Abu Anas al-Libi, suspected Al-Qaeda leader, was grabbed in a military raid in Libya on Oct. 5. He's due to stand trial as an accused civilian criminal in a Manhattan Federal Court, where he has been under indictment for more than a decade on charges he helped plan and conduct surveillance for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, in which 212 people were killed and over 4,000 wounded, including 12 Americans.
Our history of prosecuting war criminals from our first war, through the Civil War and World War II, have been clear and simple, and for over 100 years supported by international law (Geneva Conventions) and our operative version of Geneva, called The Law of Land Warfare, or the modern Army Field Manual 27-10. These documents give guidance and regulation to how we treat enemy Prisoners of War (lawful combatants and protected persons), and are clear about not giving legal privileges and protections to those who do not follow the law (unlawful combatants). These documents inform, repeatedly, that those found in violation of the law can be “prosecuted” and then “executed.”
In this courtroom sketch, Abu Anas al-Libi, 49, second from left, sits as his lawyer David Patton, second from right, address Judge Lewis Kaplan, far right, in a federal courtroom in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. Abu Anas al-Libi, a Libyan, pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges in the deadly 1998 al-Qaida bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. Credit: AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams
The Geneva Conventions were written in part to protect innocent civilians in time of war, not to protect those who PRETEND to be civilians in order to MURDER them. It’s not that the Taliban and al Qaeda can’t afford uniforms of their own - just one of the requirements in lawful conflict - it’s that they don’t want you to see them coming and want us to believe they are merely innocent goat herders. It’s as if they want to be able to run onto the ball field from the stands at any time, murder an opposing player, and then disappear back into the crowd. And when security comes to take them away they say “it wasn’t me!” They lawyer up, play the system, and then go back to killing Americans.
Human Rights First brags that “Federal civilian criminal courts have convicted nearly 500 individuals on terrorism-related charges since 9/11.” And that “Federal prisons hold more than 300 individuals convicted of terrorism-related offenses.”
But they don’t mention what happened to the other nearly 200 convicted terrorists! Can we assume they are free on American soil? If prosecuted and then convicted, could al-Libi be set free someday on Main Street U.S.A.?
None of the over 600 Gitmo detainees who’ve been released so far are suspected of being on our shores. But the over 28 percent combined recidivism rate amongst these released Gitmo detainees is no comfort, especially to the loved ones of those killed in the Benghazi attack (led by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Sufian bin Qumu), which left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
When I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay in early February 2002, just months after 9/11/01, my Army Reserve enemy prisoner of war liaison detachment was prepared to participate in military tribunals to determine the status of detainees fresh off of planes from Afghanistan. That is where most of the first detainees had participated in a deadly but failed prison uprising which claimed the first American life, CIA operative Johnny Michael Spann. Instead, the principle of “lawfare,” or the exploitation of the American justice system by detainees, their lawyers, sympathizers and apologists in order to manipulate American political will (which also caused disruption of U.S. military detention operations), took hold.
Today, the Military Commissions Act of 2009, the current legal policies governing the prosecution of accused war criminals in the Global War on Terror, affords unlawful combatant Islamist detainees virtually the SAME RIGHTS as you or I would enjoy were we in a Federal Court of Law. Even though the Geneva Conventions and Law of Land Warfare, created to protect innocent civilians during war, offer NO extra-legal privileges for those who break the law.
The Obama administration has taken the disposition of Global War on Terror suspected war criminals to an absurd level, not only allowing them to remain in the stadium, but giving them luxury boxes and rain-check tickets for a repeat performance,. These terrorists are being allowed to put more American lives at risk by bringing the latest and greatest al Qaeda suspect to U.S. shores, when he should be at Gitmo receiving a professional interrogation from our best and brightest.
Urban myths about the treatment of Gitmo detainees are now vernacular, especially amongst the “low information” crowd who rarely dig deeper than news feed sound bites provide. The truth is that although over 600-plus Guantanamo Bay detainees have been released, none have been executed, beheaded, hacked to death, blown up or dragged naked and lifeless through the streets. In contrast, the only U.S. prisoner held by Taliban or al Qaeda believed not to have had his head slowly removed from his body by a long jihadi knife, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who went missing in June, 2009, remains a mystery. Where are Amnesty International, the ACLU and other so-called “human rights” organizations on Sgt. Bergdahl? Why won’t the mainstream media or Barack Hussein Obama even show his face or demand his release?
I know from my 22 years as a military member and over nine years of service as an Army officer with an enemy prisoner of war liaison detachment, the best way to obtain valuable information from enemy suspects is to convince them that unless they cooperate they will remain in detention, which, according to the Geneva Conventions is legal. Even lawful combatant prisoners of war may be held, without charge, “until the end of hostilities.” This is not “indefinite detention,” as some would complain; no more indefinite than a baseball game in extra innings. In theory, the game could go on endlessly, but it never does, and neither would unlawful combatant detainees be held “forever.”
We need to redouble our efforts to take away our enemy’s means and will to fight and kill us. Until then, the finest military detention facility in the world is ready, willing and able to take care of and provide opportunities for unlawful combatants to help end the Global War on Terror.
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