I first heard from Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution about two years ago, when he was conducting research into the cases of the prisoners held at Guantánamo, for a project entitled, “The Current Detainee Population of Guantánamo: An Empirical Study.” Wittes got in touch because he had drawn on my analysis of 8,000 publicly available documents, which I used for my book The Guantánamo Files, and which I have been using ever since in my ongoing commentary on Guantánamo and my analyis of the stories of the men held there. However, while he was kind enough to acknowledge my work, his report demonstrated an unbridgeable chasm between his work and mine, as he essentially analyzed the government’s supposed evidence as though it were all true, whereas I was much more skeptical.
I had subjected the government’s claims to detailed scrutiny, based on a number of factors, including the fact that the majority of the men in Guantánamo were seized by the US military’s Afghan and Pakistani allies, at a time when substantial bounty payments were widespread (PDF), and the fact that they had never been screened on capture, and subjected to Article 5 competent tribunals under the Geneva Conventions. Held close to the time and place of capture, these tribunals allowed non-uniformed prisoners to call witnesses, and were designed to separate soldiers from civilians caught up in the fog of war. They had been implemented successfully up to and including the first Gulf War in 1991, when around 1200 competent tribunals were held, and in three-quarters of the cases, those seized were freed, because they were able to demonstrate that they were civilians seized by mistake. At Guantánamo, I contend that the population could easily have been halved — from 779 to around 400 — had the competent tribunals not been dismissed by the Bush administration, which arrogantly asserted that it was, essentially, incapable of making mistakes — or didn’t care that mistakes had been made on a colossal scale.
Where Wittes and I also fundamentally disagreed — and still do — was in our analysis of the government’s supposed evidence. Whereas his analysis reads, essentially, like a summary of the case for the prosecution, I was aware that torture, coercion and bribery had been used to secure confessions, and I am gratified that this has been confirmed, many times over, during the last two years in the District Court in Washington D.C., where judges have been subjecting the supposed evidence to independent scrutiny, and have discovered the extent to which the prisoners themselves, or their fellow prisoners, were tortured or coerced into making false confessions.
The judges have also found evidence of the government’s repeated reliance on informants, whose reliability has been questioned by the authorities themselves, which tallies with discoveries made by a military officer working on the Combatant Status Review Tribunals at Guantánamo in 2004-05 (the Bush administration’s belated and mocking echo of the Article 5 competent tribunals), who discovered that one particular Yemeni prisoner had told lies about 60 of his fellow prisoners.
Some of the judges have also dismissed the government’s attempts to create a “mosaic” of evidence through seemingly isolated pieces of information, and this echoes, in part, the revelations made by Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a veteran of US intelligence, who worked on compiling the information used as evidence in the tribunals, and who asserted, in a statement submitted to the Supreme Court in 2007, that the gathering of materials for use in the tribunals was severely flawed, consisting of intelligence “of a generalized nature — often outdated, often ‘generic,’ rarely specifically relating to the individual subjects of the CSRTs or to the circumstances related to those individuals’ status,” that “what purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence,” and that the whole system was geared towards rubber-stamping the detainees’ prior designation as “enemy combatants.”
Since he completed his project, Wittes — sometimes with Jack Goldsmith, former Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — has become an enthusiast for new legislation authorizing indefinite detention for prisoners seized in the “War on Terror,” publishing numerous articles and papers, and also securing opportunities to disseminate these ideas through op-eds in the Washington Post.
They are entitled to their views, of course, but personally I find it chilling that “military detention without trial” is being proposed as “a means for incapacitating terrorists” that is preferable to federal court trials, as they stated in an op-ed for the Washington Post after the federal court trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a former Guantánamo prisoner, and a former CIA “ghost prisoner,” who was acquited on all but one charge two weeks ago, but neverthless faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison.
