Rocky Point High School, Suffolk County, Long Island, NY, is a very patriotic place in a very patriotic community. Military veterans, volunteer firefighters, first responders, neighbors, and leaders of all kinds have contributed to myriad memorials and honors there since 9/11/2001.
The school boasts annual Veterans Day assemblies featuring veterans, high school band and small group music, multi-media presentations and rapt students.
The school has a 9/11 memorial outside it main entrance in honor of the sacrifice of community member on that day.
High School social studies teacher, coach and student leadership mentor, Mr. Rich Acritelli has spearheaded the school’s military honor wall, which highlight’s the school’s graduates who have joined the military service. This is in the main hallway and covers 50′ of surface on one side, and on the other facing wall is a similar tribute display for school staff members who have served. The picture plaques features color photos of the person in uniform along with their name and place in an are identified with their branch of service. There is also a small section dedicated to Navy LT Michael Murphy, a local deceased medal of honor winner from the War on Terror.
I have known Rich Acritelli for over 20 years, through high school athletics and then the military. Rich is a great friend and generous soul. I have been invited to speak at the annual Veterans Day Assembly a few times and am always impressed and amazed at the complete respect and sincerity of the students, staff and administration. The principal, Mr. Jonathan Hart was present for the entire ceremony and was engaged and supportive of Mr. Acritelli and the school participants and audience.
Mr. Acritelli told me I had 7-8 minutes for a speech to the audience of over 100 11th grade US History students. Rich has always been supportive of my service and a great fan of my book, “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay.” Here is my speech:
VETERANS DAY ASSEMBLY
ROCKY POINT HIGH SCHOOL
November 12, 2021
Thank you, Mr. Acritelli, and Principal Hart for inviting me here today to speak with you on the occasion of Veterans Day.
I am a three-times mobilized retired Army Major and served 22 years, starting out as a combat medic for five years, then Officer Candidate School, and then as a Medical Service Corps officer.
The last nine years of my service were spent in Military Police Enemy Prisoner of War liaison units, as the Field Medical Assistant, in charge of medical, preventive medical and environmental services for Enemy Prisoner of War operations.
After 9/11, I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the ranking US Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, Joint Task Force 160. In short, I helped take care of bad guys.
After my retirement from the Army in 2008, I became very disappointed in the media coverage about Gitmo. I felt the media unfairly portrayed the operation as less than humane, which I knew was simply not true.
My colleagues and I, from all branches of the US military, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and the Coast Guard, were dedicated, well trained, and served with honor and integrity.
International Committee of the Red Cross physicians I worked with there told me, “No one does detention operations better than the US.” We were the best, and I knew it.
My frustration over the inaccurate reports about Gitmo led me to write a memoir about my time there called “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay.” It isn’t the whole story, but I like to think of it as a small piece to the big puzzle of the enigma we call Gitmo.
When last I spoke here I brought a few hard cover first edition copies of my book with me and donated them to the students and the school. I am here to do the same with the second edition, soft cover; one copy for Principal Hart as a dedication to your school library, and one to Mr. Acritelli to hold a raffle for interested students who might want a copy.
Not too long ago, a short documentary film was made about my experience at Gitmo, called “Heroes of Gitmo,” which is available on YouTube. Please check it out. Heroes of Gitmo.
I remember my service there as some of the most challenging times of my life, and I called it an emotional train wreck. In early 2002, at the beginning of the mission at Gitmo, we were told by then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, that even though the detainees, who were all at least unlawful combatants, were not entitled to the protections and privileges of the Geneva Conventions, we would treat them however, he said, “within the spirit of Geneva.” That’s all we needed to hear. We only trained one way, the right way. And even though we may have hated the detainees for taking us away from our families, friends and careers, we were duty bound to treat them with dignity and respect.
Detainees are given FREE, Qurans, prayer rugs and beads, white robes, beards, directions to Mecca, halal and Muslim holy holiday meals including lamb and baklava, services of US military Muslim chaplains, world class health, dental and vision care, recreation, books, TV, DVDs, correspondence, sports and more.
741 detainees have been released, about 39 remain and none have been executed or brutalized the way our enemies have treated US or allied prisoners. There is no moral comparison between Gitmo and how our enemies treat their captives.
With all this said, there was Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, or EIT performed on a handful of detainees at Gitmo in order to obtain valuable information that saved many lives. Those techniques have been labeled torture after the fact, and did not meet the internationally accepted definition of torture at the time. The techniques were not performed by Army personnel nor any Department of Defense personnel, but by CIA operatives trained in the techniques.
Torture is wrong, but at the time, the techniques used were legal and approved. Since then, the techniques have been outlawed and even though one technique, waterboarding, has been singled out as particularly cruel, it was used in Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training for US personnel scheduled to deploy overseas who might be at risk of kidnapping by our enemies. The training was to help prepare US personnel for potential waterboarding by our enemies. It is not lethal unless performed by poorly trained individuals.
My advice to you though is to not take my word for it, but research for yourself about the US operation at Guantanamo Bay, which is still ongoing. There is plenty to read, but mostly from former detainees, trained to lie about their treatment in captivity. I know some of these men through social media, have read their books and shared mine with them. To this day, we agree to disagree about certain facts surrounding their participation in the Global War on Terror and their detention.
Veterans Day is a special day when we, as a society turn to say “thank you” to our veterans, who wrote a blank check to all of us for everything up to and including their lives. It’s been said that, greater love hath no one than this: that a person lay down their life for their friends.
Thank you for taking the time to honor me and the other veterans here today. I appreciate your kind attention and loyal support very much.
When you see a veteran, thank them for their service, welcome them home and ask them about their service. What job did they have? How was the food? Do you remember a funny story? Would you do it all over again?
Some veterans would jump at the chance to talk with a young person about their service, and some might not. But you never know unless you ask.
In closing, always remember to think for yourselves. Don’t let anyone discount your thoughts or feelings about things that are important to you. But be gracious in your conversations and seek to truly understand what the other person is trying to communicate. This takes patience, consideration and thoughtfulness. But don’t ever mistake kindness for weakness. It is the strongest among us who are also the most kind.
Thank you and God bless.
Montgomery J. Granger
Major, US Army, Retired
It was great to be a part of something so special with people who care so deeply about the sacrifice and dedication of veterans. Michael Murphy’s father, Dan was present and spoke before I did at the assembly. It was humbling to see a man so full of pride for his son, lost in the service of his country, taking up the standard of selfless service, honor and integrity – which his son displayed and demonstrated while in uniform in the service of his country.
The acting in the film “The Mauritanian” is superb. The look and feel of it are more authentic than not, with many accurate details. The production values and film making are excellent. Who would expect less from a part seasoned, part up-and-coming cast, accomplished director and solid production company? The film is a success, technically.
This issue comes with the claim in the opening credits that it is a “true story.”
That is a very high bar, considering the subject, Mohamadou Auld Slahi, unlawful combatant Global War on Terror participant, is known to have lied and changed his story multiple times during his incarceration at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Which truth are they talking about?
According to his own statements, and classified documents released by Wikileaks, published by the New York Times (Guantanamo Docket), Mr. Slahi is a trained al Qaeda operative, who may or may not have recruited at least three 9/11/2001 terrorists, led a terror cell in Germany, pledged Bayat (allegiance) to Usamma bin Laden, and planned the failed Millennial Bombing plot at Los Angeles International Airport. He is also under suspicion of having close associations with other known al Qaeda operatives and high-ranking officials.
In other words, Mr. Slahi was not an “innocent” foot soldier just following orders and kidnapped for bounty. Not that that would matter even if he were a lawful combatant POW. He was not.
