Tag Archives: Guantanamo

With friends like these

new-york-statue-liberte-face-bigWall Street Journal (Europe)
June 21, 2006

 With Friends Like These

By Yves Roucaute

The old Continent is wilting in the global war against terror, just as it did when faced off against fascism and then communism. When at today’s summit with U.S. President George W. Bush the European Union will once again take its ally to task over Guantanamo, it will expose its own, not America’s, most serious moral crisis of the post-Cold War era. A philosopher — a French one no less — can try to set the facts straight and offer some Cartesian good sense.

Faced with dark forces that want to destroy our civilization, we might recall that the U.S. is not only Europe’s ally but the flagship of all free nations. If America can sometimes make errors, the sort of anti-Americanism that drives the hysteria over Guantanamo is always in the wrong. Guantanamo, though, is not an error. It is a necessity.

Demagogues, and European parliamentarians are among the shrillest, claim that it’s inconceivable to keep prisoners locked up without trying them in courts of law. With this simple statement they annul — or, better, ignore — customary law and legal tradition as well as basic human-survival instincts. Whether they are legal or illegal fighters, those men in Guantanamo had weapons; they used them; and they will likely use them again if released before the end of the conflict. This is the meaning of their imprisonment: to prevent enemy combatants from returning to the battlefield, the only humane alternative to the summary execution of enemy prisoners practiced by less enlightened armies. Which French general would have released German prisoners in 1914, before the end of that great war, at the risk of seeing these soldiers mobilized again? Which American general would have organized the trial of 10 million German soldiers, captured during World War II, before Berlin’s unconditional surrender?

The release « without charges » of, so far, a third of Guantanamo prisoners doesn’t mean that those still imprisoned are innocent, as some claim. Similarly, the release of Waffen SS members « without charges » was no admission that they should have never been imprisoned in the first place — or that their comrades who were still locked up were victims of undue process. Only those Nazis who committed crimes against humanity or war crimes, and whose crimes could be proven in a court of law, were tried at Nuremberg.

The demagogues further complain about Guantanamo’s isolation and the secrecy around it. Isolation? When Hitler attacked Britain, was Winston Churchill wrong in sending captured German soldiers to isolated camps in Canada from which they would be released only five years later, after the end of the war? He forbade the exchange of information between the prisoners to make it impossible for them to direct networks of Nazi sympathizers and spies inside and outside the prison. This was a rather sensible measure and one that is also necessary to combat Islamist terrorists, who plan their attacks in loosely connected networks and have demonstrated their capacities to expand these networks in French and British prisons.

Secrecy? This is a common practice in warfare, designed to obtain information without letting the enemy know who has been caught or when. It lets us try to infiltrate and confuse terrorist groups. It saves thousands of lives without harming the prisoners.

As for the wild accusations of torture, the European Commission and Parliament would be well advised to investigate with caution. Terrorists have been trained to claim, in case of capture, that they’re being tortured to win sympathy from free societies. Abuses happen. Republics make mistakes. But they forever differentiate themselves from tyrannies in that violations of the rights of man tend to be punished. In abusing prisoners, a Western soldier breaks the law and undermines the moral foundations of his country. American military courts made no such mistake when meting out stiff penalties to the disgraced soldiers of Abu Ghraib.

But where is the evidence of torture in Guantanamo? The famous incriminating report of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, whose members include communist China, Castro’s Cuba and Wahhabi Saudi Arabia among others, was based purely on the testimony of released Islamists. Not one member of the commission even visited the camp, under the pretext that they couldn’t question prisoners in private.

What about the docu-fiction « The Road to Guantanamo, » winner of the Silver Bear at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival, which told the story of the three « innocents » kept « for no reason » in Guantanamo? Consider the tale told in this film. Leaving the U.K., supposedly for a wedding in Karachi, three British lads of Pakistani descent somehow ended up 1,200 kilometers away in Kandahar, an al Qaeda command center in Afghanistan, allegedly in order to hand out « humanitarian aid. » Our unlucky strollers then arrived with Taliban reinforcements in Kabul before going for a walk with them to the Pakistani border, where they were arrested « by accident. » We are asked to believe, on top of this unbelievable story, their accusations of torture that mysteriously left no marks.

The three Guantanamo suicides earlier this month were treated as the much sought-after evidence that will bring about the closure of the camp. Did we have to release Nazi leaders after the suicide of Göring? Did we have to close German prisons after the suicides of Rudolf Hess or the Baader-Meinhof group? Should French prisons be closed because 115 prisoners took their lives in 2004 alone? Well, some of them actually should. Many French prisons and detention centers for asylum seekers are truly horrific. But they are of little concern to the anti-American demagogues.

Instead of joining Kant’s « Alliance of Republics, » which is the key to victory against Islamic terrorism, these politicians lead the EU into the traps set by the terrorists. While soldiers from free republics are fighting together as brothers for the freedom of Afghanistan, in Brussels and Strasbourg demagogues sow division and battle the « American enemy. » From Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marty, who reported on the « CIA flights » for the Council of Europe, to Martin Schulz, the president of the Socialist group at the European Parliament, the alliance among free countries is rejected and relations with the CIA described as « complicities. » Even though the accusers confess they have « no evidence at all, » they insist the « secret prisons » where terrorists are kept without trial are real. They embellish the story with more than 1,000 flights — « torture charter flights » — supposedly arranged by the CIA.

