Thursday, May 21, 2009

Releasing detainees - Guantanamo and Iraq

The Pentagon now reports that 1 in 7 detainees released from Guantanamo have "returned to the fight" and resumed their "terrorist" activities. Evidently some of these people were indeed affiliated with al-Qaeda, but I would also direct you to the comments (toward the end of the report) :
only a few of the 29 people identified by name can be independently verified as having engaged in terrorism since their release. Many of the 29 are simply described as associating with terrorists or training with terrorists, with almost no other details provided.

“It’s part of a campaign to win the hearts and minds of history for Guantánamo,” said Mark P. Denbeaux, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law who has represented Guantánamo detainees and co-written three studies highly critical of the Pentagon’s previous recidivism reports. “They want to be able to claim there really were bad people there.”

Mr. Denbeaux acknowledged that some of the named detainees had engaged in verifiable terrorist acts since their release, but he said his research showed that their numbers were small.

“We’ve never said there weren’t some people who would return to the fight,” Mr. Denbeaux said. “It seems to be unavoidable. Nothing is perfect.”

Terrorism experts said a 14 percent recidivism rate was far lower than the rate for prisoners in the United States, which, they said, can run as high as 68 percent three years after release. They also said that while Americans might have a lower level of tolerance for recidivism among Guantánamo detainees, there was no evidence that any of those released had engaged in elaborate operations like the Sept. 11 attacks.
Not mentioned anywhere here is the fact that (1) many of these "bad guys" evidently were summarily rounded up, often on the basis of poor or false information, and have never been charged; and (2) that the humiliations of detention are themselves a motive for released detainees - even if they had been guilty of no "terrorist" acts before they were detained - to embark on careers of anti-US violence after they get out.

The same kind of thing has been happening in Iraq, especially in the early years of the US occupation. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the current US military chief in Iraq, has in recent years become a fan of Gen Petraeus' counterinsurgency tactics of protecting the population, but in his first command positions in Iraq, he was notorious for making big sweeps of Iraqi urban neighborhoods, breaking down doors, arresting all the men (which often entailed the humiliation of their being hooded and plastic-cuffed in front of their women and children), and packing them off to prisons, where they were held for years, usually without charge and with precious little evidence of wrongdoing. Many of these men are only now being released from US detention, and some observers credit them at least in part with the recent uptick in violence and bombings. They may well be extremely angry and intent of avenging their treatment at the hands of the Americans.

1 in 7 Freed Detainees Said to Be Militant Fighters, Pentagon Report Says -

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