A really daft suggestion: sending IS prisoners to Guantanamo

I recently wrote a blog in which I stated that doing stupid shit in the ill-named ‘war on terror’ is a bad idea that will result in worse problems down the road. The examples I provided on that occasion included the Iraqi Shia-dominant regime campaign of revenge against the Sunni population accused of helping Islamic State (IS) terrorists, an Israeli plan to expel the families of terrorists and citizenship revocation for terrorists. Each of these policies may appeal to a percentage of a country’s electorate but the gains are short-term at best. As I ended that piece I noted that “”the ill-named ‘war’ is not going well and it ain’t gonna go any better until we stop calling it a ‘war’ and stop implementing counterproductive policies.”

Someone clearly is not listening.

In today’s Washington Post, Mark Thiessen, a fellow at the right of centre American Enterprise Institute, wrote that the Trump decision to quit Syria could lead to the release of thousands of IS prisoners (the Kurds holding them have made it abundantly evident that it no longer wishes to keep them). These terrorists could, as Mr. Thiessen points out correctly, carry out terrorist acts around the world: indeed we have already seen such acts in many countries. He adds that optimally the US should retain forces in Syria but, failing that – after all Trump did declare victory in a Tweet – the next best option is to send these people to…Guantanamo Bay.

I had to read that three times. Send terrorists captured on the battlefield to Guantanamo. As in the Guantanamo that is a black spot on the US record of human rights. As in the Guantanamo that constituted torture in the minds of many. As in the Guantanamo that cost the Canadian taxpayer $10.5 million because one of our citizens, boy/young man terrorist Omar Khadr, was held there. As in the Guantanamo that led to a meme whereby terrorists dressed prisoners in orange jumpsuits before beheading them. So, in light of all this Mr. Thiessen thinks the US should do it all over again??

In fairness, he does describe Gitmo as a ‘less than optimal’ option, but not for the reasons I just cited. In his mind, having IS prisoners in a US naval base is bad because, unlike now in Syria, they will have access to lawyers and subject to habeas corpus, all of which hampers intelligence collection. I am all for intelligence collection, but abusing human rights is not a smart way to go about doing that. We claim to be better than the terrorists and we should not lower ourselves to their disregard for the rule of law.

This is a really, really, really bad idea and should be rejected outright. A better solution would be to let Iraqi and Syrian justice take care of these terrorists. Yes we are aghast at their judicial ‘practices’ but IS extremists committed crimes in Syria and Iraq and those two nations have every right to try and punish them, regardless of our opposition to their methods. What right does the US have to take non-US citizens to Guantanamo? What international law sanctions this?

I pray that Trump does not see this article and decide to adopt this suggestion. Since I have been told he does not read anything I am confident that my prayers will be answered.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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