According to the Geneva Conventions and Law of Land Warfare, unlawful combatants are entitled to ZERO legal rights and may be shot on sight on the battlefield. If captured they may be denied habeas corpus and tried in a military commission as unlawful combatant war criminals. So how did it come to be that Mr. Slahi and 730 of his comrades were RELEASED from Gitmo, and NONE have been beheaded, executed, blown up, hacked to death, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, drowned or burned alive? All things our enemies have done to us, and/or our allies.
The movie mentions early on, an incident that occurred in 1942, during WWII, in which six of eight German saboteurs were caught dry-foot on US soil and then several weeks later, after being denied habeas corpus and tried by military commission, were executed by electric chair. The Mauritanian failed to mention that the saboteurs had actually never committed any acts of sabotage. They hadn’t hurt a fly nor destroyed any property. They simply had the means and will to do so. They were convicted as spies and of having broken the Laws of War and the Geneva Conventions. The Mauritanian used the incident as a segway into mentioning that the case against their hero, Slahi, would be a capital case seeking the death penalty. This is a disingenuous portrayal of the incident. The producers could have used the illustration to point out that unlawful combatants were vulnerable to war commissions (tribunals) and execution BECAUSE they did not follow the Geneva Conventions or the Law of War.
In fact, The Mauritanian never discusses applicable international or US military law. The German saboteurs were tried by the book, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ); the same standards and rights a US soldiers would be tried under should they be accused of crimes while on Active Duty. My colleagues and I were trained and ready to support tribunals at Gitmo, and fully anticipated doing so. But the focus, especially in the early years at Gitmo was not on prosecution, but on gathering information. Valuable information that could save many lives. Lawfare (using the American legal system to disrupt operations and gain early release) was the focus of detainees, especially those accused of war crimes.
In the George W. Bush years, following the attacks of 9/11/2001, Don Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, says in his autobiography, “Known and Unknown,” that he sought out the greatest legal minds of the time to help create an updated legal foundation for dealing with the detainees, especially the high value, “worst of the worst” that would be accused of war crimes. More a reaction to boisterous allegations of abuse and torture, and confusing legal basis of trying foreigners on foreign soil, they came up with the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This act gave unlawufl combatant Gitmo detainees additional legal rights not afforded in the Geneva Conventions, Law of War or UCMJ. Rumsfeld said he wanted there to be transparency and fairness in how the detainees were processed for adjudication.
When Barack Hussein Obama came along, he replaced the 2006 MCA with his own 2009 Military Commissions Act, which went even further in granting rights to the detainees accused of war crimes. In fact, the 2009 MCA gave detainees virtually the SAME rights a US citizen may enjoy in a federal court of law! Unheard of! Unprecedented! Outrageous! Absurd! But no one complained. And so here we are today, in 2021, several military judges and attorney’s later, still in pre-trial hearings for those accused of war crimes at Gitmo, and still with the 2009 MCA.
Slahi won a legal case against the US for the right to apply for habeas corpus (due process rights) and was ordered released, only to find his case bogged down again in federal legal red tape, and ended up serving another 7 years in captivity. His written confession to being a member of al Qaeda, and mapping out the terror network throughout Europe gained him special privileges at Gitmo (which, by the way would not have happened if they’d found he LIED about those things). But his claims of abuse and torture drowned out the reality of his association and participation in the terror network.
Just because you believe someone was “coerced” into saying things doesn’t make them FALSE. It simply calls into question their validity, which is why the information is VETTED. If INTEL feel the information was accurate, there are benefits and rewards given – which Slahi readily accepted, including television, laptop computer, DVDs, better living conditions, etc.
During WWII, the United States held over 400,000 mostly German lawful combatant POWs without charge or trial, “until the end of hostilities,” as per the Conventions and Law of War. No powerful Hollywood types came to their rescue or demanded their release; no movies were made of their plight. The claim by Jodie Foster’s portrayal of defense attorney Nancy Hollander in the beginning of the The Mauritanian that American justice was in play and anyone held by the US is entitled to be charged and defended, is an intellectually dishonest statement in light of the fact that Slahi was an unlawful combatant, and therefore not entitled to anything, but for the benevolence of the United States, and Obama’s 2009 MCA. The film does not adequately address the real military legal status of Slahi, nor under what authority (AUMF) he had been captured and was being held.
When my boss, the Camp X-Ray Commandant and I arrived to Gitmo in early 2002, Donald Rumsfeld told him and the Joint Task Force 160 staff, that even though the detainees were not entitled to the rights, privileges and treatment of the Geneva Conventions, we would “treat them within the spirit of Geneva.” That’s all we needed to hear, for we don’t train to mistreat detainees. We train one way, the right way.
The US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is the finest military detention facility on earth. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) physicians I worked with at Gitmo, and later on in Iraq, told me, “No one does [detention operations] better than the US.” There is no moral comparison between Gitmo and how our enemies treat captives. Our enemies do not keep their captives alive for long. Islamist Sharia Law allows only for the enslavement, conversion, tax or death of captured kafir (non-believers, deceivers).
The constant fake news, MSM, leftist assertions that Gitmo is a torture chamber, gulag, embarrassment are unfounded and erroneous, even after this “true story” makes outlandish and incredible assertions about Mr. Slahi’s treatment. That is my OPINION.
What do I know about it?
As the ranking US Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, Joint Task Force 160, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I served from early February to Mid June, 2002. My job was medical S-1 (Personnel), supervision of good guy urgent care and sick call facilities, liaison between the Guard Force Command and the Navy Detention Medical Command, Camp X-Ray Medical Facility, military medical intelligence reporting, observation and control of detainee medical care from touchdown at Leeward Airport through in-processing at Camp X-Ray, assist with writing detainee medical SOP (Standard Operating Procedures), JTF Medical service asset, medical, preventive medical and environmental service observation and consultation of new construction of Camp Delta medical and incarceration facilities, and anything else that stuck to the wall.
My background is five years as a Combat Medic/Medical Specialist, and then 17 years as a Medical Service officer (think hospital administrator or Field Medical Assistant – advisor to field commanders on medical, preventive medical and environmental services). The last 9 years of my career (I retired at the rank of major in 2008) was spent with Army Military Police Enemy Prisoner of War liaison units, or Brigade Liaison Detachments (BLDs). We studied the Geneva Convention and Law of Land Warfare among military Field Manuals, regulations, SOP, DA PAMs, etc., all before 9/11/2001. We studied lessons learned from the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), when Saddam Hussein’s weary, starving and ill-armed troops surrendered in droves, outstripping our ability to contain them all properly and challenging command and control efforts. Small 12 person liaison detachments (BLDs) were created to act as eyes and ears for the incarceration command brigade with the detention groups, or incarceration battalions. I served in two of these liaison detachments from 1999-2008, with deployments to Gitmo and Iraq.
On the civilian side, I am a husband, father of five, church trustee, and I have been an educator for over 35 years. Starting out as a teacher of health and physical education, Dean of Students and coach in New York City public high schools. Later, after moving to Long Island, NY, with my wife, a special education teacher, I became a public school administrator, including physical education department chair, sport chairman, Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics. After 9/11 and through my deployments I was promoted to District Administrator for Operations, which saw me take responsibility for facilities, school security and health services. I am a graduate of The University of Alabama, with a composite degree (Bachelor of Science in Education) in health, physical education, recreation and dance (also where I independently studied the Nuremberg Trials from transcripts of the proceedings). I earned a Master of Arts Degree in curriculum and teaching at Teachers College – Columbia University (also where I studied education law and the psycho-social aspects of human movement, and met my wife). I also completed coursework for a School District Administrator’s certificate at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
I initially became interested in war time incarceration when I was a teen, after having met a friend of my mother’s, Horst, a former Wermacht lieutenant who commanded a unit fo taube (deaf), jungen (youth), and elderly troops during and then after the Battle of the Bulge at the end of WWII. Horst was captured by US forces and told amazing stories of how well he was treated, which led him to seek and then obtain US citizenship after he was released at war’s end. I was also a Civil War buff, through my mother’s posession and writings of my 2nd Great Grandfather Freeman Woodman’s diaries of his service in the Union Army, and march with Sherman to the sea. I read about Andersonville, a living hell of a Confederate POW camp.
