Comparing Bagram and Guantanamo

Liberals accuse the president of treating prisoners in Afghanistan the same way Bush did with those in Guantanamo Bay.

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When the Supreme Court ruled last year that those held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts, Obama hailed the rejection of the "false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeus corpus." But now his administration argues those held at Bagram don't have habeus corpus rights, just as Bush did for those at Gitmo. At issue is whether this set of prisoners have the right to challenge their detentions.

  • Geneva Applies  The Obama administration has defended its no-habeus decision on the basis that detainees are enemy combatants in a war zone, wrote The American Prospect's Adam Serwer. "The U.S. is not currently involved in an international armed conflict in Afghanistan, for which enemy combatants would have to be considered prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions," he said. "Instead, the U.S. is engaged in a non-international armed conflict in a foreign nation, which means that civilians who take up arms have to be tried according to domestic law, in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which the United States is a member."
  • Hypocrisy Alert  Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan declared that the war on terror is over in a recent speech, which made Daphne Eviatar ask whether that also meant that the administration planned to "relinquish its right to detain terror suspects picked up anywhere in the world." If the war is over then "so is his [Obama's] corresponding power to seize and imprison its supposed 'warriors' anywhere in the world," Eviatar said.
  • The Release Problem  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder said the question should be whether the government will have a plan to release prisoners at Bagram before hostilities end. Using Iraq as an example, transfering prisoners to the host government is legally thorny given they could be attacked by vigilianties or tortured by the government. If they aren't repatriated by their home countries then the U.S. would have to continue to jail them.
  • Why Not Impeach Obama? The president is getting a pass from all those who called for Bush's impeachment for illegally holding prisoners, said Sista Toldjah. "What’s the difference between then and now? Well, Obama’s heart is in the right place, you see."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.