Thursday, February 09, 2006

Report : Only 8% of Gitmo POWs "al Qa'ida Fighters"

The report comes directly from information provided by the Defense Department, and confirms--for the first time--what individual news reports suggested four years ago : that the majority of prisoners held at Guantanamo were determined early on never to have engaged in hostile action of any sort against the United States.

Some other findings:
  • Only 8% of prisoners were classified as "al Qa'ida fighters."
  • 18% have NO affiliation with either alQa'ida or the Taliban.
  • 60% are imprisoned not because they are "fighters for" or "members of" either al Qa'ida or the Taliban, but because they are "associated with" them.
  • 86% of the prisoners held were not captured by US forces (only 5% were), but were captured by Pakistani forces or Northern Alliance (allied to no government) warlords, at a time when the US was offering huge bounties for captured "enemy combatants."

We have consistently been told that these "detainees" were members of al Qa'ida. In February of 2002, then-White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters

Al Qaeda is an international terrorist group and cannot be considered a state party to the Geneva Convention. Its members, therefore, are not covered by the Geneva Convention, and are not entitled to POW status under the treaty....The American people can take great pride in the way our military is treating these dangerous detainees.

Also in February 2002, a US Defense Department American Forces Information Service press release stated

Detaining dangerous enemy combatants prevents their return to the fight and provides intelligence to help prevent future terrorist acts, the secretary told members of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce....These men are dangerous, and their detention is a "security necessity," Rumsfeld said.

By 2004, the right-wing media had picked up this theme and were running with it. Newsmax tried to explain away the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo by noting

...we have only speculation as to where lies the specific blame for the humiliating treatment of what were apparently a crew of insurgent thugs being caged in a cell block for the worst and most dangerous detainees.

In June of 2002, President George W. Bush stated unequivocally that

These are people picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan. They weren't wearing uniforms. They weren't state-sponsored. But they were there to kill.

We now know that, like so many other stories floated by this administration, it was not true.

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