Like Wittes and Goldsmith, I oppose the Military Commissions (brought back to life by Dick Cheney in November 2001, ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in June 2006 and revived twice by Congress, in the fall of 2006, and last year under President Obama) as a failed system that is unsuitable for trying terror suspects, as Lt. Col. David Frakt, former defense attorney for two Guantánamo prisoners, has explained in depth, but unlike them I believe that federal court trials are the correct venue for trying terror suspects, and that prisoners associated with the Taliban in Afghanistan (or even with what could be called the military wing of al-Qaeda, which supported the Taliban, but was essentially unconnected to the organizations’s global terrorist operations) should have been held as prisoners of war rather than as “enemy combatants” in a prison that failed — and still fails — to distinguish between terrorists and soldiers.
I also believe that the legislation that currently exists and that is used by President Obama to justify the men’s ongoing detention (the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress the week after the 9/11 attacks) not only does not need replacing with the kind of alternative proposed by Wittes and Goldsmith, but should be scrapped, so that the United States can return to the pre-Bush world in which soldiers are prioners of war, and terrorists are criminals (as, in fact, has been acknowledged outside of Guantánamo and the CIA’s secret prison network, with the successful prosecution, since 2001, of numerous terror suspects in federal court).
On Wednesday, in response to an article, “The Rule of Law in the US Hangs on Obama’s Response to the Ghailani Trial,” in which I savaged Republican critics of the Ghailani verdict, who are using it to advance their own unjustifiable belief that terrorists are “warriors,” who should be tried by Military Commission at Guantánamo (despite the well-chronicled unsuitability of the Commissions as a venue for prosecuting terrorists), I also alluded to the work undertaken by Wittes and Goldsmith — and their colleague, law professor Robert Chesney — which, since September, has found a new outlet through their group blog, Lawfare.
In response, Benjamin Wittes published the article reproduced below, taking exception to some of the views I expressed, which prompted me to reply, to point out that he had mistaken part of my commentary, and to clarify other beliefs of mine which he had misinterpreted. Showing that dialogue is possible between those who hold differing views (unlike, for example, between those of us who oppose the existence of Guantánamo and the Republican lawmakers I referred to in my article about the Ghailani trial), Wittes then posted my reply, which I have cross-posted in response to his article.
I still regard his views with horror, as the very notion of passing legislation to endorse indefinite detention without trial, nine years after 9/11 and the beginning of the Bush adminstration’s descent into lawlessness, stands in such fundamental opposition to everything I hold dear about the law. I am, however, grateful that Wittes published my response, and that we were able to demonstrate that differing points of view can be challenged through dialogue, rather than through the kind of polarized politics that has crippled the Obama administration in its dealings with national security. Regular readers will know that I do not regard the President as blameless in this, as he has persistently lacked the courage to stand up to his critics, but it nevertheless remains true that, on national security issues, and on dealing with terror suspects and Guantánamo, there are far too many voices raised on a regular basis that resemble nothing less than the darkest days of the Bush and Cheney years, which is the last place that a responsible America needs to find itself.
Cross-posted below is my exchange with Benjamin Wittes:
“Blind Vengeance and a Thorough Disdain for the Law”
By Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare, November 25, 2010
This is how the always-entertaining British journalist, Andy Worthington describes critics of federal court trials, including — it seems — Jack and Bobby and me, which is kind of funny considering that we are not really critics of federal court trials at all. Worthington has written a great deal about Guantánamo over the years, and to give him his due, he did an incredible job of identifying the population at the facility. On certain empirical questions, I have relied on his work extensively and admire it. On normative matters, however, we are as far apart as can be. I regard him as absurdly credulous of the innocence of just about everyone at the base; he comes from the school of thought that believes that any detainee who says he’s a sheep farmer or aid worker obviously is exactly that and that it’s an affront to the rule of law that American forces might, well, not believe some of them. For his part, he describes me as follows:
Fortunately, for now, few critics have rallied behind a small group of other critics — Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution, Jack Goldsmith, former Assistant Attorney General in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and law professor Robert Chesney — who have taken another troubling unconstitutional line, suggesting that Congress should enact legislation to hold terror suspects indefinitely without even bothering to think about putting them on trial.
However, without decisive action in support of US law and the Constitution on the part of the government, it may be that the idea of avoiding trials altogether for terrorist suspects will gain in strength. In this, Wittes, Goldsmith and Chesney may find that they are encouraged, disturbingly, by the Obama administration itself, which has already endorsed indefinite detention without charge or trial for 48 of the remaining 174 prisoners in Guantánamo, on the advice of the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which was established by President Obama last year to review the cases of the remaining prisoners.
