Complicating Guantanamo

Following the lead of the New York Times, which had a similar story (11/2/08) right before the election, Newsweek‘s Dan Ephron has a piece (11/7/08) on “The Gitmo Dilemma,” explaining why Obama “won’t close the controversial prison soon.”

Like the Times story, Newsweek struggles to complicate a simple situation. The U.S. had three things it could do with prisoners that were in accord with international law and the U.S. Constitution: It could have released them; it could put them on trial in civilian court; or it could have treated them as prisoners of war with the protection of the Geneva Conventions.

It was only the Bush administration’s determination to preserve the ability to torture the prisoners that necessitated their placement in Guantanamo–which the administration hoped would be treated as a Constitution-free zone–and the creation of a parallel justice system where defendants’ legal rights would be limited.

The fact that Guantanamo was used for its intended purpose of abusing prisoners makes it difficult if not impossible at this point to give them real trials. But they can presumably still be treated as POWs, as long as a legitimate tribunal determines them to be combatants in an ongoing conflict. Contrary to what Newsweek and the New York Times say, constructing a prisoner of war camp for a few dozen prisoners would not be at all beyond the capabilities of the U.S. military.

See FAIR’s magazine Extra!: “Take No Prisoners: U.S. Reporters Failed to Probe Pentagon’s ‘Unlawful Combatants’ Label” (3-4/02) by Steve Rendall

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.