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A real Thanksgiving treat…would be freedom

One of the most appalling things about the Bush Administration is the fact that so many people have been locked in Gitmo for no reason at all. Roger Cohen writes, “Of the 770 detainees grabbed here and there and flown to Guantánamo, only 23 have ever been charged with a crime. Of the more than 500 so far released, many traumatized by those “enhanced” techniques, not one has received an apology or compensation for their season in hell.”

One of the most egregious cases is the 17 Uighurs who have been falsely imprisoned since 2003. The Bush Administration already cleared them 100% of charges, but haven’t released them because they know that the Chinese government would take reprisals  against them if released into their home country. This is true for at least 20% of the remaining prisoners, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights.  The Bush Administration could easily grant them citizenship as political refugees, but that would require the humiliating step of acknowledging a gross injustice has been been committed.  Despite the fact that a federal judge has ordered them released immediately, the Bush Administration is still dragging their feet.

(Related: see  also my previous posting about Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost. an Afgani poet who was wrongly and falsely imprisoned for 3 1/2 years in Gitmo despite the fact that his captors basically admitted early on that he didn’t need to be there).

Here is my proposal to remedy this situation (quite apart from closing Gitmo, etc).

  1. Appoint a commission to identify the egregious cases of prisoners being falsely held.
  2. Offer these prisoners a compensation package of $500,000 for each year they were falsely imprisoned.
  3. Alternatively, if they accepted a smaller package (say $100,000 per year), the U.S. government would offer them and their immediate family automatic citizenship.
  4. All prisoners identified as being held on false pretenses should be received by the US president Obama on the White House lawn, where he will make a public apology for what has happened.

We need to acknowledge the terrible injustice that was committed here. To those who suggest that my solution is overly generous, we are talking about restoring the value of the American brand, which  has eroded tremendously since the Bush Administration took power. This loss of prestige and moral credibility is incalculable; it has far reaching implications on how most of the world treats us in business and diplomacy.  A cash compensation of this amount by the new administration would be universally acknowledged as being fair and even generous.  It certainly seems like a better  use of taxpayer money than providing a financial backstop for bad gambling debts of Citigroup execs.

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