Moreover, in its apparent paralysis regarding trials either in federal court or by Military Commission for 34 prisoners (who were recommended for trial by the Task Force), the Obama administration is close to finding that it has enshrined indefinite detention without charge or trial as official US policy unless it acts immediately to put other Guantánamo prisoners on trial in federal court — starting, I suggest, with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four alleged co-conspirators in the 9/11 attacks, whose federal court trial was announced by Eric Holder almost exactly a year ago.
If senior officials believe in the ability of federal courts to try terrorist suspects, they need to find the courage to say so, to say so boldly and with a courage that has been sadly lacking, and to follow through on their beliefs without caving in to criticism from opponents whose entire point of view is fueled by blind vengeance and a thorough disdain for the law.
A few points in response.
First, it is not quite fair to Bobby to group him in with Jack and me on this matter. His lust for blind vengeance and disdain for the law — though considerable, I’m sure — may not quite be on a par with ours. Specifically, I don’t know him to have endorsed the idea of not bringing Guantánamo detainees to trial at all. Indeed, while Bobby certainly supports detention legislation, his work was pivotal in opening up for question the Bush administration’s contention that federal courts were a wuss forum compared with military commissions. I don’t know what Bobby thinks about whether and when, at this stage, trials are desirable for this group of people, and Worthington should not presume he does either. At any rate, as Woody Allen might put it, I happen to have Bobby Chesney right here, so he can speak for himself on the point.
Second, I won’t argue with Worthington about whether my views on detention are “troubling” or not, but there is simply nothing unconstitutional about military detention. To be sure, it could be done in an unconstitutional fashion. But the core premise that some non-criminal detention of war-on-terror suspects is available to the executive is not at this point even constitutionally controversial, let alone in significant doubt. At least, it’s not controversial among the justices of the Supreme Court, the Congress of the United States, or the presidency of the United States — whether the presidency is held in Republican or Democratic hands. There are questions, of course, about the permissible legal boundaries of detention, questions that we bat around on Lawfare every day. But it just won’t do any more for the Left to dismiss detention per se as a lawless or unconstitutional option. The last time I checked, the Constitution doesn’t vest in British journalists the authority to interpret its meaning, and the officials in whom it does vest interpretive power do not share Worthington’s view.
Finally, there is an important point of agreement here: I wholly share Worthington’s frustration with the administration’s paralysis. I will support and defend just about any lawful disposition of these cases. If the administration decides to try people in federal court, I will defend that decision against the inevitable conservative attacks. If it decides to try people in military commissions, I will defend that decision against the inevitable attacks from, among other people, Worthington. If it affirmatively decides not to bring people to trial — the option that I tend to favor — I will defend that against their cries of lawlessness. I have suggested that the administration might thread the needle of federal courts vs. military commissions by using both forums in the September 11 case. And I am open to the creation of alternative trial venues if that will help too. The one approach I think is utterly indefensible is hand-wringing passivity — precisely what the administration has been doing for the last year. It’s just terrible leadership; Worthington is correct that it displays weakness to domestic critics, but the more important point is that it displays weakness and uncertainty to the enemy. At some point, and that point was long ago, one needs to make a decision, articulate it, stand by it, and implement it.
Andy Worthington Responds
By Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare, November 25, 2010
I received the following note from Andy Worthington in response to my earlier post about his article. I appreciate very much his clarifications, which read in relevant part:
My intention was not to describe you and Jack and Robert as “fueled by blind vengeance and a thorough disdain for the law” — and I apologize if that was unclear. I thought it was clear that I was referring back to the Republican lawmakers and their ideologically-driven disdain for federal court trials and for the absolute prohibition on the use of torture, and their mistaken enthusiasm for Military Commissions.
