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More on Guantánamo
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Well Sen. Dick Durbin has apologized for comparing the treatment of some prisoners at Guantánamo to the treatment of people under the Nazis and Soviets.

Andrew Sullivan is convinced that the treatment of prisoners there is indeed horrifying, quoting a report from one prisoner who alleged that he had been:

...hooded and cuffed with flexicuffs, threatened to be tortured and killed, urinated on, kicked in the head, lower back and groin, force-fed a baseball which was tied into the mouth using a scarf and deprived of sleep for four consecutive days.

I don't know how in the hell you force-feed someone a baseball, though yeah, I think it would be considered torture to even try.

James Lileks, on the other hand, thinks the place is pretty swell, and that it treats the prisoners possibly too well:

Never mind that the people sent there were “Unlawful combatants,” a phrase that would seem to bestow, well, a lack of adherence to the very notions of international law the Gitmo-detainee advocates hold dear. Never mind that they get their Korans, their arrows on the cell floor pointing to Mecca – and does anyone doubt that the arrows actually point the right way? Never mind that the food must be prepared by cooks who have to incorporate the prisoners’ convictions that the infidel is unclean, and must don gloves to prevent kafir infestation. Never mind any of that. Hoods. Shackles. Poor dears.

I think in a sense the focus on the treatment has distracted from the core issue, and that is the indefinite detention of people without due process.

Some of the stories are probably true. We do know that terrorists make things up, and don't need to be trained to do so. But where there's smoke, there's often fire. And precisely because Gitmo is in a sort of legal limbo, technically under Cuban jurisdiction and not really US soil, it's remoteness and purposefully fuzzy legal status makes it that much more difficult to verify what's going on there and makes the possibility of abuse more real.

It's obvious that as Lileks says, the military has gone to some lengths to meet the religious and dietary needs of the prisoners. I don't think it's reasonable to assume the place is paradise, though, and that abuse is not occuring. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

But to me it wouldn't matter much if the place was essentially a 4-star hotel. That's not the point. The point is that our government has made up its own designation ("unlawful combatant"), purposefully put these people in a legally ambiguous location, and has used avoidance rather than due process.

We need to close the prison camp in Guantá We either need to extradite the prisoners there, or move them to a base in the US. We need to figure out how to classify them in accordance with international standards, and either charge them or release them. Holding people indefinitely under dubious circumstances may not be analogous to gulags or concentration camps, but it certainly is not American.

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