TCS Daily

Gitmo Better Blues

By Eric R. Staal - March 22, 2006 12:00 AM

Karsten Voigt, the German government's coordinator for German-American relations, wants the U.S. to close Guantanamo Bay. That is not surprising. But just how much are he and his counterparts in governments across Europe willing to indulge anti-American propaganda to make their case?

Recently I joined Voigt and two other guests on the nationally televised German talk-show Berliner Runde, where Voigt accused the U.S. government of violating international law by detaining members of al Qaida in Guantanamo Bay. The other guests on the program went even further. Roger Willemson, who recently published interviews with a mere five of the detainees released from Guantanamo, repeated his broadly publicized claims that as a policy the United States systematically commits acts of torture in Guantanamo. His most egregious example, however, was that a woman allegedly had undressed in front of a male prisoner.

Meanwhile, Germany's most renowned media commentator on the Arab world, Peter Scholl-Latour, shouted that U.S. policy in Guantanamo is "sadistic," while complaining he had been cornered into sounding "anti-American."

For European decision makers across the political spectrum, it is a well-worn fact, not just a legal opinion, that detaining enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay violates international law. Just what international law they are referring to is unclear, given that al Qaida is not a sovereign state and has never signed on to the Geneva Conventions.

The above guests on the Berliner Runde consider themselves "friends of America," but it is a distinctively blue state America with which they mean to be friends. When policy is made by those elected in red state America, there is no limit to how much they are willing to undermine U.S. moral authority and legitimacy in the world. Thus, they could not contain their outrage when confronted with the fact that it is U.S. policy to treat Guantanamo detainees according to the Geneva Conventions, despite the fact members of al Qaida do not merit a "prisoner of war" status.

Voigt's appeal was the most sophisticated. Beyond his erroneous application of international law, he descended into typical high-browed European moralizing about how U.S. policy in Guantanamo undermines President Bush's credibility to spread democracy in the Middle East and even encourages more terrorism.

Perhaps Voigt and other European officials should ask themselves what encourages terrorism more: Incarcerating members of al Qaida who have already committed acts of terrorism in Afghanistan, or recklessly arguing that the U.S. government has a policy of abusing the rights of presumably innocent Muslims? There are many channels for broadcasting European anti-Americanism across the Middle East, from Muslim extremists residing in Europe, to the exchange of journalists who never leave the Green Zone in Baghdad, to the daily transmission of the BBC.

While it would be unrealistic to expect that European officials charged with managing relations to the United States defend policies they do not support, it should not be too much to ask for them to avoid indulging in anti-American propaganda. At a minimum, we should be able to expect European officials to be intellectually honest about important policy differences with the United States.

To his credit, Voigt eventually acknowledged that European governments consider it sufficient to prosecute the Guantanamo detainees under domestic criminal law, whereas it is U.S. policy to apply the law of war, i.e. the Geneva Conventions. The merits of each approach are debatable - not least the consequences that Voigt is willing to see hundreds of terrorists in Guantanamo be set free. Sadly for the viewers of the Berliner Runde, after refuting all the outlandish accusations and lectures about European moral superiority, there was little time to engage in a serious exchange about what is really at stake.

At the conclusion of the program, I reminded Voigt that, like it or not, al Qaida puts the West in one basket and attacking American legitimacy in the war on terror will not help in a place like Europe, where the terror networks are considerably denser than in the United States. Voigt's response was a typical one for a member of the German Social Democrats, in that he carelessly implied a new president will bring policy change and apparently allow us to reconcile our differences with terrorists.

We should have no such illusions. A simple change in political leadership will not restore the damage European officials have done to the moral legitimacy of U.S. policy in the Muslim world. Nor is it particularly wise to wager German foreign policy continuously on the hopes that a Democrat will win the next presidential election.

Although it is hard to blame the Bush Administration for tuning out European moral posturing about Guantanamo, for the sake of winning the war on terror it is time to call some of our so-called "friends" in Europe to account. Supporting the war on terror may not mean supporting Guantanamo, but it does mean U.S. allies drop incendiary public accusations that the United States is indisputably in violation of international law.

European officials and governments need to be reminded that friends do not participate in public defamation of an ally and when they do we take careful notice.

The author is the press secretary of Republicans Abroad Germany.



Tough to go on that show
Thanks for going out there and taking part in the debate on that show. It must have not been easy.

If only the US used the same standards as West Germany did
During the 70s whhen Grmany was plagued with the terrorism of the Bader Meinhoff gang no effert was spared to hunt them down and trap them. Its odd that in any of the shot outs no terrorists were ever wounded. The smarter terrorists realized what was happening insured that they could be captured and survive.

The German using their own innovations placed the captured terrorists in maxium security prisons where these terrorists proceeded to shot themselves.

And they are going to lecture us?

a little explanantion please
"The German using their own innovations placed the captured terrorists in maxium security prisons where these terrorists proceeded to shot(sic) themselves."

Help me did they obtain the guns to shoot themselves while in a maximum security prison? And, why would they have not engaged their captors and died in a gun fight instead of by their own hand?

Do I have to draw you a picture
Have you ever heard of terrorists obtaining arms in a maximum security prison and then turning it on themselves? Have you ever seen a situation described as a raid in which there are never any survivors?

I asked the question first...please answer it.
"Have you ever heard of terrorists obtaining arms in a maximum security prison and then turning it on themselves?"

No I have not, that's why I asked you the question. Maybe you are just confused. Re-read your original post; in it, you seem to be making the claim that they do, which I thought was BS.

I would suggest that you do a little more proof reading before you frantically click on the "post" button--your writing and grammar really is poor. For example in your question, which I have quoted above, you use the plural "arms" and then use "it" instead of "them" as the object of the verb "turning".

let me help you out
"The German using their own innovations placed the captured terrorists in maxium security prisons where these terrorists proceeded to shot themselves."

I know exactly what you meant...but I had to ask the question because your writing is vague and confusing. I would like to re-write your comment above to help clarify your thought:

"The Germans, using the terrorists' methods, placed them in maximum security prisons where somehow they managed to 'shoot themselves'".

Yes, TJ we all get it.

Inability to read on your part does not constitute an error on mine
Thank you for demonstrating once again your inabiulity to grasp a simple concept. You are most expert at it.

Thank you once again dolt.

For one so ill informed
Its obvious that you lack an education have little education and have an annal fixation to hide your ignorance. Now once you've managed to educate yourself please come back and explain to us what you have to contribute besides a remarkable ability to demonstrate your tom lampoon Michael Moore. Let us know when you get to go to community college chum.

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