The real strength of republics must be measured by the courage to fight for them. On this side of the Atlantic, this strength, once again, is lacking.


Guantanamo Bay ‘Represents the Courage of the West’


Guantanamo Bay ‘Represents the Courage of the West’

By Yves Roucaute*

Le Figaro, France

Translated By Sandrine Ageorges

June 7, 2006
France – Le Figaro – Original Article (French)


In the midst of a global war against terrorism, the « Guantanamo affair » is a serious issue. But rather than support those on the front lines of this new kind of war, being waged by barbaric forces against all of civilization, the poison of anti-Americanism is ruining the morale of our nations [Europe].

The prevalent anti-American propaganda orders us to turn our gaze toward Cuba. Not the actual Cuba, Castro’s Cuba – who after having murdered over 100,000 Cubans over a half century, now rules through terror. Not Castro’s infamous prisons, where several thousand political prisoners rot away (the officially number is 336). In the scenic program of the politically correct: « the gulag of our times » is American, and Castro’s Cuba consists of warm sandy beaches.

Thus we return to Guantanamo. The propaganda denounces isolation and secrecy, calls for the intervention of U.S. courts, invents prisoners hold without being charged, imagines torture and violations of civil rights.

Isolated and beyond reach? One doesn’t need to look too far to find similar precedents that went unchallenged. When on June 22, 1940 Hitler launched an unprecedented air strike against England, Winston Churchill obtained from the Canadian government permission to detain 3000 German soldiers, captured by the British army, in absolute secrecy – at isolated camps at Kannanaskis, North of Ontario in the Canadian Rockies. Churchill gave three reasons: he avoided the chance that the detainees would return to the fight in the event they escaped; he prevented the passage of information from the prison; and he prohibited the development of networks of Nazis. When we look at the way Islamist networks are developing behind bars in France and England, doesn’t the option of isolation seem like a natural response to the asymmetric war being fought by terrorist networks spreading throughout the world?

Secrecy? This makes it possible to obtain information without the enemy suspecting it, and not knowing who has been captured or when. It allows for infiltrations, the substitution of individuals, reveals complicit individuals, and the implantation of disinformation. As a temporary measure, this type of confinement strategically useful. And it saves thousands of lives.

The intervention of the courts? Through which tortuous twist of the mind would this be necessary? As during every war, the confinement of a captured enemy is not to seek legal judgment, but to stop the fighting and investigate. Admittedly, after a certain period of time, the information is obtained and the secret detention is revealed. When interest in gathering information subsides and the possibility of a return to battle ceases, release and extradition to the home country is standard procedure. As for the current protests, after the Supreme Court decision (June 2004 in Rasul vs Bush) and the Detainee Treatment Act of December 2005, the legal debate goes on, but no one wants to see these dangerous prisoners from Guantanamo running lose or setting up networks within ordinary prisons.

Conditions of incarceration? Republics are not without obligation here. As Kant stated, because violations of human dignity are punished, Republics differentiate themselves from any form of tyranny. When forgetting this principle, a soldier commits two crimes: he violates natural law and destroys the founding principles of his country. Let’s leave aside those sanctimonious hypocrites who confuse penalties and rules for the sake of their own propaganda. The U.S. courts have fulfilled their moral purpose: after information on Abu Ghraib was released, they ordered punishments rather than a Welcome to Allah’s Paradise speech [execution].

But where is the proof of torture at Guantanamo? The famous report from the U.N. Human Rights Commission (February 2005) used by the anti-Americans leaves one speechless. This commission, whose members counted communist China, Castro’s Cuba, Saudi Arabia … found improper and suspicious that military authorities had permitted them to visit, but would not allow them to meet with detainees. Consequently, the commission refused to set foot in the camp and wrote its report based in part on testimonies of … freed Islamist detainees.

The last propagandist misadventure? A mediocre « documentary-fiction » film, The Road to Guantanamo, which won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, with such thick strings that one only regrets Sergei Eisenstein [Communist film maker and Leni Riefenstahl aren’t alive to see it. Is it true that there is no good reason to suspect the three heroes, who have been detained at Guantanamo? Should we take for granted their assertions that they were tortured, even when no evidence remains?

Victims of bad luck, they supposedly went to a wedding in Karachi, Pakistan, the meeting point for Islamists from around the world on their way to Afghanistan. Then they moved 1200km further down the road to Kandahar, headquarters of Al-Qaeda and meeting point of the Pakistani network. They then made their way to Kabul, where many Taliban reinforcements arrived with them. Due to coalition action there, our strollers found themselves on the Pakistani border to where the Islamists had withdrawn. With never-ending bad luck following them, they are then arrested by the Northern Alliance in the company of armed Taliban, who handed them over happily to U.S. authorities.

With every passing day, anti-Americanism looks more like the opium of the people. The heart of a soulless world from which morality is excluded, the odd reference point for a consciousness lost after the fall of the Berlin wall. If the true power of a Republic resides in its virtue, as Montesquieu once stated, the extent of this virtue can only be measured by the courage to fight for it. Guantanamo represents this courage.

* University Professor in philosophy and political science, Paris-X Nanterre, and is author of « Neoconservatism is Humanism » [Le néo-conservatisme est un humanisme](Published by PUF)