Ashbrook, on his radio program “On Point,” had some radio talking heads (what else does one do on radio?) who were discussing Guantanamo. One of them said that he thought the Bush Administration had decided simply to tough out the situation there (regardless of the increasing uproar about it overseas). There would be no release of prisoners, in his judgment, under this Administration. It was too deeply concerned over the repercussions if a released prisoner (or released prisoners) were later to be found to have participated in a new act of terrorism against the United States. Another talking head said that there would be no release of prisoners because that would mean 400 or 500 additional men would be telling stories all over the world about American mistreatment. There would be one released prisoner for every talk show in the world, I think the joke was. And the stories being told worldwide would create a massive outcry around the world for Bush, Cheney and company to be tried before international tribunals for violations of the laws of war.

Of course, I would personally add, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the others would not show up for their trials. So they would have to be tried in absentia (as would likely also be the case for Bush’s English poodle). This, I think, would not, for many reasons, pose a large problem, since there would be much evidence anyway. The only way to avoid the trials would be for America to bribe foreign countries not to pursue trials in the same way that we always bribe them to do our imperial bidding, by foreign aid, military aid, trade help, etc. But whether that would even work this time, with 400 or 500 men all over the world talking about their experiences at Gitmo and elsewhere, is subject to question. Equally subject to question is whether, if the Democrats win in 2008, they would even be willing to offer such bribes to save the derrieres of Bush, et al. Indeed, though it wouldn’t happen, wouldn’t it be ironic and wonderful, were John McCain to win the 2008 election, if he then refused to attempt the bribes, with his refusal being payback for what Bush pulled on him in South Carolina?

Ah, the mind reels at the theoretical possibilities. But let’s forget about the more far-out possibilities. Let’s focus instead on what certainly is real. It is ever more widely bruited, and accepted, that the vast preponderance of the prisoners in Gitmo were no more than low level types at most, and some or lots were wholly innocent -- they were simply arrested and turned over to the Americans by warlords who wanted to collect the large rewards we were offering. We also know the uproars that resulted when even a few of our former prisoners at Gitmo and elsewhere told their stories to the media and other governments. What these facts plainly mean, what they inevitably mean, is that the prisoners at Guantanamo (and elsewhere) almost certainly cannot be released, and will not be released, before the 2006 Congressional elections and the 2008 Presidential and Congressional elections. Not only can the Republicans not afford the political fallout if some of the released prisoners engaged in new acts of terrorism (as could well occur because many of them may now hate us who did not hate or lift a finger against us before), the Republicans equally cannot at this time afford the additional hatred of us that will arise all over the world, with the political and economic problems this would bring, if 400 or 500 men are let go and start telling their stories to media and governments all over the world. Nor can the Republicans afford to have people all over the world calling for the trial of their President and Vice President on charges of war crimes, which would bring yet more political and economic problems.

Now, let’s be explicit on a point that flows from this. This writer is saying that, regardless of whether people in Gitmo and our other prisons abroad are guilty or innocent, and even if 90 percent are innocent or at most were very low level, for political reasons it is very unlikely that there will be any major or wholesale release of prisoners, be they innocent or guilty, be they dangerous or wholly non-threatening. For even if there was never another act of terrorism by any released prisoners, a major release would be pregnant with the possibility of an electoral disaster for the Republicans -- and for their Democrat neo-Republican friends like Joe Lieberman -- because releasees will be telling their stories worldwide. Right, truth, and morality will have nothing to do with the likely absence of a major release. Politics will trump all. That is the nature of this administration, and is almost surely what is going to happen here.

Now, it is obvious, as one knows from a few emails in response to prior postings as well as from simply being in America for over six decades, that there may be those who refuse to believe this, perhaps mainly because they don’t want to believe it, are jingoes, are xenophobes, and/or are wacked out right wingers. The refusal of belief puts me in mind of a comment made here a few years ago, when this blogger said, and as far as I know was the only person to say at the time, that the reason the administration did not want Gitmo prisoners tried in civilian courts is that necessary evidence had been obtained from them by means (duress and torture) that would cause it to be tossed out by the civilian courts. (Whereas military courts, being subject to Rumsfeld and Bush, would allow the evidence.) This point was not discussed, mentioned or faced by the media (or anyone else) as far as I know, nor did people wish to believe it, I think. Now, of course, it has been admitted to be correct by the administration on a number of occasions. Well, in the same vein, one day we almost surely will find out -- maybe five years from now, maybe 50 years from now -- that there was no likelihood, maybe even no possibility at all, of a major release of prisoners, no matter how innocent or low level and unimportant, or non-dangerous they were, because a major release would have caused the electoral crucification of Republicans (and Democrat fellow travelers like Lieberman).

Of course, Bush and company, and their believers and supporters in the media and internet worlds -- their supporting bloggers and emailers -- will claim that politics have nothing to do with keeping prisoners in Gitmo. Rather, they will claim, there are good reasons to keep people there. Maybe the people are dangerous, they will say. Or their cases are being heard, they will say -- although it would seem that whatever process of alleged military justice was supposed to occur at Gitmo either is hardly occurring at all or is grinding so slowly as to be a farce. Well, as any lawyer or politician knows, there are always reasons which can be put forward to try to justify what one is doing. The worst tyrants the world has ever seen had reasons which they put forward for their actions. We have given reasons for every one of the 14 times - - from Hawaii in 1893 to Iraq in 2003 (and not including World Wars I and II) - - when Stephen Kinzer finds that America has been the main cause of the overthrow of foreign governments because we didn’t like them and didn’t want them around, and the reasons we have given from Hawaii to Iraq were often smokescreens, false, baloney (like WMDs) intended to try to hide our real reasons.

I don’t think that the reasons we will hear to allegedly justify keeping all the Gitmo and other prisoners in custody will be the real reasons either. Even if they are sometimes true (e.g., almost certainly some of the Gitmo prisoners are dangerous characters who should not be let out), the reasons we will hear will not in the main be the truly motivating reasons. The truly motivating reasons will be political: if 400 or 500 guys now in Gitmo and other prisons are released and are able to tell the media and governments all over the world the stories of what happened to them and what they saw in Gitmo and elsewhere, the Republicans’ (and neo-Republican Democrats’) electoral chances will be swamped, the Republicans will suffer the greatest electoral disaster the country has seen since Johnson creamed Goldwater and Nixon smashed McGovern. With this possibility lurking, perhaps even certain, if there is a release, the chances of a major release by this 200 percent politically minded administration range from slim to none regardless of what may be true or just or moral. And slim, as they say, has just left town.*

*If you wish to respond to this email/blog, please email your response to me at velvel@mslaw.edu. Your response may be posted on the blog if you have no objection

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