Both policy realities and military realities were shortchanged in today's Denver Post editorial, "The Reality of Closing Gitmo." Here's the link. To start with, policywise, the editors' admonition that “there should be no excuses” for failure to quickly shut down Gitmo is ridiculous, and flies in the face of both logic and international law. The Post editorial states: "The detainees should be properly adjudicated. If they can’t be charged, they must be freed." This is hogwash. The detainees at Gitmo are not simply common criminals; they are enemy combatants, subject to the laws of war (not criminal code) and may be detained until the cessation of hostilities. Holding these enemy combatants indefinitely, and the Gitmo facility itself, is fully compliant with international law, as noted in an Obama administration report (see my earlier post, It’s Official: Gitmo complies with Geneva Rules).
The Post editorial goes from debatable to irresponsible, however, in its characterization of the case of Mohammed Jawad, accusing the government of misdeeds “in the handling of the case of an Afghan held since he was a teenager on what Huvelle says is mostly hearsay evidence and on confessions gained through torture by Afghan captors. Mohammed Jawad is accused of throwing a grenade that seriously wounded two U.S. servicemen and a translator in Kabul.”
As it happens, I know a little bit about that case. I was deployed in Afghanistan at the time it occurred, just before Christmas 2002 (December 17th). The “two U.S. servicemen” wounded in the attack were from my unit at the time, the 5th Battalion 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) of the Colorado Army National Guard.
The “two U.S. servicemen” wounded are not some faceless statistics (although Mohammed Jawad did his best to change that). They have names (and since it was reported at the time - including in Colorado newspapers - I can mention them here): SFC (Sergeant First Class) Michael Lyons, and SFC Christopher Martin. Their wounds were severe: SFC Martin almost bled to death from his leg wound, and had it not been for the alertness and skill of our unit’s medical personnel, might very well have died.
Incidentally, Mohammed Jawad was captured, at the scene, by local citizens (shopkeepers) outraged that an outsider (Jawad was not from Kabul) would attack “our” Americans (despite what you may have heard, at the time we were there, we were VERY popular with the locals for bringing peace, security, and yes, lots of American dollars to the Afghan capital city). Jawad was turned over to Afghan forces for a VERY brief period of time before being taken into custody by our Soldiers; allegations of “confessions gained through torture by Afghan captors” are baseless.
Post editors did a disservice to SFC Lyons, SFC Martin, and every Soldier in the Colorado Army National Guard with this inaccurate and misleading editorial.