And why that decision is so important

The reason it is so important that we give the Guantanamo prisoners a reasonable opportunity to challenge their detention is that so many of them truly don't belong there.  While there are definitely some really bad dudes there, on the whole, this is definitely not, “the worst of the worst” as Bush and co. are so fond of saying.  McClatchy newspapers shows us what real journalism actually looks like with their great investigative report on who is actually at Guantanamo:

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three
continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men ? and,
according to several officials, perhaps hundreds ? whom the U.S. has
wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis
of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty

McClatchy interviewed 66 released detainees, more than
a dozen local officials ? primarily in Afghanistan ? and U.S. officials
with intimate knowledge of the detention program. The investigation
also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. military tribunal documents
and other records.

This unprecedented compilation shows that most
of the 66 were low-level Taliban grunts, innocent Afghan villagers or
ordinary criminals. At least seven had been working for the U.S.-backed
Afghan government and had no ties to militants, according to Afghan
local officials. In effect, many of the detainees posed no danger to
the United States or its allies.

The investigation also found
that despite the uncertainty about whom they were holding, U.S.
soldiers beat and abused many prisoners…

Some details:

Army Spc. Eric Barclais, who was a military intelligence
interrogator at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan from September 2002
through January 2003, told military investigators in sworn testimony
that “We recommended lots of folks be released from (Bagram), but they
were not. I believe some people ended up at (Guantanamo) that had no
business being sent there.”

“You have to understand some folks
were detained because they got turned in by neighbors or family members
who were feuding with them,” Barclais said. “Yes, they had weapons.
Everyone had weapons. Some were Soviet-era and could not even be fired.”

A former Pentagon official told McClatchy that he was shocked at times by the backgrounds of men held at Guantanamo.

” 'Captured with weapon near the Pakistan border?' ” the official said. “Are you kidding me?”

“The screening, the understanding of who we had was horrible,” he said. “That's why we had so many useless people at Gitmo.”…

The majority of the detainees taken to Guantanamo came into U.S.
custody indirectly, from Afghan troops, warlords, mercenaries and
Pakistani police who often were paid cash by the number and alleged
importance of the men they handed over. Foot soldiers brought in
hundreds of dollars, but commanders were worth thousands. Because of
the bounties ? advertised in fliers that U.S. planes dropped all over
Afghanistan in late 2001 ? there was financial incentive for locals to
lie about the detainees' backgrounds. Only 33 percent of the former
detainees ? 22 out of 66 ? whom McClatchy interviewed were detained
initially by U.S. forces. Of those 22, 17 were Afghans who'd been
captured around mid-2002 or later as part of the peacekeeping mission
in Afghanistan, a fight that had more to do with counter-insurgency
than terrorism.

It would be upsetting that we had no interest in fair and impartial justice if we were actually dealing with terrorists.  To know that we were so mistreating so many innocent people is really an everlasting stain on our country, especially, President Bush.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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