As free as I want you to be...

This post is more than 2 years old.

So - I've mentioned before (probably not here, but on various listservs) that I feel the way we are treating the detainees in Guantanomo is pretty sad. Yes - they are the enemy. Yes - they may be horrible, evil, terrorists who want to kill me and my children. But guess what - even the Nazis got a trial. Bush has these people locked up in a limbo where they can be locked away forever and simply "forgotten." Everyone deserves justice and a fair trial.

Anyway - I ran across this little gem over at CNN: Bush: Amnesty report 'absurd'

The best line of the whole article is this quote from Bush: "Here, you're innocent until proven guilty...." He was speaking about a Russian trial, but the hypocrisy in this statement must not have occured to him.

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About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

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Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Brad posted on 6/1/2005 at 10:09 AM


I have to disagree with you here. As someone who has spent time in both Afghanistan and Iraq--I can say that those guys in Guantanomo are getting far more than they deserve. Let's face it...they are POWs. POWs are not usually given a trial during a time of war. We held German POWs in the US during WWII and they were imprisoned until after 1945 and there was no one petitioning to get them a trial. After the war is over you either (a)let them go or (b)try them for war crimes. Since we are still fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, I think these guys are right were they should be.

I know there is a lot of media coverage about the living conditions in Guantanomo, but I can tell you first hand that it is better than where they came from. Being in jail with 3 square meals a day is a lot better than living in dark caves, with no food, water or electricity and having 3000 lb. bombs dropped on you.

In Afghanistan, my unit was attacked by a suicide car bomber. We shot them (there were 2 people in the car) before they were able to detonate the bomb. One was still alive. What kind of cruel punishment befell this guy??? He was medivaced out on a Blackhawk and taken to a hospital to be treated for his injuries. He got the same treatment as any American soldier.

However, I can thank these "detainees" for getting me back to my CF job (I'm a reservist). They allowed me to get back to the states a little earlier than I expected. Of course, now I have to learn to type with one hand.



Comment 2 by Rob Brooks-Bilson posted on 6/1/2005 at 10:35 AM


I think you made Ray's point for him. If the detainees were classified as POW's(which they are most certainly not), we wouldn't be arguing this at all as POW's are afforded certain rights under the Geneva Conventions and international law.

As someone who served 9 years in the military myself, I find the current situation hypocritical to say the least. While I certainly respect and appreciate the sacrifices you and all soldiers, sailors, and airmen have made, I simply do not believe that the way we are handling the "detainee" situation is either just, or moral.

Just because we have "liberated" millions of people in Iraq and Afghanistan does not entitle us to a special pass to treat our enemies the way that we are treating some of them. If anything, it is our responsibility to take the moral high ground here and continue to set the example for the rest of the world.

Comment 3 by Brad posted on 6/1/2005 at 11:09 AM


You are right. They are not POWs. However, they should be. This is an entirely new ball game and the Geneva Conventions do not work well where the enemy is not a country. We are not fighting the general population of Afghanistan or Iraq. Our enemy moves from country to country and I think that is the problem putting a label on these guys.

It does bother me that you put the word "liberated" in quotes. This makes me feel that what we have done is being trivialized. I've been there and these people are really liberated. Yes...there is some bad stuff happening, but despite what you hear on the news, people on the street are much happier than they've been in a long time. I saw the before and after in Afghanistan and the after in Iraq. The only thing that makes the news is suicide bombers and IEDs. This reflects nothing of what is really happening. Imagine if CNN reported every single crime that happened in California or Texas. You'd think these were the most dangerous places on Earth.

As for taking the high ground--I helped build schools and clinics. We saved people that tried to kill us. Many often give out of their on pocket to the people of these countries. I say we are taking the high ground. We are treating our enemies much better than they treat us. Every day I saw posters celebrating 9/11 and pictures and video of beheadings. What kind of treatment do American prisoners get??? I've seen guys that had been seriously wounded by an IED hit on their Bradley only to be murdered crawling out wreckage. Prison is much better than being killed by bricks.

Both of you have valid points and maybe I'm biased. It’s not easy to take the high ground when the high ground shoots you with an RPG.



Comment 4 by Neil Middleton posted on 6/1/2005 at 1:15 PM

One simple point to make here. You say they are the enemy, but how do you know this unless they have had a fair trial?

Comment 5 by Raymond Camden posted on 6/1/2005 at 3:23 PM

Brad: Rob's reply is pretty much how I feel - that these guys should at least be classified in some manner. Bush has fought hard to keep them in limbo. As for their treatment, I'm not actually worried about that. I think that bad stuff we were caught doing was stupid, but not system-wide. If you have thousands of folks in jail - and lots of guards - you are going to end up with a few bad guards.

Neil: You are right of course - I was just making sure folks knew I wasn't considering these guys to be angels. I.e., I don't want them all just released to the streets.

Comment 6 by Scott Stroz posted on 6/1/2005 at 5:02 PM

Like the 'War on Drugs', I don;t see the 'War on terrorism' ever concluding, nor do I see us 'winning' either war.

