The Guantanamo Scandal -- New York Times editorial

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Thu May 15 07:09:19 MDT 2003

I think there is a growing sense that the concentration camp in
Guantanamo -- which exists BECAUSE neither Cuban nor US law apply there --
is seriously undermining the "human rights" campaign against Cuba, and may
even fuel more open international opposition to US military occupation of
Cuban territory.  The comment below is by Walter Lippmann.
Fred Feldman

(What Washington is doing to
its Taliban prisoners in Guantanamo
is what they'd like to do to others
of whom they don't approve in the
US if they could get away with it.)

May 15, 2003 New York Times editorial
The Guantánamo Scandal

For a year and a half, the United States has held hundreds
of people captured during the war in Afghanistan as
prisoners in Guantánamo Bay without access to family,
lawyers or any semblance of due process. Another small group
was shipped home recently, and there are reports that
military trials for some prisoners may start soon. But that
does not alter the fact that the detentions insult some of
our most cherished ideals and harm our national interest.

Last month, Secretary of State Colin Powell advised
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that he was
encountering growing complaints from the countries whose
nationals are among the prisoners. The cynical response by
Mr. Rumsfeld - that the problem is the slowness of the many
intelligence agencies that need to interrogate prisoners -
only makes things worse.

The extraordinary attacks of Sept. 11 clearly demanded
extraordinary measures. All reports, moreover, indicate that
the prisoners have not been physically mistreated. But
America vowed after Sept. 11 that the terrorists would not
be allowed to drag us down to their level. Meanwhile, the
Department of Defense has held more than 600 male prisoners,
some as young as 13 - and of 42 different nationalities,
including citizens of our closest allies - in a
concentration camp. They have been declared "unlawful
combatants" in order to deny them the protection of the
Geneva Convention. They have been incarcerated on a naval
base on Cuba, over which Cuba has no control, to put them
beyond the reach of the law. The military set no limit on
their detention, and it declared that if they were brought
to trial, the proceedings would be before special military
tribunals, which can act in secret, and their only appeal
would be to the president - who stripped them of their
rights in the first place.

No doubt some of the prisoners are members or leaders of Al
Qaeda. Some may have been in the Taliban; some may have done
terrible things. Many were probably just caught up in the
tribal chaos of Afghanistan. Whoever they are, their
treatment should be a demonstration of America's commitment
to justice, not the blot on its honor that Guantánamo has
become. The Guantánamo prisoners need immediate access to
their governments, families and lawyers and deserve some
tribunal in which to contest their confinement. They deserve
real, open justice without further delays or excuses.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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