Bryan posted below about the Democrats’ demand that the White House close Guantánamo’s Camp Delta detention facility. When I read stories like this, my initial reaction is anger that politicians are seemingly not treating terrorism seriously. But then I asked the opinion of my friend “Stashiu,” who has worked at GTMO. I was surprised to learn that he thinks closing down the prison might be a good idea. He explains why in this post.
First, a word about Stashiu. He is an Army psyche nurse who regularly spoke with the terrorists at Guantánamo, and came to understand something about their motivations. Last October, at my own blog, I ran a five-part interview with Stashiu, in which he discussed various aspects of Guantánamo and the people who are detained there. It was very revealing for me to get an insider’s view of the place, and I have great respect for Stashiu and his opinions, based on his experiences and character.
I recently asked Stashiu what he thought about the talk of closing down the Guantánamo prison. He said:
What everyone seems to forget is that GTMO will not close. The detainee facility (Camp Delta) may be shut down, but there is much more to Guantánamo than detainees. So, GTMO itself will not close even if detainees are relocated. Moving them out could be a smart move at this time because the facilities within the Camp will remain and could be opened again later if needed.
There are clear political disadvantages to keeping Camp Delta open, as it has become a fallback position for opposition propaganda and misinformation. No matter how many times a rumor is disproven, some politico will resurrect it as “evidence” of administration wrongdoing. The same thing applies to terrorist propaganda (funny how this is almost always identical to Democratic Party talking points), but if it wasn’t GTMO it would be some other manufactured excuse. We will never do enough to appease the terrorists because they’re not interested in appeasement. They want to convert, enslave, or kill the infidels and will perpetually feign outrage at anything that furthers this cause.
But Stashiu explained that his opinion is not based simply on the need for positive publicity. Based on his experience, he believes that keeping Camp Delta open is potentially dangerous:
If Camp Delta is not closed, here is what I believe we’ll see next and why. The belief that worldwide outcry at any successful suicides would cause immediate closure has proven incorrect. The first incident where three detainees coordinated their own deaths brought some of the attention they wanted, but the most recent suicide was barely a ripple on the news. I don’t know who the last suicide was or whether it was a political act, but since the initial report we’ve heard little. The goal of the terrorist leadership within Camp Delta is to keep GTMO in the headlines for both recruiting purposes and to divide their enemies. Now that the most recent suicide has not succeeded in generating headlines, the next step for detainees will be to capture and execute one or more of the staff (guard, medical, intelligence, etc…) This will be difficult and require a lot of planning, but that’s what I believe they will attempt. Eventually, they will succeed. Another option would be to cause a staff member to somehow be
responsible for a detainee death. The uncertainties (in their minds) of this getting out into the media effectively make that a less attractive
But where to put them?
The obvious problem with closing Camp Delta is finding someplace to put the detainees currently there. Bringing them to the United States would be a huge mistake and not one the adminstration is likely to make. The circus that would generate is all too obvious. It is more likely that any detainees that could not be returned to their home country for detainment there (because they would be summarily executed and our laws prevent us from exposing them to this) would be moved to existing facilities in the Middle East.
I asked him why he thinks it would be a mistake to bring the detainees to the United States. He said:
The biggest problems with moving any detainees to U.S. soil are threefold:
First, there is the fallacy that unlawful combatants are equivalent to prisoners-of-war. This interpretation arose from the terrorists’ propaganda and our own political expediency run amok. Bringing any of these detainees to the U.S. would be similarly exploited by politicians seeking advantage and power. It would further blur the line between those who follow the rules and those who don’t. None of these detainees should be a judicial issue as the Judicial Branch has nothing to do with prosecuting a war. This is the joint responsibility of the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. That is where the check-and-balance occurs.
The reason for this is simple: it is inherently unreasonable to extend judicial protections to an enemy unwilling to follow any rules in warfare. Any combatant who does not subscribe to the Laws of War should be not be afforded the same protections extended to soldiers following the rules, especially since they don’t extend these protections to us. If our soldiers break the rules, don’t we prosecute them within the military system? Why is prosecuting detainees within a military framework unfair if that’s what we do to our own troops? Also, I don’t understand the argument that we should extend them extra protections because if we don’t, we can’t expect them to treat our troops humanely in similar circumstances. We already know how our troops are treated if captured. And doesn’t the same reasoning apply to the people we’re fighting? If they want to expect protections when captured, shouldn’t they provide protections to anyone they capture? The fact they don’t follow any rules is what makes them unlawful. In the past they were treated as spies or criminals operating in a war zone and subject to summary execution. Aren’t we taking the moral high ground by just detaining them instead? Bringing them here just encourages the argument that they are the same as POW’s.
Second, the “America is always wrong” crowd would turn their presence into a circus, using our judicial system. No matter how these detainees are treated, there will be someone claiming it’s unjust and wrong. The “When did you stop beating your wife?” questions will be endless because this will draw attention away from the terrorists themselves. Keeping us divided and fighting amongst ourselves helps them undermine us and our way of life. If anyone thought the current Democratic leadership in the House and Senate currently call for hearings on the most ridiculous grounds, they haven’t seen anything yet. Does this mean I equate the Democratic leadership with anti-Americanism? Only when they follow their far-left base, just as Republicans who follow right-wing extremists (abortion-clinic bombers, white supremacists, etc) are anti-American. Anyone pandering to crazies is not following American ideals.
Third, just as Camp Delta is currently used for enemy propaganda and recruiting, moving it here won’t change that, just bring it closer to home. If the idea is to fight terrorism over there so we don’t have to fight it here, why would we bring them here?
Remember, Stashiu has personally spoken at length with the terrorists at GTMO, and this contact has given him significant insight into how they use propaganda to manipulate world opinion. Given that the Bush Administration appears to be considering bringing some of the detainees to the United States, Stashiu’s thoughts are especially relevant.
There’s no question that the Democrats are pursuing the closing of Camp Delta for partisan reasons. But it still just might be the right thing to do — as long as the Administration takes appropriate steps to ensure that these terrorists don’t come to the United States and turn their situation into an even greater propaganda bonanza.
P.S. If you’re interested in reading last year’s five-part interview with Stashiu, click here.
Update: Stashiu is reading the comments. Feel free to leave him a question or comment.
[Patterico blogs at Patterico.com and can be reached at patterico -AT- gmail -DOT- com.]