Tuesday, May 31, 2005


David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey in NRO regarding Irene Khan's remarks that Guantanamo is the "gulag of our times":

Khan is either profoundly ignorant of the actual gulag, where Communist regimes “re-educated” political dissidents through murderous hard labor, starvation diets, and exposure to the elements, or engaging in highly improvident hyperbole. It is most likely the latter. (As the Washington Post editorialized, the “modern equivalent” of the gulag can be found not at Guantanamo Bay, but in Castro’s Cuba, North Korea, China and, until recently, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.) In a calmer moment, Khan might reflect that comparing American policies with which she disagrees to genuine atrocities committed by some of the most vicious and repressive regimes in history effectively trivializes the actions of those regimes.
Of course, the men held at Guantanamo Bay are not political dissidents. They are captured enemy combatants. Under the laws of war, they can be detained until the conflict, or at least actual hostilities, are concluded. This has been the practice of the United States, and of every other major power in Europe and elsewhere, for centuries. It is not illegal; it is not immoral. In fact, this rule is one of the first and most important humanitarian advances made in warfare. The right to detain is the necessary concomitant of the obligation to give quarter on the battlefield, to actually take prisoners alive.

To be fair, Amnesty International knows this. (Indeed, it restated the traditional rule in the report’s chapter on Morocco, which notes that the rebel Polisario Front was obliged “[u]nder international humanitarian law” to release its government prisoners when hostilities ended in 1991.) What Amnesty is really saying is that, in its view, America’s fight against al Qaeda is not an armed conflict, to which the laws of war apply, but a criminal-enforcement matter where the rights to a speedy, civilian trial are applicable. This is evident in the report’s description of the Guantanamo detainees as individuals “held without charge or trial . . . on the grounds of possible links to al-Qa’ida or the former Taleban government of Afghanistan.” Despite the fact that the vast majority of detainees at Guantanamo were captured on the battlefield, in arms against the United States or its allies, this “criminal enforcement” view is widely held on the Left. It is also a historical and legally incorrect.

So, unless you are advocating that the WOT is a "criminal" venture, the prisoners at Gitma just have to cool their heels until OBL and friends are dead, captured, or otherwise neutralized. Of course, the enemy just beheads it's prisoners of war. Did that make Amnesty's report?