I also would like to clarify my position regarding the prisoners at Guantánamo, which also relates to your views on indefinite detention. You may, if you wish, describe me as “absurdly credulous of the innocence of just about everyone at the base,” but in fact I have never stated any such thing. I believe that around three dozen of the prisoners — maybe a little more, maybe a little less — have anything in their case histories to indicate that they had any involvement with terrorism, and that, of the rest, roughly half were innocent men, seized by mistake, or through the opportunism that develops in one’s allies when large bounty payments are offered for “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects,” and the other half were foot soldiers for the Taliban.
And as you also know, I’m sure, my problem with the detention policy is that I believe the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress the week after the 9/11 attacks, which, with a ruling by the Supreme Court in 2004, is used to justify the prisoners’ detention at Guantánamo, is an unacceptable alternative to the Geneva Conventions as a means of holding wartime prisoners until the end of hostilities. I also believe that those accused of terrorist activities should be tried in federal court, as they have been for many years both before and after the 9/11 attacks. What galls me, and will continue to gall me, is holding both soldiers and terror suspects indefinitely as “enemy combatants” — or, as they now are, “alien unprivileged enemy belligerents” — as though the Bush administration’s creation of a new category of prisoner — one without any rights at all — was fundamentally correct.
As a result, I don’t see the need for any new legislation, and, indeed, am deeply troubled by any proposal that would further undermine the Geneva Conventions and the success of the US courts in prosecuting terrorist suspects by refining the innovations introduced by the Bush administration, which showed a particular disdain for the strengths of domestic and international law, and for the robustness and importance of international treaties. Instead, I would like to see the AUMF repealed, wartime prisoners held according to the Geneva Conventions (and this applies to Bagram as well, and wartime detention in any future conflicts), and those accused of involvement in terrorist activities to be tried in federal court.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dominique Rodier, Andy Worthington. Andy Worthington said: My Exchange About Guantanamo with Benjamin Wittes, Advocate of “Military Detention without Trial” – A useful debate: http://bit.ly/gpXEYZ [...]
Here are some comments from Facebook:
Mui J. Steph wrote:
Umm. Sounds like Wittes is not an “innocent until proven guilty” guy. He’s more like a “let’s give the government the benefit of the doubt beyond reason” guy. I guess that makes him the credulous one, and you and your readers includng myself, the “cynical” ones. It’s all relative. Wittes sounds like an ingrate.
Jan Strain wrote:
Dugg, tweeted and posted on Wall … Any way I can promote your writing Mr Worthington.
Mui J. Steph also wrote:
OMG: “There are questions, of course, about the permissible legal boundaries of detention, questions that we bat around on Lawfare every day. But it just won’t do any more for the Left to dismiss detention per se as a lawless or unconstitutional option.”
Okay this man is jumping through *hoops* to prove illegal isn’t illegal. I’m reminded of more than a few Taoist sayings.
Doug Tarnopol wrote:
I just learned about this yahoo, who I call Witless, from an appalling NPR piece: http://www.npr.org/2010/11/24/131574360/obama-administration-weighs-indefinite-detention.
If you’re interested in my response (won’t be any different from yours!), check it out on my page [where Doug wrote: "Ghailani was never going to walk out of the courtroom a free man because the Obama Justice Department, from Attorney General Eric Holder on down, has made clear that if any high-profile terrorism suspects are acquitted, they will never go free. They would be held as enemy combatants instead." -- NPR, brazenly, accurately, and uncritically reporting how much like the USSR we have become.]
Doug Tarnopol also wrote:
Witless is almost certainly just a guy on the make who bends with the winds, however fascist. Plenty of precursors to careerist soulless scum like that in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Spain, etc., etc.
Carol Anne Grayson wrote:
Very interesting debate…thanks and shared…
Thanks, Mui, Jan, Doug and Carol Anne. Very good to hear from you. I’m planning to do more on this, responding to that NPR piece, and this op-ed by John Bellinger in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/25/AR2010112503211.html
We seem to be back to square one, and it’s important, therefore, to highlight that no one should be seriously thinking about new laws endorsing indefinite detention under any circumstances, particularly not with the 9th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo approaching, when many of the men held there have NEVER been adequately screened since their capture, and others who were nothing more than low-level soldiers in the Afghan civil war (which turned into a war against the US when America invaded in October 2001), are still held as though they are terrorists. The main problem is the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which failed – and still fails – to differentiate between al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but an additional problem is that, in some cases, prisoners have lost their long fought-for habeas corpus petitions, primarily because right-wingers in the D.C. Circuit Court have been pushing for ever lower evidentiary standards.