I am torn by the situation. At the time of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, I was a paramedic in New Jersey. I was part of the rescue operation at 'Ground Zero'. I saw first hand how heartless and determined our 'enemy' can be. In my mind, those who masterminded, financed, supported and carried out those attacks should not qualify as human beings, and should be treated as teh animals they are.

On the flip side, I like to think that we (Americans) should be better than most. The type of treatment these 'prisoners' are receiving is deplorable and hypocritical. While I am getting sick of being the political punching bag for the rest of the world, it is a small price to pay for the freedom we enjoy, and many throughout the world die to attain.

Comment 7 by Rob Brooks-Bilson posted on 6/1/2005 at 6:41 PM


I didn't mean to come across as though I was trivializing what we've done over there. I was trying to make the point that the current administration often uses the liberation of those countries as a deflection point when it comes to rationalizing the way we are treating detainees. It's sort of like saying that we're treating 99.9% of the people fine, so it's ok that we are mistreating the other 0.1%.

I also don't disagree with you that the fact that these people represent a different type of threat than we are sed to - that of non-state actors (what were calling enemy combatants these days). However, this is exactly where the problem lies. I think we need to either classify these people as POWs, and begin the process of full compliance with the Geneva Conventions (or withdraw from the treaty), or put these people on trial.

The think I take issue with is the fact that we are treating them in a way that is in direct opposition to our constitution, as well as the very Democratic principles we are trying to instill. Holding people indefinitely, without charge, is just wrong. I know you mentioned that we should hold them until the war is over, but if you listen to the rhetoric from the politicians, I don't think this war is ever going to be over - I can't see how it can be. We've declared a war on terrorism. Terrorism isn't a physical entity you can fight, it's a tactic. You can try to root out those who employ terrorism as their tactic, but I think it's going to be a never ending battle. If that's going to be the case, then these detainees are never going to get justice - one way or the other. I think our justice system is the best in the world, and I think we need to put it to use right now to show that to the rest of the world.

Comment 8 by Don posted on 6/1/2005 at 6:49 PM

What I find to be amazing is the amount coverage about the US treatment prisoners (aka enemy combatants) at Gitmo vs the amount of coverage the rest of Cuba receives. You see journalists and celebs blast the administration about the supposed mistreatment but then turnaround and stare lovingly at Castro (who has jailed or killed almost all who oppose his communist rule)
War is hell, always has been and hopefully it always will be. I agree with Bush that the report is absurd to compare the allegations, and I stress they are allegations, of mistreatment at Gitmo to the Soviet-era gulags.

Comment 9 by CF_Yves posted on 6/2/2005 at 7:06 AM

Personally, I think it's obsurd to use a rule in principal for yourself while not submitting to the very same rule.

I agree with Ray, and I see a certain "double-standard-ism" in the Bush government.

Although some people are definately dangerous, how do we mesure who is locked up and who isn't?

A trial is a pretty good start. Without some form of order (or justice), the risk is abuse of "power". If there is no order, then the powers that be do what they want to serve their interest.

No order (or justice) really does mean you can throw anybody in the can and somehow justify it. I'm sure looking at different governments through history show that well.

I know the alternative for some, thinking that a madman might get out is a tough option.... if the madman has done something, his involvement should be proven. It goes to the heart of "justice".

To use a standard to mesure others by (like Bush and to be fair, other governements have done) and not honestly mesure yourself by the same standard is some pretty weak thinking IMO.

That's my rant. Thx.

Comment 10 by POW posted on 6/5/2005 at 7:44 PM

Remember that The majority of the POW's during WW2 were Wermacht - real, soldiers NOT nazis, so they would never face trials. The nazis fought to the end as they knew what would face them.

The simple fact here is that the US cannot go around deciding what is best for the world - especially with Bush the Moron in charge.

IMHO the US are terrorists - eco terrorists - how about you sign the Kyoto Accord and start by saving the planet rather than countries and people who hated you before you embarked on your crusades...... I hate to say that this but the whole "US led war on terrorism" is no doubt only gonna bring it back to your doorstep (which is what we all want to prevent).

Maybe when Clinton had his crosshair on Bin Laden he should have launched the missile rather thane backing off into the Oval office for some light refreshment.....

Comment 11 by Scott Stroz posted on 6/6/2005 at 3:55 AM

POW - I am no fan of Bush, and as I have stated, I think the 'War on Terror' is a waste of money, lives and manpower, but can you please tell me how we brought 'it' to our doorstep to begin with?

BTW - I am not a big fan of those who share their political views while hiding behind a nickname either.

Comment 12 by Omar Gatto posted on 6/10/2005 at 7:17 AM

>>You say they are the enemy, but how do you know this unless they have had a fair trial?

Uh, because they're fighting against us on the battlefield...

Also, the Constitution applies only to US Citizens and permanent residents, not to citizens of foreign countries. It is a lofty ideal to apply our high morals to the enemy, but it *will* and *does* cost the lives of Americans when we do so given that various enemies, especially this one, use our morals against us.

Comment 13 by FraudWasteAbuse posted on 3/7/2007 at 7:29 AM

>>Also, the Constitution applies only to US Citizens and permanent residents, not to citizens of foreign countries.

You are sadly mistaken. The Constitution applies to the federal government, not to people. Nowhere in the constitution does it say that citizens have a different set of rights than non-citizens.