Gitmo, a paradigm problem

More Tales from Gitmo provides a good example of the paradigm problem in the efforts against international terrorism.

First is the pre-judgment —

One of my major problems over time with the Bush administration’s handling of detainees is that every story about the process is rife with disorganization and incompetence … it simply says to me that the Bush administration’s policies in regards to terrorists suspects in its custody was an utter disaster.

Then there is the ‘not sharing my goals’ problem —

one of the things that puzzled me for some time was the utter failure of the Bush administration to find one, just one, clear-cut case that could be used as an exemplar of why the camp was needed.

The paradigm of the view is established —

If the US government cannot make a credible public case against the man considered the mastermind of 9/11, then who in the world could they make a case against?

Dissonance starts to be evident —

we hold people for years, we tell the world that we know, for certain, that they are the worst of the worst, and yet we don’t even have complete case files on them?

There is a quote that provides a glimpse into the paradigm differences —

the Bush administration’s focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable prosecutions a far lower priority.

Consider these examples to contrast the paradigms.

First is that the interest was not in creating a criminal prosecution case against the inmates. They were captured abroad by military personnel or in concert with other nation’s anti-terrorism efforts, often in flagrante delicto.

Second was that the primary purpose was security, not prosecution. Security means removing threats and learning more about potential threats so that they could then be removed. In this international terrorism effort, the threat is not from an individual nor even a gang but rather a supra-national organization not bound by the traditions and customs of national relationships but with the level of support and power often otherwise only found in national entities.

A third dimension to this paradigm problem is one of jurisdiction. That goes from international diplomacy down to the community level and also between the military, state, and civil organizations within and between nations. It is not a simple issue of one agency having jurisdiction with a simple matter of handing over prisoners to the proper authorities and negotiating who gets the first trial.

To cast judgment in these issues is an example of the hubris that so seems to plague political discourse. It is one thing to disagree about the purpose and intent of capturing foreign terrorists. It is another to use one’s opinion as a basis and referent for casting judgment. The entirety of Taylor’s discomfort comes in the inability to envision or accept a paradigm other than the criminal justice system when it comes to people behind bars or fences. That inability is a limitation that needs careful consideration in conducting a campaign to prevent terrorist attack.

It should be noted that the example cited here does not invade the disingenuous rationalization some use to argue against the security efforts in the international terrorism campaign. This is the canard that greater security requires an equivalent reduction in personal freedoms.

These are issues, both the criminal versus military balance and the security versus rights balance, that are not simple, not clearly defined, have no ‘one size fits all answers’, do have a many gray areas, and need much more consideration and care in discussion than they have usually received in the public discourse.

Comments are closed.