Somebody recently renamed the detainees at the prison facility in Guantanamo Bay the “rock stars of the Islamic terrorist world.” Among them are the planners of the 9/11 attacks, the bombings of US African embassies, USS Cole bombers, Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards, the Bali bombers, and more. Still one part of America intends to try them with the same procedures used for house theft.
If the purpose of the opponents of Guantanamo is to improve the “tarnished image of America,” they can rest assured that a mere relocation of the detainees will not change the image of America in the eyes of the Muslim world -- a world that is more sensitive to the detention of terrorists than to the killings by extremists, at the expenses of their fellow Muslims, in the markets of Peshawar or in the streets of Kabul. In their minds, wherever these prisoners will be kept, that place will immediately become the center of American arrogance and cruelty.
As the Guantanamo affair is first and foremost an ideological one, the many voices raised against moving terrorists onto American soil will remain unheard. Rights advocates contend that there is no justification for keeping these enemy combatants in confinement without appropriate legal procedures. Rights advocates are not satisfied with the current system of reviews and tribunals, and insist that trials should be held in civilian courts. The detention of enemy combatants under military authorities for the “duration of hostilities,” however, is an internationally recognized procedure in line with the Geneva Accords of 1988.
President Barack Obama had promised to close down the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay during the election campaign, certainly not fully understanding all the implications of such a decision. Now he is realizing that closing it down is not the easy task he thought it would be, and that he will have to postpone the January deadline he had set, in the hope of achieving this goal sometime next year.
Holding a trial in America, whether military or civilian or, as the president has affirmed, to continue indefinite detention, involves risks. Highly classified and sensitive information would have to be released to provide evidence. There is the likelihood that the new detention place(s) may become a new pole of attraction for terrorists to stage their deeds. Some of these terrorist might be freed and rejoin their companions of jihad. According to Reuters, 61 former detainees have returned to terrorism, and Said Ali al-Shihri, released from Guantanamo in 2007 after six years in detention, and recently resurfaced as a leader of a Yemeni branch of Al-Qaida.
At this point, there is a war, which has not been declared by America, and there are self-appointed jihad fighters, who fight outside all accepted war rules -- hiding behind civilians, not wearing uniforms, targeting civilians to spread still more terror and so on. Had they been members of a regular army, nobody would have objected to their detention in a prison camp. Ironically, the fact that they do not belong to a regular army should worsen their position according to international law as set by different international sources and in particular by the Geneva Conventions. Yet one part of our society would like to grant these people the same rights that are given in a civilian trial.
As granting terrorists more rights will not help us to win the war, the reasons for promoting it can only be ideological, in a manner that is spreading throughout the world:
A few days ago, Armando Spataro, public prosecutor in the Tribunal of Milan, condemned 23 American citizens for having kidnapped Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, an islamist that Spataro had arrested in 2005 on charges of recruiting terrorists in Europe (Nasr had eventually been consigned to the Egyptian authorities). Spataro condemned the Americans -- notwithstanding the fact that he acknowledged that they were acting in full collaboration with the Italian secret services. But Mr. Spataro was adamant: “We can fight terrorism – he stated – only with the full respect of the law. We have no need for rendition or torture. Any praxis based upon these elements is inadmissible. Rights must be guaranteed also to people suspected or accused of terrorism”.
Although the law may have been upheld, any future collaboration between the CIA and Italian intelligence is now jeopardized, and the war on terrorism harder to win than ever.