Thursday, March 19, 2009

Some Truths About Guantanamo Bay.

Lawrence B. Wilkerson was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell and he has published an article in the Washington Note in which he claims that "utter incompetence of the battlefield vetting in Afghanistan during the early stages of the U.S. operations there" resulted in the US arresting hundreds of people who had no links to al Qaeda, the Taliban or terrorism, and that the Bush administration made "no meaningful attempt at discrimination" towards who they were arresting.

He also argues that the Bush administration realised early on that many of the people it held had no connection to terrorism, but that it decided not to release the men in case this reflected badly on the administration.

The second dimension that is largely unreported is that several in the U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released.

But to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership from virtually day one of the so-called Global War on Terror and these leaders already had black marks enough: the dead in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers. They were not about to admit to their further errors at Guantanamo Bay. Better to claim that everyone there was a hardcore terrorist, was of enduring intelligence value, and would return to jihad if released. I am very sorry to say that I believe there were uniformed military who aided and abetted these falsehoods, even at the highest levels of our armed forces.

In this video Wilkerson talks to Rachel Maddow about the fact that the Bush regime suspected that many of the people it held at places like Abu Ghraib were innocent, but that they were operating a policy were one simply swept up everyone and anyone near the battle zone and processed them later. This became known as the Mosaic philosophy:

The fourth unknown is the ad hoc intelligence philosophy that was developed to justify keeping many of these people, called the mosaic philosophy. Simply stated, this philosophy held that it did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance (this general philosophy, in an even cruder form, prevailed in Iraq as well, helping to produce the nightmare at Abu Ghraib). All that was necessary was to extract everything possible from him and others like him, assemble it all in a computer program, and then look for cross-connections and serendipitous incidentals--in short, to have sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.

Thus, as many people as possible had to be kept in detention for as long as possible to allow this philosophy of intelligence gathering to work. The detainees' innocence was inconsequential. After all, they were ignorant peasants for the most part and mostly Muslim to boot.

It's bad enough to read about the way people were routinely treated in places like Abu Ghraib when the people we are discussing are suspected terrorists, but it's simply shocking when one realises that the administration was behaving in this way towards a prison population many of whom it suspected were guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The crimes which the Bush administration committed are simply breathtaking, the way in which they simply locked up Afghans and Iraqis in the hope of flushing any information they could get out of them, regardless of whether or not these people had committed any crimes or taken part in any terrorist activity, leaves one speechless.

And, in any war where one is fighting for the hearts and minds of the local population, one has to say that, as a policy, what they were doing is almost insane. For every person who they wrongly detained there is an extended family who will loathe the US.

Nor did all of this suffering of innocent people actually result in any meaningful intelligence gathering:

In addition, it has never come to my attention in any persuasive way--from classified information or otherwise--that any intelligence of significance was gained from any of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay other than from the handful of undisputed ring leaders and their companions, clearly no more than a dozen or two of the detainees, and even their alleged contribution of hard, actionable intelligence is intensely disputed in the relevant communities such as intelligence and law enforcement.

This is perhaps the most astounding truth of all, carefully masked by men such as Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney in their loud rhetoric--continuing even now in the case of Cheney--about future attacks thwarted, resurgent terrorists, the indisputable need for torture and harsh interrogation and for secret prisons and places such as GITMO.

Wilkerson has no reason to lie. He claims that when Rumsfeld and Cheney talk of "thwarted" terrorist attacks that they are gilding the lily, that no evidence of any significance has been gained by this massive torture ring, that America's reputation has been squandered by these thugs for no actual gain.

Wilkerson talks of Cheney's most recent interview as, "almost mystifying in its twisted logic and terrifying in its fear-mongering."

As to twisted logic: "Cheney said at least 61 of the inmates who were released from Guantanamo (sic) during the Bush administration...have gone back into the business of being terrorists." So, the fact that the Bush administration was so incompetent that it released 61 terrorists, is a valid criticism of the Obama administration? Or was this supposed to be an indication of what percentage of the still-detained men would likely turn to terrorism if released in future? Or was this a revelation that men kept in detention such as those at GITMO--even innocent men--would become terrorists if released because of the harsh treatment meted out to them at GITMO? Seven years in jail as an innocent man might do that for me. Hard to tell.

As for the fear-mongering: "When we get people who are more interested in reading the rights to an Al Qaeda (sic) terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry," Cheney said. Who in the Obama administration has insisted on reading any al-Qa'ida terrorist his rights? More to the point, who in that administration is not interested in protecting the United States--a clear implication of Cheney's remarks.

But far worse is the unmistakable stoking of the 20 million listeners of Rush Limbaugh, half of whom we could label, judiciously, as half-baked nuts. Such remarks as those of the former vice president's are like waving a red flag in front of an incensed bull. And Cheney of course knows that.

Cheney went on to say in his McLean interview that "Protecting the country's security is a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business. These are evil people and we are not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek." I have to agree but the other way around. Cheney and his like are the evil people and we certainly are not going to prevail in the struggle with radical religion if we listen to people such as he.

Wilkerson is a former member of the Bush administration and he is openly calling Dick Cheney, "evil."

And, if he is telling the truth when he states that the administration didn't care if the people it held were innocent or guilty, then I would have to agree with him. The criminality of the Bush administration and it's indifference to the innocent people it arrested is simply unbelievable.

I suspected that many of the people arrested were innocent, but it simply never occurred to me that the Bush regime might also suspect this, but that they simply didn't care. That's astounding.

Click title for Wilkerson's interview.

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