A Guantanamo Bay thought experiment

Imagine that you have been placed in the medium security facility at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay. However one wishes to define the terms “enemy combatant” or “terrorist” and an objective outside observer would know that you are not one. Indeed, you have never committed a crime in your life high enough to warrant being detained in Guantanamo Bay.

Now assume that any amenities or privleges offered to you under the Geneva Convention do not apply to you. Also assume that due process afforded under the US legal system also does not apply to you. You cannot contact a lawyer. You cannot contact your family. You will not see charges brought against you. You will be detained indefinitely in Guantanamo Bay, subject to whatever rules your captors determine are necessary.

By what means would you prove your innocence? What steps would you take to best insure your release from captivity?

I think most reasonable people will agree that these detainees should be classified as either illegal combatents or a prisoners of war. This is the root of the problem.

As for your thought experiment: I am not sure on the specifics of how, but I will point out that several hundred have been let back to their home countries. There is some sort of mechanism at work which has probably been explained to the prisoners. I would work the system.

How did the guys who have been released so far ‘prove’ their ‘innocents’? However they did it, I’d give that a shot. Is it your intention to prove that the plight of the prisoners in Gitmo is unfair to those who are innocent? I don’t think you need bother…I doubt many folks would disagree that if there are innocent folks there its unfair to them.


Hush. We have the worst of the worst there and they are fed TWO PIECES OF FRUIT!

Seriously, I doubt if the prisoners have a mechanism to prove their innocence… From what I’ve read, their cases are reviewed periodically and some are set free.

I would hope most reasonable people would realize this. But I’ve been listening to a lot of radio talk shows and reading a lot of opinion pages in newspapers and I think that there are a number - a large number - of people, who do not believe this. There are a number of people whose mindset is that if you’re in Gitmo, you’ve probably done something bad and if you’ve probably done something that bad you deserve no legal recourse to prove your innoncence. It’s not just their opinions that infuriate me, but the logcal fallacies they create to come to these opinions makes me want to flip the station or turn the page rather than continue to be an audience to their drivel.

So I wanted to send my own letter to the editor. But I realized that readers can’t argue that well with a letter. I posted here first because the responses here would tell me if there were places I needed to rephrase certain sentences or rework specific arguments.

Isn’t that a mechanism? Do you think they flip a coin as to whether or not to set them free?

I’m not defending the system as it is, just trying to understand how you define “mechanism”.

Well, of course the system is designed to protect 'The American Way" (or whatever), it is not meant to be just. In a war we admit very, very unjust things happen. Some people get killed when a place crashes into their building, some people end up getting rich selling out tribal rivals and some people end up in Cuba eating two pieces of fruit a day.

The civil courts are meant to be fair. Wartime rules are meant to provide victory. (I admit that it is hard to see how our behavior is securing victory, but you get the idea.)

A person in your thought experiment would be screwed, just like a lot of other people.

It’s certainly a mechanism, but it may not be a mechanism that the prisoner can use since he’s not the one who initiates the review, which I think is the point. There’s no process that the prisoners can use, they are completely at the mercy of whatever system the military has set up.

Of course he can “use” it, even if he can’t initiate it. He may not have control over when he can use it, but he still can use it when it is offered.

I don’t know how the reviews work but is there any indications that its purpose is to release the innocents? Suppose the process is based on the idea of releasing those detainees who cooperate by providing information. Eventually the only people who’ll remain in detention are those who are guilty and refuse to reveal information and those who are innocent and have no information to reveal.

Lest anyone think this is unrealistic, consider the examples of the old witch-hunts or the more current examples of people confined to mental institutions. In both cases, the path to release came from admitting the charges and being rehabilitated; denying that the charges against you were true often only intensified the efforts of the authorities.

There might be some sort of mechanism, but from the testimonies of freed prisnners I read, they haven’t been explaned anything. The last one I heard about, a Moroccan guy, basically stated that one day they told him they had nothing against him and that he was going to be shipped back to Morroco. Without any explanations about why they detained him at the first place or why they had eventually liberated him.

The only mechanis, as far as I understand they were aware of was that they could be kept in less uncomfortable conditions if they cooperated and/or kept a low profile. So, the best you apparently could deliberatly achieve by “working the system” is better conditions of detention.