At Gitmo, I was involved with the very first detainee repatriation of a man who was found to be a cold turkey heroin addict and un-medicated schizophrenic form Afghanistan. Determined to no longer be a threat nor an intelligence asset, this detainee was released. Weeks later, the Island (Gitmo) Spooks (CIA) told my boss (Camp X-Ray Commandant), that the detainee we had released was executed upon his arrival in Kandahar, Afghanistan. That shocking news devastated us emotionally. Our whole purpose in life was to keep these guys (detainees) alive. Terrorist leader or wrong-place wrong-time foot soldier, our responsibility was the care and treatment of the detainees; to treat them with dignity and respect, to heal their wounds and to keep them “fat & happy.” I narrate this incident in a short documentary film on YouTube called “Heroes of GITMO,” from my book, “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior.”
Four weeks after the detainee’s release we found a news story online showing a picture of this detainee, healthy and happy and sitting on a Kandahar hospital bed and talking about how well he was treated at Gitmo! The Island Spooks had LIED. Why? Because they could, and it was fun to them to lie. It gives a person in authority extra power, in fact ultimate power. If you control information you control “the truth.” The same holds true for al Qaeda operatives who are trained to LIE about their treatment in captivity. We know this from captured training manuals we read upon arrival to Gitmo. All the tricks of the trade, the most powerful of which is the LIE. Mohamadou Auld Slahi had mastered this art.
This mission became an emotional train wreck for us, as many of us blamed the detainees for us being at Gitmo, and away from our families, while at the same time we were expected to care for them. Our orders said, “In support of the Global War on Terror,” and these guys were responsible for that. We hated them, some passionately so. That hatred was rarely if ever manifested in abuse, but it did happen.
What kind of abuse?
Some of the US Army Military Police guards would slap awake detainees in the Navy Fleet (detainee) Hospital 120. Blankets were whisked off of detainees, leaving them shivering in the well-cooled tent hospital next to the sea. These incidents were handled with the utmost seriousness and severity. Soldiers found to be abusing detainees were reassigned, sent home and/or prosecuted under the UCMJ.
Military Police resented the kind bedside manner of the Navy medical personnel who cared for the detainees. MPs are trained never to speak with a detainee unless directing him to do something. No conversations, no chit chat, no personal information. Navy medical personnel on the other hand were trained to use professional bedside manner, and to treat the whole person, not just the patient or ailment.
There are many reasons for bedside manner. One, it reduces stress and helps control vital signs in the patient, and can distract them from sometimes painful applications of medicine or therapy. Many detainees had been transported directly from the battlefield in Afghanistan and had war wounds in various stages of healing or festering. Two, medical personnel needed detainee’s cooperation – and approval for medical procedures, medications, physical therapy, etc. A friendly, supportive approach made for more effective healing.
There was an understandable mutual mistrust between captors and captives. Detainees were shackled in the wards, mostly to their beds. Medical personnel sometimes had to work with detainees who were NOT shackled, which caused high levels of anxiety among the medical personnel and the guard force who were sworn to protect the corpsmen. Most detainees were unfamiliar with modern western medicine, and refused procedures or medications out of hand. Translators said the detainees were afraid of being poisoned, a myth some of the detainee leaders perpetuated.
Guards perceived the chit chat between detainees and Navy medical personnel as giving comfort to the enemy. These were serious perceptions that worked into the psyches of the personnel. Detainees were sworn to DISRUPT detention operations, just like US personnel would be were the roles reversed. My daily trips to the Fleet Hospital to attend staff meetings and make hospital ward observations for the detention commanders were always tense.
This disruption by detainees manifested itself in them talking to each other in different languages (forbidden), trying to engage anyone around them in conversation, and stealing items to use as weapons or tools to escape with. Ballpoint pens could be both. Sharp medical instruments. Toothbrushes, the handles filed down to a razor sharp shiv. Stress? You bet. Professionalism saved the day, along with talking about thoughts and feelings in orientations and debriefings. But some US personnel couldn’t handle it. Troops were supposed to self-report violent feelings or abusive thoughts.
Shorthanded, it wasn’t always possible to transfer someone who wasn’t well suited for detention duty in the hospital. To make things even more challenging, there were mandatory troop rotations every few weeks for Military Police guards, and shifts were 12-14 hours days (including transition overlaps), 7 days a week. No days off. Month after month. This led to repeated similar stress-related issues with each new group assigned to Fleet Hospital 120.
I know Muhamedou Auld Slahi. He and I met on Twitter several years ago. We had direct message (DM) conversations about Gitmo and life. On the few occasions I wanted to ask him about al Qaeda, he would clam up, not respond. At one point we agreed to exchange books, his, “Guantanamo Diary,” mine, “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior.” He purchased a copy of his book online and then used my address as the shipping address. Smart. Since no book sellers were willing to send my book to Mauritania, I had to get DHL to deliver it. The only carrier who said they could do it. Finally, Muhamadou got my book.
Our conversations tapered off after I asked about al Qaeda once too many times. I had read the Guantanamo Docket on Slahi on the New York Times website and had questions about it. He was not engaging with me on it. I wonder if he would now?
The claim from the movie was, anything he may or may not have done, including murdering innocent people, were moot because he claimed torture and abuse at the hands of . . . none other than US Army Military intelligence officers, including female participants who sexually abused him.
In the film, Mohamadou is interrogated for years by a two person male, salt & pepper (one white and one black officer) civilian (CIA?) team. When the “special treatment” begins in the film, it is folks in US Army uniforms to do the beatings, sexual assaulting, water torture (not controlled Enhanced Interrogation Technique (EIT) waterboarding), stress positioning and sleep deprivation. My OPINION on this is that it is at least misleading and at worst fabricated to make us believe it was regular Army Military Intelligence personnel performing the worst of the abuse.
Why do I think this is a lie?
Not only my training, knowledge and experience, but in Donald Rumsfeld’s autobiography, “Known and Unknown,” he states that “No DoD personnel were ever trained in EIT. Only CIA were trained in EIT.” That includes ALL uniformed military personnel, and all civilian DoD personnel. So no Pentagon types are trained in those techniques. The Army are interviewers, not physical interrogators. That’s left to the alphabet soup guys, you know, the Spooks, Secret Squirrels, Shadow Warriors, the trained liars.
Why did the producers of the film, the director Kevin Macdonald and Jodie Foster allow this misleading portrayal into their film? Did Slahi tell them that’s what happened? Did the CIA tell them not to implicate them? Military Intelligence (MI) are the minor league team, CIA and other alphabet soup are the Show, the big leagues. Why would we go from big to small in the interrogation and expect better results, especially considering that the military are not trained in such techniques? It doesn’t add up, and for me it was an obvious attempt at deception. One leaves the film with a decidedly poor impression of the military, and a neutral or ambivalent impression of whoever the civilian personnel were supposed to portray – CIA, “The Agency,” FBI? The initial interrogation team could have been anyone, or no one.
