Guantanamo: A Conservative Moral Blind Spot

A current Guantanamo detainee, Mohamedou Slahi, just published a book about his ordeal. The book is redacted of course but it still tells an arresting story.

M. Slahi was captured in 2000. He has been held in detention, mostly at Guantanamo prison since 2002 but in other places too . The motive was that he supposedly helped recruit three of the 9/11 hijackers and that he was involved in other terror plots in the US and Canada (unidentified plots.).

According to CNN:

Slahi admits to traveling to Afghanistan to fight in the early 1990s, when the US. was supporting the mujahedin in their fight against the Soviet Union. He pledged allegiance to al Qaeda in 1991 but claims he broke ties with the group shortly after.

He was in fact never convicted. He was not even formally charged with anything. Slahi has spent 13 years in custody, most of his young adulthood. If he is indeed a terrorist, I say, Bravo and let’s keep him there until the current conflict between violent jihadists and the US comes to an end. Terror jihadists can’t plant bombs in hotels while they are in Guantanamo. And, by the way, I am not squeamish about what those who protect us must do to people we suspect of having information important to our safety. I sometimes even deplore that we do to them is not imaginative enough. And, I think that the recent allegations to the effect that torture produces nothing of interest are absurd on their face.

But what if the guy is an innocent shepherd, or fisherman, or traveling salesman found in the wrong place? What if he is a victim of a vendetta by the corrupt police of his own country who delivered him over? What if he was simply sold to our intelligence services? What if, in short, he is has no more been involved in terrorism than I have? The question arises in Slahi’s case because the authorities had thirteen years to produce enough information, from him and from others, to charge him. They can’t even give good reasons why they think he is a terrorist in some way, shape or form. It shouldn’t be that hard. If he so much as lend his cellphone to a terrorist I am for giving him the longest sentence available. or simply to keep him until the end of hostilities (perhaps one century).

And if having fought in Afghanistan and having pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda at some point are his crimes, charge him, try him promptly even by a military commission, or declare formally, publicly that he is a prisoner not protected by the Geneva Conventions, because he was caught engaged in hostile action against the US while out of uniform and fighting for no constituted government. How difficult can this be?

I am concerned, because, as a libertarian conservative, I am quite certain that any government bureaucracy will usually cover its ass in preference to doing the morally right thing. (The American Revolution was largely fought against precisely this kind of abuse.) Is it possible that the Pentagon or some other government agency wants to keep this man imprisoned in order to hide their mistakes of thirteen years ago? I believe that to ask the question is to answer it.

This kind of issue is becoming more pressing instead of vanishing little by little because it looks like 9/11 what just the opening course. It looks like we are in this struggle against violent jihadism for the long run. Again, I am not proposing we go soft on terrorism. I worry that we are becoming used to government arbitrariness and mindless cruelty. I suspect that conservatives are often conflating their dislike of the president’s soft touch and indecision about terrorism with neglect of fairness and humanity. I fear we are becoming less American.

Let me ask again: What if this man, and some others in Guantanamo, have done absolutely nothing against us?

Of course, I hope the US will keep Guantanamo prison open as long as necessary. In fact, I expect fresh planeloads of real terrorist from Syria and Iraq to come in soon. I really hope that Congress will have the intestinal fortitude to call President Obama’s bluff on closing the prison. Congress has the means to stop it if it wants to.

6 thoughts on “Guantanamo: A Conservative Moral Blind Spot

  1. I hope the US will keep Guantanamo prison open as long as necessary. In fact, I expect fresh planeloads of real terrorist from Syria and Iraq to come in soon. I really hope that Congress will have the intestinal fortitude to call President Obama’s bluff on closing the prison. Congress has the means to stop it if it wants to.

    So are you saying you want the prison closed, as long as it’s not done by a Democrat?

    Also, I have precious few dollars but I’d be willing to wager a bet that the American Revolution was not about government abuse at all. The Bill of Rights was produced so that the 13 independent states could form a federation knowing that they had some institutional bulwarks against federal tyranny, but the war against the UK was about representation (London would not grant the colonies seats in parliament) and taxes (London wanted the colonies to pay for the French & Indian War that the colonies demanded London fight for them).

  2. “And, I think that the recent allegations to the effect that torture produces nothing of interest are absurd on their face.”

    Of course you do, no surprise there.

    There is a torture museum in Amsterdam. I’ve never gone, the coffee shops are far more interesting. What would be your top 5 devices for the US to install to get ‘interesting’ stuff out of the scalawags?

    http://www.tortureamsterdam.com/

  3. I see that Saudi funding of the 9/11 terrorists is in the news.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/05/world/middleeast/pre-9-11-ties-haunt-saudis-as-new-accusations-surface.html?_r=0

    This looks like a perfect opportunity for Professor Medieval to generate something ‘interesting’. I think we should let Jacques loose on Zacarias Moussaoui with a rack, some thumbscrews and some red hot irons. In no time at all we’ll find out that they were funded by……Ron Paul! Now that would really be ‘interesting’.

    • I don’t see why the US is not more closely allied with Israel, Turkey, and Iran.

      Oh wait! Our government overthrew an elected government in Iran and installed a ruthless dictator who was, in turn, overthrown by an unfriendly dictator.

      But seriously, the ayatollahs would have been gone a long time ago if Washington had just fessed up to its crimes. Allying with my preferred troika would also give us room to maneuver with the traditional Arab power in the region: Egypt. As it stands, Cairo and Riyadh don’t like each other, and haven’t since the Cold War began. Egypt, though, has a long history of interaction with the West.

  4. 1 I am sorry if I was unclear. I don’t want the Guantanamo prison to be closed. I want it expanded. I just dislike the lack of transparency about the process by which one becomes a prisoner there. Shoot me!
    2 More interesting methods of interrogation would not involve increased levels of violence, but live pigs, ham sandwiches and beer; also specialized movies.
    3 Brandon: You have prodigious amounts of energy you can dedicate to defending arcane views of well-know events. I admire this but I don’t have the same. I will leave the discussion of what the real meaning of the American revolution was to after I have passed away. In the meantime I have read really well both the Bill of Rights and the preamble to the Declaration of independence.

    • I don’t want the Guantanamo prison to be closed. I want it expanded. I just dislike the lack of transparency about the process by which one becomes a prisoner there.

      Unicorns and fairy dust.

      Your methods, by the way, assume that terrorists are actually pious Muslims. This I doubt (though admittedly the term ‘pious Muslims’ is an ambiguous one). Pornography on the internet is more sought out in the Middle East than anywhere else in the world (on a per capita basis, of course, and porn surfers in the region apparently prefer blondes), for example.

      That view is not arcane. Haven’t you ever heard the phrase “No Taxation Without Representation”? You deride it as arcane because it unceremoniously flushes your Tea Party nonsense – your appeal to a tradition that never existed – down the toilet.

Please keep it civil

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