Doug Tarnopol wrote:
Look, the bottom line is that no executive should have the power to detain indefinitely without trial, period. End of story. Not a criticism of you, Andy, at all, but it just seems utterly obvious to me. It’s actually a classically conservative (or, 18th-C liberal) argument, but statist reactionaries in both parties (ie, the majority) don’t like it. They’re enamored of assassination lists, too, of course, and unrestricted domestic spying, and on and on.
Carol Anne Grayson also wrote:
Don’t know what might be in latest WikiLeaks about Guantanamo (if anything) but here is a copy of the D- notice…
No criticism taken, Doug. I don’t support indefinite detention without trial either! What I’m trying to get at, with my analysis of the situation at Guantanamo, is that there are a few dozen terrorist suspects, who should have been put on trial in federal court many long years ago (34 according to Obama’s own Guantanamo Review Task Force), and the rest of the men (excluding the 90 or so men who have been approved for transfer, but are still held) should have been held as prisoners of war. That way, they would still be held indefinitely without trial, because this is, lest we forget, still a “War on Terror” that allegedly has no end in sight, and soldiers can be held until the end of hostilities, but we would have been fighting different legal battles, to ascertain whether it is in fact a seemingly endless war, or whether the soldiers rounded up and sent to Guantanamo should have been freed in 2002, when the loya jirga voted for Karzai as President, or in 2004, when Karzai became President. To my mind, the evolving insurgency has nothing to do with the men who rallied to the Taliban pre-9/11, and they shouldn’t still be held.
As that didn’t happen, however, we’re now up against various factions in Congress and the US media doing everything in their power to avoid the obvious conclusion: put 34 men on trial, and let the other 140 go, as swiftly as possible.
On Common Dreams, sheepherder wrote:
Wittes works for the Brookings Institution, a think tank that runs on government grants. Does anyone really believe that he would come up with a report that says things the Defense Department does not want to hear?
I went to a talk by Harold Koh on Nov. 11 of this year. In this talk Koh clearly stated the Obama administration intends to use indefinite detention under “the laws of warfare” pursuant to the AUMF. He clearly stated we are at war with al qaeda and may kill or capture them anywhere, anytime (this did not exclude America or American citizens).
Thus, in the words of a high ranking Obama administration official, it is fully the plan to view terrorists (as determined solely by the executive) as actors in a war and to expand executive authority for unlawful killings and detention.
(A copy of the speech could likely be obtained from U. of Michigan law school.)
Mr. Worthington, thank you for your courageous, principled efforts on behalf of Justice for all. What’s amazing is the nonchalant manner by which your upholding of the presumption of innocence until PROVEN guilty is conflated (by neocon “justice pretenders” like Wittes) with your seeing all those held as BEING unquestionably innocent. This is a really dangerous conflating of terminology; but then I think the deliberate masquerade of language, to create the faux entity of enemy combatant as means to get around The Geneva Conventions works a lot like the alchemical use of “Derivatives” and “Swaps” to replace legitimate monetary instruments (so that the gaming tables that constitute the new world economy can continue their big plays).
Marjorie Cohn, Glenn Greenwald, and Andy Worthington remain some of the most significant voices of conscience in a sea of purposefully ideologically-mangled justice.
The absolute certainty of unfounded convictions is the mark of authoritarians. Reading Chris Hedges’ important book, “American Fascists,” one learns to tune their ear to the type of rhetoric practiced by those persons utterly convinced that our nation (thanks to a multi-million fundamentalist Christian voting block and its odd alliance with Conservative Jewish Zionists) is involved in a bona fide holy war. Because this sect (and their members have substantially permeated every important governmental body) is absolutely convinced that American forces are on the side of what is right, by Divine decree, the matter of trapping ordinary citizens in charged driftnets is of no consequence.