Could Slahi’s story be true? Of course, but the portrayal sets off all sorts of red flags, bells and whistles. I believe there is a fair chance that anyone who came into physical contact with Slahi during interrogations, less the US Army Military Police escorting him from and then back to his cell, were CIA or other alphabet soup agents.
[Arter releasing this review I have been contacted by several individuals who I believe were in close contact with Slahi during his stay at Gitmo. These individuals have corrected some minor misconceptions, but have also revealed information that confirms my suspicions that the Army never abused Slahi.
As the JTF S-1 for medical I was supposed to track all incoming personnel medical records. I can’t tell you how many “Smith’s” and “Jones’s” were on my civilian roster with the “Agency” column left blank. Medical records? None.
What other deceptions are in The Mauritanian?
A lie can be very subtle. A mood, a look, a tone, posture, lack of a statement, statement of falsehood. You don’t know what you don’t know, so when a slick Hollywood film comes along with a tour-de-force female lead actress (Jodie Foster), teams up with a solid second (Benedict Cumberbatch), and third (Shialene Woodley), and a spectacular antagonist (Tahar Rahim), I felt like I was Custer riding into the Little Big Horn. I didn’t stand a chance. Off the bat, in over five months at Gitmo, and having observed every single incoming detainee from stepping of the plane from Afghanistan through in-processing at Camp X-Ray, I never saw one detainee with a hood over their head. There was no need. Detainees were dressed warmly for the cold 30,000 foot 18 hour flight, including knit cap, coat, gloves. And sensory deprivation items such as blacked out goggles and headphones – these help calm the detainee and create a safe environment for them and the guards. But no hoods. Ever.
The movie depicts the blackout goggles being removed from Slahi’s face an the tarmac briefly for cinematic effect (he claimed to have seen a sign at the airport which showed where he was). I never saw any detainees have their goggles even touched once until they were stripped naked to take a shower during the beginning of the in-processing at Camp X-Ray, when the goggles and other sensory deprivation items were removed. The movie depicted Slahi as having abrasions on his face that went untreated all the way to when he was first put in his cell. I thinking the abrasions were also for cinematic effect, to perhaps suggest he had been mistreated or mishandled. Any open wound, scratch or scrape was immediately given first aid during in-processing, he would have been no exception. Finally, another lie was the scene when Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley first go to see Slahi. Ominous music palys as they are escorted through the sally ports (locked sections of screened fencing) leading to the interrogation hut where Slahi was, led by a Lurch-looking, emotionless sergeant of the guard, when just as they arrive in the section housing the guard shack, a military working dog leaps out at them, barking and growling, creating a “jump moment.” Yikes! Military working dogs are NEVER around civilians. They work the perimeter of the camp. They are present at aircraft touchdown, during in-processing, but never around visiting civilians. It is moments like these that sadly prove that the film is 100% biased against the military. Their portrayal of soldiers and sailors, especially early in the film was ominous and insulting.
But what’s not to like? They spent pains getting Gitmo really close to what it is/was. From the soldier’s appearance, to the fencing, landscape, detention cells and amenities. Really nice job.
But they made US military personnel zombie-like, rude and discourteous in the beginning of the film, both misleading and unnecessary. Military personnel, especially Military Police, are exceedingly polite towards civilians. All civilians. We pride ourselves in being apolitical and nonjudgmental on duty. Why the producers, director and Ms. Foster felt they had to portray military personnel in this manner is beyond me, unless of course you consider the sympathy with the devil perception and an anti-American narrative.
Time and again Hollywood has portrayed US military in films as evil, incompetent, abusive, ignorant, damaged (PTSD), ugly and mean. That’s in the last 20-30 years or so. Bad guys are usually Marines or Army types gone astray or conflicted between orders and conscience. Movies like, “A Few Good Men,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Platoon,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “Hurt Locker,” and “Camp X-Ray.” Add “The Mauritanian” to this group.
Other lies include the portrayal of military personnel near the end of the film. After the “special treatment,” the military characters seemed to become more sympathetic towards Slahi, even to the point of saying, “I can’t tell you that,” (classified information), and then immediately telling him the classified information. A direct slap in the face to the integrity of the military. An unfair portrayal. To say the story is “true” means to the casual viewer that everything portrayed in the movie is the truth. It is not. It is crafted to portray the military in a bad light. The only sympathetic military characters are the ones who buck the system or quit.
What I don’t know.
I don’t know exactly what happened to Mohamadou Slahi. I wasn’t there when he was. I never met him face-to-face. But my trained and experienced OPINION is that very little if any of the harshest treatment happened to him, but if it did, it wasn’t perpetrated by Army personnel, and I doubt any DoD personnel participated in any abuse or EIT. I base that on what I have shared with you.
There is a lot more to say about it. My small piece to the big puzzle that is the enigma we call Gitmo, is my book. Rather than a true story, I call my book a REAL story. There are three sides to every story, yours, mine and the truth. I will let the reader decide what is true or not based on their own research, conscience and educated convictions.
The Mauritanian expertly tells the myths and deceptions of Mr. Slahi, who is shown spiking the football (figuratively speaking) at the end of the film as he is shown in a real video news clip of him being greeted by hoards of Mauritanian supporters upon his release in 2016, and then is shown doing a victory dance in the final credit scene. That infuriated me, sickened me and caused me, finally, to leave.
Since the original publication of this review I have watched the movie a second time at the invitation of the Motion Picture Association of America. I asked why I was selected and I was told because I was [at Gitmo] and wrote a book about it. I was given access to a special screening online which I could control. I stopped and started the film many times to gather quotes and watch again things that seemed interesting or anachronistic. I took five pages of notes and have integrated some of my findings into the body of this review, which I will continue to edit as new information comes to light. My mission is to gather as much factual information as I can and then share it with you in context of the film review so that you can decide for yourself what is credible and what is not. I encourage anyone with first hand knowledge of events portrayed in the film to come forward and DM me on Twitter at @mjgranger1. Thank you.
Post Post Script
Since the original publication of this review I have had the opportunity to witness a Zoom conference including Mohamedou Auld Slahi and Nancy Hollander through an event sponsored by Georgetown University’s “Bridge Initiative Team.” They titled the event: The Human Cost of Guantanamo Bay: In Conversation with Mohamedou Auld Slahi and Nancy Hollander.” It was an hour long presentation that included Islamocentric ideology, anti-US military propaganda and bashing, by the moderators and Nancy Hollander. Interestingly enough, Mohamedou was subdued, distracted occasionally by his beautiful young son, who would come up to his father, sit in his lap for a second or two, and then run away. “Mo” reminded everyone watching and listening that he felt “free” to express his faith at Gitmo, and that “Forgiveness equals freedom.” Leading up to the event I was asked if I wanted to provide any pre-screened questions to the guest speakers. I did, and sent them along via email. When the even started we were encouraged to provide additional questions, which I did immediately. In fact I posted the first six of about 13 or so event watcher questions, among them asking Nancy Hollander about whether or not she ever considered researching international and military law for her defense, and how much did she know about Operation Pastorious, and whether or not she had studied the Nuremberg Trials. For Slahi, I asked if he had any doubts about who abused him, military or CIA? None of my questions were asked. I felt frozen out of the whole event, even though I was invited to attend! All the questions were tainted softballs that were promptly hit out of the ballpark by Nancy Hollander, who couldn’t help herself from bashing the US government and military every chance she got. Moderator, John Esposito made a point at the beginning of the presentation to say Mohamedou had been “tortured by the military, not the CIA.” why would anyone need to make that disclaimer? Unless, it wasn’t true. In the end, I was flabberghasted at not having had the opportunity to have even ONE of my several questions asked, nor challenge the bias and prejudice of the event. I said as much in a series of tweets between myself and moderator, Mobashra Tazamal (@mobbiemobs), the who loved bringing everything back to an us vs. them, pro-Muslim narrative. Mo balked at getting too deep into US or non-Muslim-bashing, to Ms. Tazamal’s discontent. “What a waste of an hour,” I tweeted her. She was aggressive and insulting in return. I accused them of censoring my voice, and why would they be so terrified of what I had to say? No responses to my queries. I reminded them to please never invite me to these events again.
