Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We still don't get it

From the New York Times yesterday, an article reports on administration officials negotiating with European Union functionaries:

Jacques Barrot, a European Union vice president who led the delegation, said the Europeans had made it clear that to accept detainees, European countries would need complete information on the prisoners. “Otherwise we cannot accept that responsibility,” he said. ...

The Obama administration has said that about 60 detainees who cannot be returned to their home countries for humanitarian or other reasons could be resettled in Europe, but some European officials have expressed concerns about possible security risks and about whether American intelligence agencies will share complete information about the prisoners.

I read things like this and wonder what makes anyone think U.S. intelligence agencies have complete or any meaningful information about the prisoners?

Today Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to General Colin Powell when Powell was George W.'s Secretary of State, confirms this in the context of an informed and impassioned effort to distance his former boss from the torture regime:

There are several dimensions to the debate over the U.S. prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba that the media have largely missed and, thus, of which the American people are almost completely unaware. For that matter, few within the government who were not directly involved are aware either.

The first of these is the utter incompetence of the battlefield vetting in Afghanistan during the early stages of the U.S. operations there. Simply stated, no meaningful attempt at discrimination was made in-country by competent officials, civilian or military, as to who we were transporting to Cuba for detention and interrogation. ...

The second dimension that is largely unreported is that several in the U.S. leadership became aware of this lack of proper vetting very early on and, thus, of the reality that many of the detainees were innocent of any substantial wrongdoing, had little intelligence value, and should be immediately released.

But to have admitted this reality would have been a black mark on their leadership from virtually day one of the so-called Global War on Terror and these leaders already had black marks enough: the dead in a field in Pennsylvania, in the ashes of the Pentagon, and in the ruins of the World Trade Towers. They were not about to admit to their further errors at Guantanamo Bay. ...

Do read the whole thing. Wilkerson is wroth.

And Wilkerson doesn't even mention the "black prisons" the Obama administration seems intent on maintain out of sight at Bagram in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It does little good to close Guantanamo if the underlying edifice of law-free detention still stands.


Darlene said...

If ever there was a reason for a full investigation of the lawlessness of the Bush bunch this is it! Talk of it flares up and then dies down. It's maddening.

Thanks for your coverage of this important issue.

Nell said...

It's great that Larry Wilkerson is putting out the simple truth that the Obama administration won't: all but a handful of Guantanamo prisoners are have no connection to terror attacks against the U.S.

And he confirms what we all suspected, that this was known from early, early on.

But he and his bosses Richard Armitage and Colin Powell shouldn't be allowed to launder their reputations so easily. Whate were they doing and saying to stop this in 2003, 2004, 2005? Did they go public? Did they resign and denounce the ongoing crimes? No, at best, they spoke off the record to a few reporters.

How many meetings of the Principals group did they attend where the torture of prisoners in the CIA sites was choreographed? What did they say at those meetings?


It sickens me that this is what passes for a hero these days.