A Nation of Cowards Fears Freeing Taliban POWs
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. While many of these prisoners died of disease and even starvation or a combination of the two, 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 remaining 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.