Fair and balanced Gitmo coverage

Murdoc’s sick, but I’ve got a little sicker. Here’s AP/MSNBC’s story on the UN request to “shut down the prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay and either release all detainees being held there or bring them to trial”:

Some have decried the UN’s choice not to visit Gitmo while compiling their report. Other’s have decried the US’ choice not not allow the UN to interview detainees, the reason the UN gave for declining the invitation.

Let’s look at the image used by MSNBC. Hmmm. Looks like Camp X-Ray to me. You know Camp X-Ray. It was the temporary area constructed when the detention facility first opened. The one that’s been SHUT DOWN SINCE APRIL 2002. You read that right, boys and girls. The image on the big story about the call to shut down the facility is using a picture of a facility that has been shut down for nearly four years.

Here’s a more recent image of Camp X-Ray:


Now, to be fair, the UN is calling for the shutdown of the entire facility. But it’s pretty unfair to mis-characterize the nature of the facility you’re criticizing, no?

In December I noted that the DoD reported that the detainees were now housed in “more modern, comfortable facilities, and improvements continue”, and wrote:

Now, everything’s relative, of course. And “more modern, comfortable facilities” aren’t necessarily “modern, comfortable facilities”. But if there’s a real problem with the current facilities, why do we keep seeing pictures of the old facilities when we’re hearing about how awful Guantanamo is?

Then there’s this in the story, too:


The detention facility was opened during the first month of George Bush’s presidency, eight months before 9/11? And critics say the man was unprepared.

Or maybe this is just a generally-crappy news report. I guess it’s a case of ‘real but inaccurate’?


  1. Let’s see, I don’t have copies of the Law of Land Warfare, or the Geneva Conventions handy, but let’s see if I can do this from memory: 1) Rules of war allow prisoners of war (POWs) to be held until they are either exchanged or paroled, or until the war ends. 2) Al Qaeda and Affiliated Movements (AQAM) declared war on US back in the 1990s sometime. 3) The prisoners being held at Gitmo were at the time of capture members of AQAM and engaged in combat against US forces. Therefore they can be classified as POWs, and held until the end of the conflict. Further, many were not in proper uniform, which, according to the Geneva Conventions, allows, at the determination of a military tribunal, for them to be declared to be unlawful combatants, and subject to summary execution. (I believe that last time US forces actually did this was with members of Otto Skorzeny’s unit, captured wearing US and Brit uniforms in the Battle of the Bulge.

  2. When you can tell me how I’ll know when the ‘end of the conflict’ is, then I’ll buy the argument that they can be held until that time. As Gonzalez famously stated, some of the rules of warfare are quaint artifacts of a bygone era. (As an aside, he was given a lot of shit in the press for saying it, but the specific examples he pointed to tended to prove his point … scientific laboratory equipment for POWs?) Regardless of the legal technicalities, holding prisoners without trials until international Islamic terrorism is defeated (basically forever) is a huge public relations problem for the U.S. This ain’t the way to ‘win hearts and minds’.

  3. Chuck: Knowing when the conflict will end has nothing to do with being able to hold them at that time *if* those rules apply. You never know how long a conflict is going to last, and it’s not our fault if these guys picked a long one to get nabbed in. The question is ‘do those rules apply?’. If the answer is ‘yes’, it doesn’t matter one bit if we can tell you when it will end or if it will last ‘basically forever’. Their problem. Not ours. As for winning hearts and minds, you’ve got a very valid point and I’m not 100% sure that we’re doing this whole thing right. However the tactics and rhetoric and bleeding hearts of Gitmo critics seem to be even less ‘right’ to me so far.

  4. I agree with the executions. As far as I’m concerned, that should be the end of all terrorists. Also, though, I’d like to encourage Chuck and his buddies to go on taking the side of the terrorists and making sure their ‘rights’ are protected. It’s obvious y’all know a thing or two about winning hearts and minds. Keep up the good work!