Keep in mind that the right wing media simultaneously paints Muslims as terrorists, and the party guilty of wanting to spread its way by aggressive means. (To the contrary, evidence points to the “new Christian allied forces” as being guilty of the very mechanisms and tactics for which they pre-emptively accuse their opponents. What’s the score card in collateral damage these days? And which Muslims are currently occupying others’ lands?) Even with the false data and equivalent constructs, the MSM has set into motion the reflexive premise that all Muslims must therefore be guilty by association. These false constructs make if much easier to hold people without trials or genuine cause.
This is a failure of not only imagination and empathy, but of basic scholarship; and it’s redundantly reinforced by media and the huge mega-churches. Counting on the ignorance of loyal followers (and/or listeners) the exposure of the truth that would set them (the prisoners) free, has effectively gone missing from the spectrum of discourse itself. Of course, the inconvenient Truths pointed out by the efforts of persons like Worthington represent the same problem as that of climate change to those who prefer to pay PR agencies to keep the public in the dark… that is until the coastal cities slip into the sea.
Somewhere in the Bible it speaks about this phase of Transition, and how there will be many false prophets… that the inversion of truth through the willful exaltation of deception will allow evil to reign. Evident signs of the times…
Mui J. Steph also wrote:
Considering what a sick spectacle the Khadr trial & sentencing was, can anyone blame us “Left” for being critical of the government on illegal detention, torture etc.? (Like the way Wittes uses Left. nice touch/s)
Shorter Wittes: habeas corpus is no longer moderate American; it’s “left”.
Bring America Back !!!!
***During his campaign John McCain admitted he “broke’ under torture while a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. He said he told his captors anything they wanted to know !!
***The Gitmo detainees have been waterboarded, many as much as 250 times the past ten years ! Thus, we
have them proudly admitting to being the so-called ‘masterminds’ of 9/11===a chauffeur; a Chef: and no
less than KSM himself==the Prime Patsy of the Gitmo Kangaroo Military Courts.
***Point is, if Barak Obama was waterboarded a couple hundred times, he too would probably ‘confess’ to
being a 9/11 mastermind==the perfect Patsy.
there’s NO philosophical foundation on which our laws stand.
thus, power is justice.
exactly the way that the roman laws were.
Cicero: “Freedom is participation in power.”
Here’s what the very concise and accurate former paleo-conservative and now anti-“free trade” progressive Paul Craig Roberts has to say on this subject:
and also the last couple of paragraphs from this piece:
Excellent! I’m a big fan of Paul Craig Roberts’ work — and I’m delighted that he’s been aware of what I’ve been doing almost from the beginning.
The problem with the word ‘terrorist’ is, it is too blurry. What are we talking about when we say – ‘the terrorists’? Are we talking about the US, starting illegal wars, and killing, thereby terrorizing millions of people? Or are we talking about groups of people planning random attacks on innocent people, thereby punishing the entire group (or country). The problem with justifying violence is, it leads to anger, and more violence. What one person’s perception of justice is – is another’s perception of injustice. If we do not have one system for everyone, that could be seen as unfair. If you are able to act in any manner you deem as reasonable, then so too will the ‘others’. On one hand the US speaks about democracy, liberty and justice for all, and on the other hand they are freely torturing ‘certain’ prisoners. It looks very hypocritical to the outside world. I hear people speaking about their fears of Muslims wanting to dominate the world, and yet I see democracy being forced on countries by the power of guns and bombs. Who is truly the dominant force in the world. Who should we really fear? Does violence solve anything?
Thanks, Tashi. The problem I’ve had since October 2001 and the invasion of Afghanistan is that it’s impossible for Western countries to take the higher moral ground when it comes to terrorism, because, seen through a prism that Western governments are too arrogant to perceive, they are terrorists as much as those who committed the atrocities on Sept. 11, 2001. Personally, I’m appalled every time politicians talk about their reasons for being in Afghanistan, because never, for one moment, do they seem to realize that their inability to put themselves in the place of Afghans who are resisting the occupation reveals how they view the world through imperialist or colonial eyes. Countries resist invaders and occupiers. Britain’s leaders would too if Britain were occupied militarily by a foreign power, but because they’re dealing with non-Caucasian “foreigners,” they don’t make the association.
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