Gitmo detainees and Germany

Germany finally seems to have accepted two Guantanamo detainees. The overall reaction was decidedly unenthusiastic if not phlegmatic. Nevertheless, there are the expected negative voices, such as this post on the Weblog Sicherheitspolitik (a German blog mostly on national security policy) or this on another German blog (Deutsche Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitik) with a title that would essentially mean the same in English.

That blog post basically follows the well-known pattern from the U.S.:

I considered this to be ridiculous when hysterical U.S. right wingers used this talking point and it's not much better in Germany as well, although we'll probably not lock 'em up.

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I'm still in opposition to accepting Gitmo detainees in Germany, though. My reason is a very different one, and it's *surprise* not exactly a very common one.

This is my point:

The U.S. fell from the level of Western civilisation with Patriot Act, war of aggression against Iraq, torture, kidnapping people even in allied nations and the "unlawful combatant" scandal treatment of what should have been either criminal suspects or prisoners of war. Well, because of that list and a few more points.
The handful people in Gitmo are quite irrelevant. I do not care about their fate, not any more than I care about the fate of some Papuan village. There are more than six billion people out there and I cannot care about all of them. I can merely insist that life and freedom are rights that must only be violated with really good reasons.

In short: It's about principles. In this case I mean Western civilisation principles.

So why is Germany supposed to take two Gitmo detainees? The reason is simple in my opinion. The U.S. has still not recovered, it is still unable to treat these people right, to admit its error and to correct it. If we can take them, why not CONUS?
The answer is simple; CONUS isn't ready to accept them. It's still in the mad 9/11 shock mode and too much under influence of scaremongers. It's still not back to normal operation, back to the ability to act rationally and coolly.

That's why I am against accepting Gitmo detainees to Germany. The Americans shall do their homework, clean up their own dirt and prove that they're willing to meet the expectations and behave like a civilised nation. I expect them to be able to treat these people either as POW or as criminal suspects - be it in jal or not. I don't care whether they won't be accepted by other countries including their homeland. The Americans catched them - now they got them. Their problem.

Now its their turn to prove that they can do the right, the Western civilisation thing. We shouldn't offer them a cheap way out.

Sven Ortmann

P.S.: It would be possible that some readers use the primitive concepts of "anti-americanism" or "left" as explanations for what I wrote. I can only advise them to take the text more seriously. Even people who don't agree with me usually admit that I have a point.


  1. "It's about principles. In this case I mean Western civilisation principles."

    The principle of western civilization to be principled and not care about some fringe group from some godforgotten place ... innocent or not. yeah, You sound more like americans you complain about than you realize.

  2. So you dislike this
    "I do not care about their fate, not any more than I care about the fate of some Papuan village."?

  3. If you're going to make a point, Sven, make it. You're simply asking me to agree with you because you represent the principles of western civilization.

    Which principles? How do those principles force a choice between POW and criminal defendant? Who defines this?

    In any other war people like this, who don't recognize the laws of war, would simply have been shot after a short court martial. I invite you to review the fate of the members of the "Trojan Horse Brigade" in the Battle of the Bulge or the postwar Werewolves.

    Why should these people get special treatment and in effect be rewarded for not following the laws of war?

  4. Well, first of all; there aren't only prisoners from AFG in Gitmo. Many Gitmo prisoners there were simply kidnapped from non-warzones, taken prisoner in raids on housings far away from battle or taken over from other intelligence services.

    Second, a court martial would be an improvement.
    As you probably know, there were few and those few tended to yield no positive verdict (1 plead guilty with few months sentence, 2 dismissed).
    There's a marginal probability that those who were not court martialled would be found guilty if the court applies the rule of law and benefit of doubt.

    The Western civilisation has progressed far enough to consider such things as a fair trial or treatment as POW as a right. To withhold both and treat people as essentially without rights and keep them captive (or worse) is not Western civilised behaviour.

    By the way; Germany could have sent almost all captured RAF Bomber Command crews to court martials for war crimes (bombing civilians) if today's GC standards were applied. It's neither necessary nor a good idea to always be on the hawkish side.

    The "who defines this" question has an official answer (such things were written down and agreed upon in many different documents caleld treaties, philosophy or constitutions long ago) and a much more relevant unofficial answer.

    The unofficial answer is of course that bad behaviour will eventually backfire. Bad actions erode friendships or fuel opposition.
    The German state apparently decided to have some deal (with benefits unknown to the public), downplaying the "erode friendship" part.
    I would obviously nor have left the U.S. gov from the hook that easily (the U.S. is lucky; Merkel is ideologically pro-U.S.).

    It's difficult to tell how much damage Gitmo and the whole affair did, yet I assume that damage is great. It was entirely unnecessary & avoidable, too.

    Last but not least: The core of the problem is illustrated by your perception that proper treatment would be "special treatment". That's how much the propaganda has distorted the views.
    The "unlawful combatant" treatment is "special", "unusual".

  5. One problem though. "Western civilisation principles" don't work in a war against fascists.

    Hitler and Tojo weren't defeated with "Western civilisation principles". They were crushed by any means necessary.

    There's a really good reason. We're at war with fascism. I have no problems with GITMO.

  6. (1) There's no evidence that WW2 could not have been won without atrocities, and there will never be such evidence. There is evidence that atrocities had counter-productive effects, though.
    The interrogation techniques of interrogation specialists were far more advanced in WW2 than what's apparently been done in Gitmo. Many smart interrogation techniques stem from that time.

    (2) You're wrong at this blog f you really believe that anyone is at war with fascism today. That's old, ridiculous nonsense.