  5. As an aside, over the last week or so I’ve been working with some guys who’ve spent the last year at Gitmo, providing security (mostly external, some inside the wire stuff)-we’re training the next unit that’s going down to take the job. They’ve seen some of the folks locked up there, looked in their eyes. They tell me a lot of these guys are just pure evil; their souls are just pitch black. Think Manson, but with more ambition and less compunction about killing. Hitler, Stalin, Eichmann, or Beria, just without the resources of a nation-state. There’s no doubt that if we let those guys out, they’d be back killing Americans and our allies as soon as possible.

  6. I’m also wondering if any critics of Gitmo would care to comment about why news stories always use images of Camp X-Ray instead of the images of the facilities in use for the past four years. Not newsworthy enough? Afraid that people wouldn’t be so outraged if they saw how the detainees were really being housed?

  7. Murdoc, Notice I did not say ‘tell me when the war would be over’. I said ‘tell me how I will know the war is over’. Big difference. Dfens, Nice sound bites. Care to actually address anything I wrote? If they’re all terrorists, then put them on trial, sentence them to life in prison or something and be done with it. Hell, even skip the trial part. The problem is not that they are locked up. Hell, the people in their home countries generally don’t even want them back. The problem is that the limbo situation we are holding them in represents a huge PR nightmare for us. And this PR issue is solvable while at the same time re-affirming U.S. core values. Its not that different than the sense of rule of law we championed at the end of WWII. Stalin and Churchill wanted summary executions with show trials or even no trials. The problem that Roosevelt saw was that it would not have looked like justice, it would have looked like the winners executing the losers. He wanted to make it look like the just executing the wicked and, IMHO, it worked. (BTW, that’s why they refused a firing squad to Goehring, he was being executed as a common criminal, not as a military officer.) We should strive for a similar effect here. Right now we look like the slippery lawyers arguing legal technicalities — ‘we can hold them until the war is over (wink, wink)’. Holding them in limbo just makes us look weak and ineffectual. It just looks like we’re not really sure exactly what to do. We won’t put them on trial. We won’t just come out and say we’re never letting them go. We know we can’t actually let them go. So the situation as it stands is just the result of not knowing what else to do. And our enemies pick up on that. If there’s one thing we should never do in the war on terror, its look like we’re not really sure what to do. If Bush really had the balls, he would just announce he had signed an executive order that the prisoners had been sentenced to life sentences and announce plans to build a permanent prison. Just get the uncertainty and wishy-washy legal technicality arguments off the table. There’s probably even people in the terrorist-prone countries who would respect the firm resolve that would represent, rather than laugh at the weak will the current policy represents.

  8. Chuck: You’re right. I misread what you said.. Doesn’t matter. Bad luck for them, I guess, but prisoners taken during an ambiguous conflict don’t get any special rights because they picked a bad fight. For all I know, we can hold them forever. Oh, that’s pretty much our position. They were taken on the field of conflict not wearing uniforms. They’ve forfeited pretty much everything resembling rights. The fact that they might be there a long time because they’ve decided to fight an open-ended war isn’t my fault. It’s theirs. I don’t understand why so many peopel have trouble understanding this.

  9. Murdoc: Of course, there’s a possibility that some of them are there mistakenly, although I think it’s pretty unlikely given the expense and difficulty in getting them there. For them, it must truly suck. However, what I have not seen is any proposal of a way to do something about that, other than ‘release them all’ which is not tenable. There’s no point in keeping innocent people there, so I imagine anyone whos detention is doubtful probaly has been released already, or at least transferred elsewhere. There’s no guarantee, but it seems that doing so would make sense. Unfortunately, we haven’t determined the rules of this conflict as such, so I don’t really see what can be done about it. As you say, those who are clearly guilty don’t deserve much sympathy for their plight. Don’t want to be stuck in a PoW camp for an indeterminate amount of time? Don’t fight without a uniform and ignore the relevant conventions. I’d fight in a guerilla fashion – if it was justified, and there was some reasonable chance of success. And if I was captured and stuck in an internment camp, I wouldn’t be happy about it, but it’s a possibility you have to face. On the other hand, if the foreign troops came to get rid of a dictator, I’d be nice to them as they would have done me a big favour.

