Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 19, 2009

ANOTHER MISTAKE AT GUANTANAMO.... Describing the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Dick Cheney said last week, "[N]ow what's left, that is the hardcore." This is consistent with the line from the Bush White House, which has always maintained that those held at the facility are "the worst of the worst."

And yet, there's ample evidence to the contrary. Since November, at least 24 detainees -- roughly 10% of the population of the detention camp -- have been found to have been wrongly held by the Bush administration. The latest painful story is that of Haji Bismullah.

For nearly six years, Haji Bismullah, an Afghan detainee at Guantanamo Bay, has insisted that he was no terrorist, but had actually fought the Taliban and had later been part of the pro-American Afghan government.

Over the weekend, the Bush administration flew him home after a military panel concluded that he "should no longer be deemed an enemy combatant."

Which is to say, Bismullah hadn't done anything wrong. He was identified as a terrorist by Taliban collaborators who wanted his position as an official of the pro-American regional government in Helmand Province, and that was enough to keep him locked up. (Once taken into custody, one of his accusers stole his car.)

It gets worse.

At Guantanamo, Mr. Bismullah insisted he was innocent. He told military officials to contact his brother to vouch for him. The officials concluded that the brother was "not reasonably available" as a witness. At the time the brother, Haji Mohammad Wali, was the chief spokesman for a pro-American provisional governor who regularly gave news conferences, legal filings say.

In 2006, the brother filed a sworn statement with Guantanamo officials. Mr. Bismullah and his whole family, he wrote, "fought to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan."

Mr. Bismullah, he added, had a wife and three children, including a son born while he was in Guantanamo. "The boy," he wrote, "has never seen his father."

The United States kept this man detained for nearly six years. He was on our side, a fact that our allies were prepared to corroborate -- and did corroborate in 2006.

The mind reels.

Steve Benen 2:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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Not a mistake-- a lie.

"How do you know they are lying?"
"Their lips are moving."

Posted by: MattF on January 19, 2009 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

It was awful for Bismullah. Apparently the guards would taunt him incessantly:

Bismullah, noooooooo! We will not let you go!

Posted by: doubtful on January 19, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

The mind reels.

No, actually, it doesn't. Not anymore. You're not describing anything I wouldn't have expected the administration to do, at this point. My mind doesn't reel-- they're simply engaging in the sort of criminal behavior that I would expect them to engage in. It's the sort of behavior the people who voted for them wanted them to engage in.

Posted by: Tyro on January 19, 2009 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

Somebody remind me, please, why these people shouldn't be investigated and tried for war crimes?

Posted by: Mike Jones on January 19, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Even if this man had fought for the Taliban side, the Taliban were the government, and it was a war, so any captive should have been treated as an ordinary POW. This applies even if the captive had succeeded in killing American troops, and even if the captive wasn't wearing a uniform (since the Geneva Conventions don't require this in the case of irregulars defending against an invading force).

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 19, 2009 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

LOL @ doubtful.

Posted by: Franklin on January 19, 2009 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Things like this literally bring me to tears, both at the suffering of innocent people at our hands and at how far our country has fallen in recent years. It hurts to admit that I live in a country that behaves like this. I can only hope that in the coming years the new administration can work to reverse this fall.

Posted by: Rabi on January 19, 2009 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

But this is all in the past! Look forward, forget these people!

Ah, Freedom! Smells like ... Bullshit.

Posted by: Gore/Feingold '16 on January 19, 2009 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Bush will add it to his list of disappointments.

Posted by: martin on January 19, 2009 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Did it take six years to establish this or was it clear ages ago and the man held for years because the Bush admin can't bear admitting mistakes? Either would be a disgrace.

Posted by: J on January 19, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

The United States kept this man detained for nearly six years. He was on our side, a fact that our allies were prepared to corroborate -- and did corroborate in 2006.

Proving Trashhauler abysmally wrong again on Guantanamo for the umpteenth time.

Posted by: trex on January 19, 2009 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

this is amusing;


Posted by: grinning cat on January 19, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

So where's the attorney to make Mr. Bismullah a couple of million dollars by sueing Bush and Cheney?? Now THAT would be efficient.
If he won Bush/Cheney would go bankrupt in no time.

Posted by: Vokoban on January 19, 2009 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

You know I really don't give a flying fuck what all the Hannitys,Laura Ingram,Coulter ,Malkin Becks of the world have to say. When we do this we're the bad guys. And if you condone this for god only knows why then your one of the bad guys too.

Posted by: Gandalf on January 19, 2009 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, but Bush kept us SAFE from this guy.

Posted by: Sarah Barracuda on January 19, 2009 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Put Cheney there, then it will be true.

Close Guantanamo and give it back to Cuba-all other actions are bullshit.


Alan Tomlinson

Posted by: Alan Tomlinson on January 19, 2009 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Apart from the crimes committed at the top, there are also offenses committed by those in the middle and lower levels. Who was the schmuck apparachik who decided "that the brother was "not reasonably available" as a witness"? At first, no legal defense was allowed for Guantanamo prisoners, but then once our judiciary demanded that they have some kind of legal process, these fuckers were denying the prisoners of it.

Rubber-stamping some bullshit excuse to not allow a legal defense should be a crime. This Afghani guy was denied his due process, and many people were criminally involved. Prosecute them.

I see no reason, further, to keep Taliban fighters locked up. Didn't we let Japanese and German prisoners go eventually? Didn't we complain that the Geneva Conventions dictated that N. Vietnam release their US prisoners of war?

These casualties were from the "good" war, which all serious liberals supported. What the illiterate Pashtun-speaking Taliban had to do with Gulf Arab al Qaeda international terrorists, I don't know. There were only a few hundred al Qaeda people in Afghanistan, but all the little Thomas Friedmans still thought it was worth overturning a couple countries to "fight" them. (This reveals their cowardly calculus - a 1/1,000,000,000 risk to them justifies killing hundreds of thousands of people).

But regardless, the war is over, let them all go.

Posted by: flubber on January 19, 2009 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

>"...held for years because the Bush admin can't bear admitting mistakes..."


Posted by: Buford on January 19, 2009 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

the mind reels

How about "the federal grand jury indicts" instead.

Posted by: Winkandanod on January 19, 2009 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

"The mind reels."

No, it doesn't. This is the kind of behavior you would expect of the people that gave us Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and all the rest of them in the first place. The military doesn't care about such things as innocence, even when the person suffering unjustly is one of their own. And the bush regime cares even less about someone with less than $500,000 to his name.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on January 19, 2009 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK



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