By Dave Lindorff
Traded: US POW Bergdahl for five Taliban Guantanamo detainees (
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Back during World War II -- a bitterly
fought, bloody conflict that lasted seven years (four years for the US), many
German prisoners of war were held in camps in the US. Others held by US forces,
French forces and British forces were held in camps in Britain and France. Most
were released fairly quickly after the war ended, unless they were suspected of
war crimes, in which case they were held for more questioning and
investigation. By the end of 1948, virtually all German prisoners captured by
the US, British and French had been released and repatriated to Germany. (The
fate for German POWs in the Soviet Union was much worse, largely because of
German brutality on the Eastern Front during the war there.)
It's worth recalling this history as we look at the hysteria that is erupting now over the release of five Taliban fighters from long captivity in the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
These men, who are prisoners of war, captured in Afghanistan where they were fighting the US invading army, were released in a prisoner swap that freed Bowe Bergdahl, a US soldier captured by the Taliban five years ago when he strayed from his base in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.
To hear the howls from Republicans and even some Democrats like California Sen. Diane Feinstein, you'd think these five prisoners, who have been put under the jurisdiction of officials in Qatar, which promises to hold them in that country and to monitor their activities for a year, pose a mortal threat to the US, and to every American living here.
It's the same hysteria that has prevented the Obama administration from simply closing down the Guantanamo concentration camp and either freeing or moving its remaining prisoners to federal prisons in the US.
And this hysteria is only going to get worse as the war in Afghanistan, America's longest military conflict, finally winds down. That's because as illegal as the detention center at Guantanamo has been from day one, when it was set up under the legal dodge that since it was on leased Cuban soil, it was not a US jurisdiction and thus not subject to US laws concerning the right to a trial, the right of the accused to hear evidence presented against himself, the right not to be tortured, etc., once that war ends there will be absolutely no justification, however baroque, to justify holding Afghan fighters.
The Obama, or some successor administration, will almost certainly continue to try and argue that "Al Qaeda" fighters held at Guantanamo are not POWs, but rather are "terrorists," and thus can be held indefinitely. They are wrong under international law, and by any honest reading of the US constitution, but they will probably continue, with the blessing of our thoroughly corrupted Supreme Court, to claim that the so-called "War on Terror" gives them the right to hold "terrorists" indefinitely without trial. But that still does not apply to the Taliban, who have not committed acts of terror against the US, but merely have been fighting to defend their own country from the US invader.
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