(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Wilkerson’s sworn statement should be the clanging death knell for Obama’s military commissions
Via the Times Online and Truthout‘s Jason Leopold, we have Lt. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson’s sworn affidavit in support of GITMO detainee Adel Hassan Hamad’s lawsuit against Bush, Rumsfeld, et al., for wrongful imprisonment and abuse, that the majority of both GITMO and Abu Ghraib detainees were arbitrarily imprisoned.
With respect to the assertions by Mr. Hamad that he was wrongfully seized and detained, it became apparent to me as early as August 2002, and probably earlier to other State Department personnel who were focused on these issues, that many of the prisoners detained at Guantánamo had been taken into custody without regard to whether they were truly enemy combatants, or in fact whether many of them were enemies at all. I soon realized from my conversations with military colleagues as well as foreign service officers in the field that many of the detainees were, in fact, victims of incompetent battlefield vetting. There was no meaningful way to determine whether they were terrorists, Taliban, or simply innocent civilians picked up on a very confused battlefield or in the territory of another state such as Pakistan.
Wilkerson’s declaration sworn under penalty of perjury goes on to explain that so many detainees at Gitmo were (and still are) likely innocent due to the incompetent dragnet set up by the Bush team: detainees were not captured and vetted by American soldiers but rather by Afghanis and Pakistanis who had conflicts of interest, either tribally or with respect to the considerable bounties paid by Americans. Outsourcing strikes again!
The vetting problem, in my opinion, was directly related to the initial decision not to send sufficient regular army troops at the outset of the war in Afghanistan, and instead, to rely on the forces of the Northern Alliance and the extremely few US. Special Operations Forces (SOF) who did not have the necessary training or personnel to deal with battlefield detention questions or even the inclination to want to deal with the issue.
A related problem with the initial detention was that predominantly U.S. forces were not the ones who were taking the prisoners in the first place. Instead, we relied upon Afghans, such as General Dostum’s forces, and upon Pakistanis, to hand over prisoners whom they had apprehended, or who had been turned over to them for bounties, sometimes as much as $5,000 per head. Such practices meant that the likelihood was high that some of the Guantánamo detainees had been turned in to U.S. forces in order to settle local scores, for tribal reasons, or just as a method of making money. I recall conversations with serving military officers at the time, who told me that many detainees were turned over for the wrong reasons, particularly for bounties and other incentives.
To our endless shame, we’ve known all along that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al, rate amongst the most boundless liars and despicable war criminals, responsible for at least hundreds of thousands, and perhaps in excess of a million innocent deaths. Congress bent over backwards to pass the military commissions act because they knew most of the detainees were innocent, as indicated by the Department of Defense’s General Counsel William Haynes’s insistence that none could be found innocent and acquitted:
Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals. We’ve got to have convictions.
Wilkerson’s declaration under oath only confirms Haynes’s explicit political dilemma in “letting anyone get off,” regardless of actual guilt or innocence:
I came to understand that there were several different reasons for the refusal to release detainees in Guantanamo, even those who were likely innocent. These reasons continued to the time of my departure from the Department of State in 2005. At least part of the problem was that it was politically impossible to release them. The concern expressed was that if they were released to another country, even an ally such as the United Kingdom, the leadership of the Defense Department would be left without any plausible explanation to the American people, whether the released detainee was subsequently found to be innocent by the receiving country, or whether the detainee was truly a terrorist and, upon release were it to then occur, would return to the war against the U.S.
Another concern was that the detention efforts at Guantanamo would be revealed as the incredibly confused operation that they were. Such results were not acceptable to the Administration and would have been severely detrimental to the leadership at DOD.
Compounding our shame, as these potentially innocent detainees continue to rot for years on end in the legal black hole of Guantanamo, President Obama, Spelunker-in-Chief, is caving to demands from the GOP to continue prosecuting and convicting potentially innocent people in rigged “show trials” for the sake of appearances, to cover up past crimes.
This continued act of cowardice and injustice by Obama will occur despite the fact that we’ve known that Guantanamo was specifically set up not only to evade, but to break the law, as Judge Advocate General lawyer Lt. Commander Charles Swift noted:
The whole purpose of setting up Guantanamo Bay is for torture. Why do this? Because you want to escape the rule of law. There is only one thing that you want to escape the rule of law to do, and that is to question people coercively – what some people call torture. Guantanamo and the military commissions are implements for breaking the law.
Wilkerson’s declaration under oath also confirms what Lt. Com. Swift said of Guantanamo, that Dick Cheney was using it as a dungeon for the dragnet-style incarceration of hundreds and hundreds of arbitrarily detained humans, including children as young as 12 years of age and men as old as 92 years of age, who just might turn up some justification for the illegal invasion of Iraq:
Another part of the political dilemma originated in the Office of Vice President Richard B. Cheney, whose position could be summed up as “the end justifies the means”, and who had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were innocent, or that there was a lack of any useable evidence for the great majority of them. If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it. That seemed to be the philosophy that ruled in the Vice President’s Office.
Wilkerson’s sworn affadavit officially and brightly marks the path Obama must take, which is digging into the prior and ongoing criminal activity at Guantanamo and other illegal “black sites,” rather than committing further crimes to cover-up abominable crimes the past.
Given Wilkerson’s sworn statement, I don’t see how Obama can possibly carry through with rigged show trials rather than conducting federal trials with evidence presented in a balanced, adversarial manner, but if he does, we can add his name to the list of those who aid and abet “the worst of the worst” war criminals of our time.