  10. Keep going, Chuck, you’re clearly winning! Use lots of words like weak, and ineffectual. The Nazi reference seems gratuitous, but I personally liked, ‘we look like the slippery lawyers arguing legal technicalities’ and the second reference to ‘wishy-washy legal technicality arguments’. Good stuff there. I’m sure Bush will call you if he needs someone to find his balls. There are remarkably few thinking people who even try to defend terrorists. Ya’ gotta wonder if there’s a reason for that.

  11. Nicholas, I believe there is an old military strategy that applies in this situation. Put succinctly it goes: Kill them all and let God sort ’em out.

  12. Murdoc, Dfens, Nicholas and everyone else who doesn’t get it, Its not about the Taliban/Al Qaeda/Terrorist assholes at Gitmo. I could give a shit about them. Its really not about them at all. I don’t understand where in any of my comments you get the idea that I care one iota whether they rot in jail for the rest of their lives. What I care about is two things. First, I worry that the administrations clever legal arguments might backfire legally and/or politically and the U.S. is somehow forced to release these guys. Such a scenario is easier to imagine with these guys’ status in limbo. They should be sentenced to prison for illegal combat (or whatever crime we would come up with). If we only hold them as POWs, there might one day be an argument why we’d have to release them. If that day comes and only then do we charge them with these other crimes, it merely exposes the POW argument as being a sham all along — and I don’t want accusations of shams to be proven true. Second, I don’t like to be hiding behind legal technicalities. Its not a politically strong position to take. Neither is it a position that can be taken advantage of through propoganda, except by our enemies. ‘Fight against us and you’ll go to prison for life’ is much stronger than ‘fight against us and we’ll put you in prison where you may or may not ever get out depending on the future twists and turns of political will and legal analysis’. But all of you seem to be fighting for the latter. Why?

  13. Chuck: A) I’ve said that I’m not 100% sure we’re handling this in the best way possible. However, I think that the 100% best way of handling this would have been to execute them on the spot. B) Regarding your first point: Who’s going to ‘somehow’ ‘force’ the US to release these guys? I wouldn’t mind seeing charges brought, but not because I think they’re going to ‘somehow’ get away. C) Regarding your second point: As has been pointed out many many many many times already, these guys were taken on the field of battle in combat against our troops. They weren’t wearing uniforms or members of a Geneva signatory. That IS NOT a ‘legal technicality’ that we’re ‘hiding behind’. D) Also regarding your second point: You can word what you think I’m ‘fighting for’ however you think weakens my case, but if I can have some input I’d suggest something more along the lines of ‘Fight against us and we’ll put you in a hole in Cuba and won’t even let the UN talk to you despite their intent to prove us wrong. We might let you out someday. We might not.‘ If the outcry gets too loud, we can always just line them up and shoot them. Videotape it and make a ‘Fight against us and…’ commercial.

  14. Murdoc, showing the new Gitmo to the american people just wouldn’t fit into MSM’S agenda. The MSM LOVE those early images of the ‘primative Gitmo’..of guys in jump suits, on their knees, hands behind their backs, blindfolded, yadda yadda, because, TO THEM, it makes us look like pricks, like in war, being a prick is a bad thing. They, the MSM, still don’t get it that a couple of gazillion Americans WANT people who are busting their asses to keep our kids alive TO BE JUST THAT.. PRICKS! Legions of PRICKS, on our behalf, landed on beaches around the globe for four years running a half century or so ago. After 4 years of PRICK administered justice, pricktime was over and Japanese and German language classes continued to be electives. PRICKS came home to be our fathers. By and large, our dads are pretty nice fellas. As to our ‘PR’ image around the world, bollocks! In war, I would rather be feared. I would rather ALL people who are against me to be scared to freaking death of me. Respect? Countrys who send troops into the field with us give all the respect we desire. So, let us be pricks once more and often until, like our fathers, we don’t need to be pricks anymore. As to our guests at Gitmo and nations who don’t ‘respect’ us – F**k ’em and feed ’em fishheads!