[Ppnews] Michael Goldfarb on Guantánamo and the War on Terror
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 18 13:13:48 EST 2008
February 18, 2008
"We're Making This Up as We Go Along"
Michael Goldfarb on Guantánamo and the War on Terror
By ANDY WORTHINGTON
A week ago, I was invited by the BBC to be a
guest on Richard Bacon's show on Radio 5 Live as
part of an hour-long discussion about whether or
not the six Guantánamo detainees charged in
connection with the 9/11 attacks would receive a
fair trial. The other guest was Michael Goldfarb,
the online editor of WorldwideStandard.com, the
Weekly Standard's Blog, who subsequently
published a post that attempted to undermine my
point of view, by mentioning one of my articles,
on CounterPunch, in which I reported claims made
by one of the Guantánamo detainees, Abdul Hamid
al-Ghizzawi, that he has been infected with AIDS
during his imprisonment at Guantánamo.
Mr. Goldfarb was dismissive of the article, which
came as no surprise to me, because it also
revealed -- as confirmed by the Chief Medical
Doctor at Guantánamo -- that Mr. al-Ghizzawi has
contracted tuberculosis during his imprisonment,
and that he also suffers from hepatitis B, which
was dormant before his arrival at the prison.
Those who read the full article would also have
discovered that Mr. al-Ghizzawi's case is central
to complaints made in sworn statements last year
by military officers, who worked on the tribunals
at Guantánamo, that the entire system was rigged,
through the use of generalized and often generic
information masquerading as specific intelligence
against individual detainees, to rubber-stamp the
administration's untested claims that everyone
who had ended up in US custody -- however
randomly -- was an "enemy combatant," who could
be held indefinitely without charge or trial.
After the members of his first tribunal decided,
based on the "paucity and weakness of the
information provided both during and after the
CSRT hearing," that there was "no factual basis"
for concluding that Mr. al-Ghizzawi was an "enemy
combatant," -- and that, by extension, it was
probable that the true story, as Mr. al-Ghizzawi
explained, was that he was a shopkeeper, married
to an Afghan woman, who was seized by Afghan
bounty hunters and sold to the US military -- the
US military dismissed the members of his first
tribunal and held a second, secret tribunal in
which they concluded that he was an "enemy combatant" after all.
In the interests of shedding some light on Mr.
Goldfarb's opinions, I reproduce below a
transcript of part of last Monday's show, in
which he helpfully described how, after 9/11, the
US administration turned its back on 232 years of
the law, replacing it with an ad-hoc system in
which, to quote his exact words, "we're making these things up as we go along."
About twenty minutes into the show, Richard Bacon
discussed the greater transparency that would be
involved in the cases if they were transferred to US federal courts.
Richard Bacon: Why can't they be tried in front of a jury in a federal court?
Michael Goldfarb: Well, frankly, there are
security issues. You know, we're not going to
expose American citizens to sitting on a jury for al-Qaeda members ...
Richard Bacon: ... So a terror suspect has never
been tried in the United States in a civil or federal court?
Michael Goldfarb: Terror suspects have been tried in a federal court
Richard Bacon: Well, why was that jury exposed to them?
Michael Goldfarb: I mean, if you arrest someone
in this country, we've dealt with these things
differently. The fundamental issue here is that
we're making these things up as we go along. There was no way to do this. ...
Andy Worthington: It's an extraordinary
confession that "we've been making this up as we
go along." That's exactly what seems to have been
happening since 9/11 in terms of the detention,
interrogation and prosecution of these detainees.
You know, what interests me is the issue that you
raised of successful prosecutions that took place
in the United States of terrorists before 9/11,
and this is something that seems to be missed out
on, because we're led to believe that the world
started anew on 9/11. Whereas in fact, those of
us who have longer memories will remember that
there were the African embassy bombings and that
there were earlier events, and that there were successful prosecutions.
Richard Bacon: And those juries were exposed to terrorists?
Andy Worthington: Yes, exactly, and it goes deeper than that
Michael Goldfarb: And that really worked out to
prevent 9/11, didn't it? That really worked out
to stymie the onslaught of these terrorists
Richard Bacon: Are you saying that it somehow contributed to 9/11?
Michael Goldfarb: I'm saying it was an
ineffectual response to terrorism, to simply put
them in civilian courts and say, "oh, we're going
to treat this as though they're just criminals
like any others." They're not criminals like others.
Andy Worthington: I don't see that that's an
issue at all, and I see that they are criminals
like others, actually. And the point I wanted to
raise is that there's an interesting man named
Dan Coleman, who was a former FBI interrogator,
and he worked with a lot of these terrorist
suspects before 9/11, and the interesting thing,
the particularly interesting thing about the way
Dan Coleman worked, which is germane to the whole
thing we're talking about here, is that he -- and
other FBI interrogators -- said, you might be
able to get some tiny bit of information by
beating the crap out of somebody, by torturing
them, but that is not how to get to dig to the
real truth about what's going on. You do that by
building a relationship with the prisoners that
you have, and a good interrogator can do that.
And then you take them through the court system, because they're criminals.
is a British historian, and the author of
Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774
Detainees in America's Illegal Prison'. He can be
reached at: <mailto:andy at andyworthington.co.uk>andy at andyworthington.co.uk
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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