By Karen J. Greenberg and Joshua L. Dratel with research assistance from Julia Tedesco
Published January 24, 2020
Untrue, arbitrary, misleading and proof of Islamist apologists. Let’s take it one item at a time: 1) (Indefinite detention) Just because Carol Rosenberg, chief Islamist apologist, calls unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us, “forever prisoners,” doesn’t mean it’s true. Furthermore, “indefinite detention” is a MYTH. During WWII over 400,000 mostly German, lawful combatant POW’s were lawfully held without charge or trial “until the end of hostilities,” as per the Geneva Conventions and Law of War. Unlawful combatants, although not entitled to the protections of Geneva or Law of War, nonetheless were treated within the “spirit of Geneva,” due to the benevolence of the United States. Still, no indefinite detention. When hostilities end they may be repatriated unless accused of war crimes. Some might ask, when will we know when hostilities have ended? When all Islamists are either dead, or no longer have the will or means to kill us. And that’s pretty much up to them.
2) (A new legal language for the purpose of bypassing the law) Unlawful combatant detainees are called detainees because they did not earn the title of Prisoner of War, nor the rights and privileges thereof, because they did not follow the Geneva Conventions or Law of War in their hostilities toward the US and our allies. No “made up” language. Lawful and correct language based on FACTS.
3) (Legal cover) My deployment orders state, “In support of the Global War on Terror.” Because it’s a “Global War,” anywhere we find the enemy he can be killed or captured. Not by our choice, but by the choice of our enemies and the language of the AUMF.
4) (The sidelining and removal of professionals) You couldn’t be more wrong. It’s clear that we have a civilian led military. The President, as Commander in Chief, and the Secretary of Defense, both clearly in our chain of command; look at any wall in the HQ of any Army unit and you will see a line of photos, starting with the president and ending with the unit’s Command Sergeant Major. Knowing the chain of command is an inspectable piece of information that every soldier, from E-Private Snuffy to the commanding general is expected to know at all times. It was Donald Rumsfeld who told my boss, the Camp Commandant at Camp X-Ray while we were there, that we would treat all detainees “within the spirit of Geneva.” The command structure at the time, in early 2002, was two Joint Task Forces. One for incarceration, JTF 160, led by one-star (brigadier) general Lehnert of the US Marine Corps (Lehnert had been in charge of X-Ray back in the early 1990’s with the Cuban and Haitian boat crises). And a second JTF (170), with a two star (major) general, Dunleavy, in charge of intelligence and interrogations. The mission objective was to get as much critical information from the detainees as possible as quickly as possible in order to save lives, and then to keep the detainees safe, secure and healthy; the latter item being my area of responsibility. Not only were we all professionals, we had trained long and hard, and many in my brigade and detachment veterans of the First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), where tens of thousands of uniformed, lawful combatant Iraqi soldiers surrendered en mass in a matter of days after the first shots were fired. My unit, the 455th Military Police Detachment (Brigade Liaison Detachment), 800th Military Police Brigade (EPW), formed the essence of the Joint Detainee Operations Group at Gitmo in early 2002, which oversaw the detention operations for JTF 160, the on-site command group. Below us was the incarceration Military Police Battalion, which provided the inside the wire guard force. Incredible soldiers, led by an incredible battalion commander, who worked 12-14 hours days, 7 days a week for over 6 months straight. To the side of us were the various support elements from all other military branches: Marines were the garrison and Camp X-Ray security force; Air Force provided in-flight medical and supplemental JTF 160 medical services (flight surgeons), and also air space security and transportation to and from Gitmo; Coast Guard provided supplemental port security and ground operational guard force, protecting ground access to Camp X-Ray and other classified areas, and Guard Force medical support; The Navy had port security (after all Gitmo is a US Naval Station), ferry service to and from Leeward (airport) to Windward side of the base, hospital and fleet hospital (think navy M*A*S*H unit) for detainee healthcare, environmental and preventive medical support, Seabee’s (“We build, we fight!”) support and other base services, including transportation, recreation, communication and housing, to name a few.
5) (The use of military for detention operations) Is legal and proper, but remember, the Reserves and National Guard hold almost all combat support and combat service support units in the military during peace time. You don’t need Enemy Prisoner of War (EPW) or many medical or transportation assets unless there is a war. So it takes TIME to train necessary regular unit types after the balloon goes up. Gitmo was used because of the prison riot in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. The Law of War dictates detention operations in the theater of operations UNLESS it is unsafe to do so. The prison riot proved it was too dangerous to keep detainees in a war zone; too much of a high value target for fratricide (enemy killing enemy), to stay in Afghanistan. My unit was one of the only EPW units in the Army, and the Army is the only branch that does EPW operations. Army military police who are not EPW trained are at least trained in military incarceration, but are not specialists. Just like a civilian police officer is not trained for full time corrections, they are familiar with incarcerating people. Marines were only perimeter guards and in the very early days some of the internal reaction and security inside the wire. The Army and Marines both worked the perimeter security, supplemented by the Coast Guard at check points. As things settled into a battle rhythm, the Army picked up the perimeter mission full time. Yes, things were put together quickly, and there may have been concerns, but inside the wire you had professional soldiers doing their jobs in all aspects of the mission better than any other force on earth. In fact, International Committee of the Red Cross physicians I worked with at Gitmo and later in Iraq, told me, “No one does [detention operations] better than the US.”
6) (Secrecy and the withholding of information) We hid things and kept secrets from the press because it was classified information essential for the safe, effective and secure operation of the mission. You only get to know what you need to know. I’ll never forget CNN correspondent Bob Franken threatening to “make it up” if we didn’t share classified information with him. We refused and so, almost on a daily bases, he filed FICTIONAL REPORTS. That’s right, pure FICTION! This is where I learned to loathe the MSM. The daily reports from Franked included things such as non-existent “riots” at Camp X-Ray, abuses, clandestine operations, complaints from the ICRC, and on and on. The kicker was when he insisted on knowing when we were going to move the detainees from the spartan Camp X-Ray to the new Camp Delta in the spring of 2002. He accused us of not letting him do his job. We accused him of trying to find out classified information to leak which would put the mission and those conducting it in unnecessary danger. We wouldn’t tell him, so he published a lie. We made sure the detainees were NOT moved when he said they were going to be moved, and instead of a two or three day operation, on the spur of the moment during the actual move, we decided to move them all on one day, a nearly 16 hour operation of continuous movement. Each detainee, nearly 300 of them, moved individually by two MP’s, one at a time, from their cells to a bus to their new cell. I observed every single transfer. Most of them thought they were being taken to be executed. Why? Because that’s what they would have done with us.
