This Is Why We Have Trials
In a war without end, in a war against a tactic, we can not hold the enemy indefinitely. It’s a ludicrous legal argument and we’ve already captured and released a ton of people because we figured out they weren’t terrorists. Some of them weren’t even close. And now we’re seeing even more blood on our hands.
KABUL, Afghanistan â€” Abdul Razzaq Hekmati was regarded here as a war hero, famous for his resistance to the Russian occupation in the 1980s and later for a daring prison break he organized for three opponents of the Taliban government in 1999.
But in 2003, Mr. Hekmati was arrested by American forces in southern Afghanistan when, senior Afghan officials here contend, he was falsely accused by his enemies of being a Taliban commander himself. For the next five years he was held at the American military base in GuantÃ¡namo Bay, Cuba, where he died of cancer on Dec. 30.
The fate of Mr. Hekmati, the first detainee to die of natural causes at GuantÃ¡namo, who fruitlessly recounted his story several times to American officials, demonstrates the enduring problems of the tribunals at GuantÃ¡namo, say Afghan officials and others who knew him.
Think of that. This guy went without representation for nearly 5 years. He was taken from his family, didn’t see them for 5 years and died half a world away.
People, this is not us. We’re not the country that does this stuff. And yet, we are now, all riled up by Jack Ryan, 24 fantasies of ticking bombs and noble torture. Somehow it makes me think, in some small way, the terrorists have indeed won…because terrorism is rarely used as a way to overthrow a country. However, it is used to strike just enough fear into a people that they’ll give up their freedoms for the appearance of security. This administration has argued, successfully, that we have to be less free in order to be free. Sadly, I think Bush was right when he says they hate our freedom…but it’s obvious he doesn’t get how he has played right into their hands.
But back to Hekmati, this is probably the most heartbreaking part of all of this…
Several high-ranking officials in President Hamid Karzaiâ€™s government say Mr. Hekmatiâ€™s detention at GuantÃ¡namo was a gross mistake. They were mentioned by Mr. Hekmati in his hearings and could have vouched for him. Records from the hearings show that only a cursory effort was made to reach them.
Two of those officials were men Mr. Hekmati had helped escape from the Talibanâ€™s top security prison in Kandahar in 1999: Ismail Khan, now the minister of energy; and Hajji Zaher, a general in the Border Guards. Both men said they appealed to American officials about Mr. Hekmatiâ€™s case, but to no effect.
â€œWhat he did was very important for all Afghan people who were against the Taliban,â€ Hajji Zaher said of Mr. Hekmatiâ€™s role in organizing his prison break. â€œHe was not a man to take to GuantÃ¡namo.â€
If people inside the Afghanistan government can’t vouch for a fellow Afghan’s credibility, then who can?
And so it goes…well, until January 2009. I have a feeling this policy is going to change very, very quickly.