7) (Disregard for international law and treaties) As for international law and treaties, NONE of them were written to protect unlawful combatants. In fact, all of the detainees could have been lawfully shot dead on the battlefield. The Geneva Conventions nor the Law of War applied to them, virtually all of them technically clandestine operatives, spies, mercenaries, soldiers of fortune, etc. not a one of them a lawful combatant entitled to the rights and privileges of a lawful combatant POW. They were all lucky to be alive. 731 of the nearly 800 detainees were eventually RELEASED, and NONE of them beheaded, executed, blown up, hacked to death, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, drowned or burned alive. All things our enemies have done to us and/or our allies. They were all treated with dignity and respect and under the spirit of Geneva, as per Mr. Rumsfeld’s directive. They received FREE Qurans, prayer rugs/beads, directions to Mecca, time and space to pray, white robes, beards, halal and special holy Muslim holiday meals, featuring baklava and lamb, services of US military Muslim chaplains, world class health, dental and vision care, library, correspondence, TV, DVDs, video games, entertainment, recreation and sports. Club Gitmo indeed. All this and still guards would be sucker punched, spat on, and doused with Gitmo Cocktails – bodily fluids of detainees “splashed” onto them unawares. Unlawful combatant detainees earned no rights or privileges under any international law or policy. As for torture, there was none at Gitmo. And only a handful of detainees were waterboarded which provided valuable information which saved many lives. Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) were NOT torture, and were legal and approved when used at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and only by trained CIA operatives. No DoD personnel were ever trained on EIT and never performed EIT.
8) (Lack of accountability) As for accountability, no other country on earth treats its detainees or prisoners even half as good as the US does. We were as transparent as possible, even to the point where Don Rumsfeld wrote later in his autobiography, “Known and Unknown,” that he regrets the level of transparency shown the press at Gitmo. The early photographs exploited, mislabeled, misunderstood, misconstrued and mystified the place and the fine people who work there. Possibly one of the most emotionally challenging military missions, Gitmo presented myriad difficulties that some could not handle. In the end, Gitmo is a small but essential piece to the big puzzle of how we win the Global War on Terror. It is legal, ethical and moral. In fact, there is no moral comparison between Gitmo and how our enemies treat their captives. The Islamist equivalent to Gitmo is a PILE OF HEADS. Let that sink in. Sincerely, Major Montgomery J. Granger, US Army, Retired. Former ranking US Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, Joint task Force 160, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Author: Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior.
40 years ago, on November 21, 1979, United States Marine Corporal Steven J. Crowley, who was guarding the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, was shot and killed by radical Muslim extremists (Islamists), becoming one of the first casualties of the modern Global War on Terror (GWOT).
Muslim extremist “students,” having heard a false story about the US occupation of the mosque at Mecca, Saudi Arabia, gathered weapons and then boarded buses that would take them to the embassy.
Once at the compound, the Islamists stormed the complex and then set fire to debris collected on the first floor of the main building.
CPL Crowley was shot once through the head, just above his left ear, at approximately 1:10 p.m. local time, while on duty protecting the embassy from the roof of the main building. He was taken into the building and then brought to the safe room, or vault on the second floor.
At approximately 3:25 p.m. CPL Crowley was pronounced dead in the embassy vault, after an oxygen tank that was providing his threadbare connection to life ran out.
This group of Islamist “students” was later to be funded by none other than Osama bin Laden himself.
Steven was a tall, fit, blond-haired blue-eyed, chivalrous and cordial 19 year old graduate of Comsewogue High School, in Port Jefferson Station, Long Island, New York, who loved to run on the Cross Country and Spring Track Teams and who was a member of the Chess Club.
Steven Crowley Park, in Port Jefferson Station, was named for this brave neighbor of ours, and by cleaning up the park each fall we honor him and his brave and selfless service to our country. Cub Scout Pack 120 (Boy Scouts of America) has been cleaning up the park each fall at least since my 24 year old Eagle Scout son was a 6 year old Tiger Scout, 18 years ago and counting.
We tell the boys about Steven and his sacrifice to his country and to all of us.
Steven is a hero to all the nation, and his death marks one of the very first casualties in the Global War on Terror. The incident that precipitated Steven’s murder at the hands of Islamists shook the Muslim world just the day before, on November 20, 1979.
Overzealous Wahhabi’s seized the Grand Mosque at Mecca for about two weeks. Saudi Arabian commandos, with the help of French and American intelligence, eventually retook the mosque, ending the incident. But the erroneous story that the US had seized the mosque incensed hordes of Islamists throughout the Muslim world.
The incident at the US embassy in Islamabad was merely the first in a series of events that eventually led up to the attacks by Islamists on the United States on September 11, 2001, killing more Americans than died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, or died at Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Since then our enemies have mutated into the current Islamic State, but many other Islamic terrorist groups have emerged as well, each one determined to eliminate Israel, kill all infidels, and establish a worldwide caliphate.
In Steven’s memory, and for us, and for generations to come, we must fight the forces of evil that continue to harm us and our allies. Until all Islamists are dead, or no longer have the means or will to kill us, we must defend ourselves by any means necessary.
Thank you, Steven for your service, loyalty and sacrifice. We shall never forget your chivalry, integrity and self-less service to this great nation.
This July 4, there is much to celebrate, with the economy, world peace and Supreme Court nominations looking good, but there is also a lot to keep battling for, such as better race relations, border security and fair news coverage among them.
We are it seems, in a constant state of war for independence; independence from harassment, fake news and un-American activities.
Democracies are messy (and please, no nonsense here about the United States of America not being a democracy, but a Constitutional Republic. The two things are not mutually exclusive. That’s a semantic argument, not a substantive one.). Democracies sometimes fight themselves, but all should be in an effort to improve the QUALITY of our little experiment.
During times of war (and we ARE in a Global War on Terror), there are two acts for which there can be no forgiveness and no quarter; they are sedition and invasion.
During the Revolutionary War traitors were hung or shot on the battlefield. Bowe Bergdahl would not have lasted two seconds had he been retrieved from his desertion back then.
After signing the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin stated that “If we do not hang together we shall certainly hang separately.” He was not kidding or using hyperbole.
When the 56 Signers of The Declaration of Independence attached their signatures to that document, each knew they were committing treason against the British Crown. If caught and captured, they risked death. But death would not be swift. It would be by hanging to the point of unconsciousness, then being revived, disemboweled, their body parts boiled in oil and their ashes scattered into the wind. Our Founding Fathers valued freedom, for themselves and their posterity (us), to the extent that they found this fate worth the risk.
Five signers were captured by the British and brutally tortured as traitors. Nine fought in the War for Independence and died from wounds or from hardships they suffered. Two lost their sons in the Continental Army. Another two had sons captured. At least a dozen of the 56 had their homes pillaged and burned.
What kind of men were they? Twenty-five were lawyers or jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers or large plantation owners. One was a teacher, one a musician, and one a printer. These were men of means and education, yet they signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well that the penalty could be death if they were captured.
Today we have manifest treason morphed into sedition (conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of the state) in the form of acts against a duly nominated and then elected president, our democratic election process and our democracy itself.
Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials have broken sacred trust with We the People. They have abused their standing and power in an effort at a soft coup. It is ongoing, but slowly the curtain is being pulled back to reveal yet more disturbing facts than we could have imagined just a few short years ago.
The Deep State has robbed us of our national pride. The Alt-Left have driven divisive pillars all around us in an attempt to corral our patriotism and then destroy it. The Mainstream Media perpetrate divisive propaganda and fake news.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., used the American flag as his symbol for the Civil Rights movement. His dream of Americans judging each other based on our character (our words and deeds) instead of the color of our skin, or origin, or religion, etc., if far from realized.
Having grown up in the 1960’s and 1970’s in Southern California, I can tell you even though things weren’t perfect; there was far less racial vitriol than there is today. Rev. King’s dream was becoming a reality.
Today, Rev. King might say that anyone who would divide us for any reason is UN-American. Rev. King was about loving your neighbor as yourself. He was about togetherness and celebrating similarities.
Americans are generous, benevolent, kind, hardworking, fierce and persistent. We are persistent in our belief that all men (and women) are created equal, but that equality must be protected and preserved by the character of our people. Rights are not given so much as they are earned through citizenship. Opportunity is not a gift; it is a hard-won prize of effort and conviction.
The Justice Department and FBI scandals of today should be met with the same consequence that befell Major John Andre, Benedict Arnold’s accomplice, who was captured and then hung.
In time of invasion or sedition, the President can suspend habeas corpus (legal due process) and have invaders and traitors tried under the rules of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in a military commission.
We are at war (Global War on Terror), and traitors (FBI, DOJ officials) and invaders (unlawful border crossers) abound!
In 1942, during WWII, six of eight German saboteurs were caught dry foot on US soil, were denied habeas corpus, tried by military commission (unanimously approved by the Supreme Court), and then executed by electric chair less than eight weeks after their capture.
What then is the difference between the German saboteurs (who were proven to have the means and intent to kill and to destroy property in the name of the Third Reich, and were found guilty of breaking the Geneva Conventions) and those who illegally cross our borders, or unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us being held at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and who still perpetrate deadly terror throughout the world, including on our own soil?
In Boumediene vs. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision (the swing vote and decision written by Justice Kennedy, who has announced he will be retiring from the bench by the end of July), it was mentioned that the US presence at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Gitmo), was tantamount to “de facto” US territory, which laid the groundwork for detainees to petition for habeas corpus, as if they were on actual US soil.
In the early 1990’s then President Bill Clinton used Guantanamo Bay as a detention center for unlawful immigrants from both Haiti and Cuba. Conditions were harsh, just like they were for the first detainees in the Global War on Terror at Camp X-Ray for three months, until better accommodations at Camp Delta could be built in April of 2002.
If the current law of the land considers Gitmo to be de facto US soil, then there is no bar to sending those accused of sedition and invasion there to await trial by military commission.
Why then is the penalty less, or non-existent for those who now would take away the freedom, independence and liberty fought for and won with the blood of our forbearers and framers?
Now more than ever we must rally to the side of our President, who, despite sometimes unsavory characteristics, has made the pledge of his good name, livelihood and life to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help him, God.
On this Independence Day, please be mindful of your combat veteran neighbors, and be thrifty with your fireworks if you have them. Remember those who helped create this great nation pledged (and some gave) the full measure of their existence so that WE may be entrusted with carrying on with the hard work of preserving this great Union, with all of its pitfalls and tribulations, wonder and beauty, but to see through the fog of war and the false pretenses of un-America activities.
This land is our land, and we need to protect it with the conviction and vigor that motivated the original 56 patriots. This day is for them and for us; it is Independence Day for Patriots. Let’s act like it.
Now that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement from the bench, President Donald Trump can revisit the matter of Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008), in which Kennedy cast the deciding 5-4 vote, and wrote the majority opinion, which gave unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us, housed at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the right to petition for habeas corpus, or due process rights.
One of the main points of contention in Boumediene came down to whether or not the 45 square mile slice of extreme southeastern Cuba, is considered Cuban or US soil. The Court could not deny that geographically and politically, Guantanamo Bay is Cuban territory, but, playing fast and loose with the facts, nonetheless declared it “de facto US territory.”
Habeas corpus was denied unlawful combatants held at Gitmo via President George W. Bush’s 2006 Military Commission’s Act. Detainees and their attorney’s argued that since the US controlled the territory and were holding them “indefinitely,” that their clients should be afforded due process of the law and challenge their internment. This is way oversimplifying the decision, nonetheless . . . .
Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare dictate that only lawful combatants (POW’s) are entitled to extra legal privileges and certain treatment. Unlawful combatants may be shot on sight on the battlefield and have ZERO rights.
In early 2002, after it was determined that unlawful combatants could not be safely and securely held in-country in Afghanistan (see The Battle of Qala-i-Jangi), the detention facilities at Gitmo previously used to isolate trouble makers among the early 1990’s Hatian and Cuban boat people, was available and could be used to house over 250 War on Terror detainees temporarily while a more suitable facility was constructed. Detainees were moved from the initial facility, called Camp X-Ray, to the new facility, Camp Delta, in April of 2002.
The initial Camp X-Ray was used for only 3 months, but was and still is the image the Left chooses to perpetuate when they cry abuse and torture of detainees at Gitmo.
What the Left will never tell you, and even hid at the time, is that the detainees were treated much better than even our own US troops who guarded the detainees and who served there.
Unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us who were and are housed at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are given FREE Qurans, prayer rugs and beads, directions to Mecca on guard towers and detention cell floors; halal and special holy holiday Muslim meals including lamb and baklava; services of US military Muslim chaplains, white robes, beards; world class health care including dental and vision services; special medical equipment not available to host country personnel was/is flown in for them; TV, DVD’s, books, games, sports, an artificial turf field and communication with relatives and loved ones.
To those who would cry abuse at Gitmo, NONE of the 731 detainees who have ben released, nor the 40 currently interred have been beheaded, executed, blown up, hacked to death, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, drowned or burned alive, all things our enemies have done to us and/or our allies.
There is no moral comparison between how detainees are treated at Gitmo and how our enemy treats captives.
Back to Mr. Trump and how he can take advantage of a retiring Justice Kennedy.
Mr. Trump can write a new Military Commissions Act (MCA). The current one, written in 2009 by then President Barack Hussein Obama and his head of the Department of Justice, Eric Holder, gave unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us virtually the SAME rights you or I would enjoy in a federal court of law.
The outrageous standards of the 2009 MCA completely ignore the written language in the Geneva Conventions and Law of War, which stipulate that if a Prisoner of War (POW), or detained person is accused of war crimes, they are to be tried with the same standards as US troops would be tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). That is fair, and legal.
What Bush and then Obama created was MCA Light and MCA Extra Light, respectively.
Bush did it so that the US would appear to be more fair than required, and Obama did it so that the legal process would be so arduous and complicated that people would just eventually throw up their hands and then let the bad guys go! Letting the bad guys go was Obama’s mantra during his eight, free-styling years in office, which saw him release the “worst of the worst” of our captured enemies, some of whom went directly back to their previous deadly deeds, including one who had a hand in the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, on September 11, 2012.
Trump has PROMISED to “fill up” Guantanamo with “some bad dudes.” That’s great, but how they are treated there and how those accused of war crimes are prosecuted matter.
In 1942, six of eight German saboteurs who were caught dry-foot on US soil, were denied habeas corpus, tried by military commission under the UCMJ, and then executed by electric chair, all within eight weeks of their capture. At the time, the US Supreme Court unanimously approved the denial of habeas and the establishment of a military commission, as per the Constitution and the Law of War.
The system can and has worked, but not if everybody needs their fingerprints on a way to prevent justice from being done.
So, Mr. President, I implore you to take charge. Search for your new Supreme Court Justice and then ask the candidates whether they would overturn Boumediene v. Bush. If the answer is “yes,” then you have your man/woman.
From there, craft your new Military Commissions Act, or revert to the original that took care of unlawful combatants during WWII. You could even use the law to deal with invaders (aka illegal immigrants) from other countries. It would be too easy to call them invaders, deny them habeas rights, and then prosecute them under the new MCA. After all, who’s to say whether or not these invaders are not also unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us? Besides, there is a war going on, the Global War on Terror, and it’s about time we started acting like it, and the timing just couldn’t be better.
The question is asked because even though President Donald Trump initially said that the man who killed 8 and injured about twice as many in an Islamist rampage on the Lower West Side of Manhattan bike lane using a rental truck should be sent to Gitmo and tried as an enemy combatant, but then later changed his mind, saying it would take too much time compared to a Federal prosecution.
He had it right the first time.
If the NYC terrorist is an unlawful combatant in the Global War on Terror, then he belongs at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (a.k.a. Gitmo).
The problem is Obama’s 2009 Military Commissions Act, which gives unlawful combatant detainees accused of war crimes virtually the SAME rights you or I would enjoy in a Federal court of law. That’s why it’s taken years for several accused detainees to come to trial.
The Law of Land Warfare (U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10) and the Geneva Conventions allow accused war criminals only the same rights as an accused U.S. soldier would have under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Giving accused terrorists (unlawful combatants) an opportunity in U.S. Federal Court to be read Miranda rights, go free on technicalities, go to a Federal prison where they can spread their rhetoric and recruit other inmates and then eventually be set free puts us all at risk. Expediency should never come before security.
Gitmo is legal, and it is a small but essential piece to the big puzzle of how we defend ourselves in the Global War on Terror.
Trump needs to get Gitmo right and use Gitmo as a tool in our efforts to defeat the Islamist threat. He is fence-sitting, and it doesn’t suit him or his objective of winning the Global War on Terror.
Imagine for a moment that Osama bin Laden had been captured instead of killed in a raid. Would the President believe he should be tried in Federal court or a Military Commission? Why?
If Osama bin Laden had been captured it would have been the ultimate test of legal and political wills.
We are either at war or we are not at war. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) provides the legal permission to wage war against terrorists. It allows us to capture, interrogate and retain detainees. Once captured, the Law of War and Geneva take over as guiding edicts on treatment and privileges for those detained and those accused of war crimes.
Would bin Laden have been tried in Federal court or a military tribunal?
His status as the leader of al Qaeda and the planner of the attacks of September 11, 2001, would make him the top commander for the opposing forces. Surely if anyone could be tried for war crimes it would have been him.
Why then is there even a debate about the status of those who followed his example and perpetuate the jihad against the infidels?
Using the liberal legal system of the United States against us is not a new tactic, and has been practiced vigorously by our enemies since the very beginning of the Global War on Terror, shortly after the attacks of 9/11/01.
An al Qaeda manual captured by British intelligence prior to 9/11 revealed our enemy’s protocols if captured. They should lie about their treatment, claim they were abused and tortured, disrupt detention operations, threaten and harass guards and demand a lawyer.
That last part has proved most advantageous. The result? 730 Gitmo detainees have been released. None have been executed, beheaded, blown up, hacked to death, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, drowned or burned alive, all things our enemies have done to us and/or our allies.
Never mind that at least 30 percent of released detainees are either confirmed or suspected to have returned to the fight. My concern is more about the 70 percent of released detainees we don’t know about. Where are they, your neighborhood, trying to rent a truck?
Even in a game of Capture the Flag the jailer knows not to release captured members of the other team until the game is over. Why then has our strategy been to release unlawful combatants before the end of hostilities? That’s not a winning formula, and it sends a message to the enemy that we are inferior and weak.
Some released detainees have been paid off by their governments of origin and profited from published book proceeds. So, if you survive the jihad and get captured by the Americans, you’ve hit the jackpot!
Former Gitmo detainees were allowed to claim habeas corpus, even though precedent dictated that even lawful combatant POW’s could not challenge their wartime status in civilian court. How then did we get from there to here, where an obvious and confirmed case of jihad has been turned almost matter-of-factly into a civilian crime? Expediency? Convenience?
My patience with the POTUS on this one is running thin.
If your gut tells you that the NYC terrorist should be held and tried at Gitmo then so let it be done.
If bin Laden would have been taken and then tried at Gitmo, then so too, should the lowest member of the group.
If not, then we are not at war with unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us; we are victims of random, disconnected violence, and should study the childhood of every terrorist and attempt to empathize with their disadvantaged upbringing and feel sorry for them and others like them, and then bear our throats for beheading.
The US Army Values are Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage.
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl apparently forgot these when, on June 30, 2009, he deserted his unit in Afghanistan, where he wanted to, in his words, “make the world a better place.”
SGT Bergdahl also forgot that he was wearing the uniform of the United States Army, and that armies fight wars. He signed up. No one forced him into service, and no one forced him to continue service if at any point he decided he had had enough.
In the Army there are legitimate avenues of redress of grievances, and now more than ever before. Your chain of command, the Chaplain, a JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer, or even the highest commander above where you think your problem lies.
SGT Bergdahl had whipped himself into an almost psychotic state of isolation, from his unit, from his battle-buddies and even from himself. In the end, the enemy seemed more desirable than the mess he had made in his foxhole.
The circumstances under which SGT Bergdahl was released, the trade of five Taliban leaders, notwithstanding, there is a reckoning on the way. That trade has its own implications of treason, but for another time.
As we enter into the penalty phase of military legal proceedings to determine not whether or not he is guilty of the crimes of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, for he plead guilty to those charges, but what punishment he will receive.
Several witnesses have testified about their war injuries and losses they claim happened because of Bergdahl’s desertion.
There were rumors but no evidence that SGT Bergdahl had given the enemy critical information about the unit and its operations and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). This would allow the enemy to anticipate the unit’s movements and tendencies, deadly information.
Some say while searching for SGT Bergdahl they were hit and men died. One man, a former Navy SEAL, claimed tearfully that his service dog was killed on one such mission.
In my opinion, all this testimony is over-engineering. It’s all good, but shouldn’t be necessary to complete the project. He deserted in time of war.
How do you maintain good order and discipline if you allow folks to just walk away?
There is no claim of insanity. There is no plea bargain. There is no excuse.
The reason for this goes back to the beginning of human conflict. If you run in the face of the enemy you have abdicated your responsibility as a member of the group to help keep the group safe.
In our own Revolutionary War and subsequent conflicts, such as the Civil War, it wasn’t so much power and punch that won the day as which side would run first.
Name a war or conflict, and what wins the day more times than not is the will to win or survive. Fight or flight.
This is why the American Army is so effective; we are trained that in war the mission comes first. We are trained to never leave a soldier behind. We are trained be good teammates. We are trained to care for each other, help each other and protect each other. And in the foxhole, when the bullets are flying, it’s about you and your battle-buddy, fighting for your lives.
The bigger picture is that you are defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, part of the oath of enlistment that SGT Bergdahl breached.
But if you allow soldiers to run and then suffer no consequences, what are you telling everyone else who swore that same oath. What then does it mean?
In our politically correct, social media, “If it feels good, do it” society, oaths and promises seem blasé and passé. In fact, they are our life’s blood. If we let one instance of obvious and blatant desertion slip through the cracks, what then do we do with the next one, or the next?
Kneeling for the national anthem and the absence of even one American flag on the opening night of a national political convention are not simply warning signs, they are signs of the apocalypse that feed the idea that SGT Bergdahl did nothing wrong. That he is innocent of desertion because he was oppressed and that somehow his actions were free speech.
It’s not about any of that. It’s about loyalty. The number one most important Army value, and value in life.
The acronym constructed out of the Army Values is LDRSHIP (Leadership). The Army aspires to train every soldier to be a leader, because in the American Army, even E-Private Zero, Snuffy Smith is expected to carry out the mission if all the leaders above him are incapacitated, in the spirit of Audie Murphy, the highly decorated farm boy turned hero from WWII who was battlefield promoted from sergeant to second lieutenant and saved many lives with his heroism, over, and over again, all at 5’4” and 112 pounds.We owe it to the memory of all those who gave their lives in defense of this great nation. We owe it to those who were injured and may have died while searching for Bowe Bergdahl, and we owe it to the future of this nation that Bowe Bergdahl’s punishment fit the crime.
The only question that remains is whether or not the military court hearing the evidence against Bowe Bergdahl will see it that way.