The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Brenda Bowser Soder
202-370-3323 - office

Retired Military Leaders Say Stop Fear-Mongering, Close Guantanamo to Ensure National Security

Dozens of retired military leaders praise prosecution of Guantanamo detainees in US Federal Courts


Dozens of distinguished retired military leaders today urged
Congress to stay the course toward closure of the U.S. detention
facility at Guantanamo Bay and to see past the fear-mongering tactics
designed to delay the Administration's efforts to close the facility
and bring those held there to justice. These retired military leaders
issued their call to Congress on the same day that Attorney General
Eric Holder appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss
the Department of Justice's commitment to keeping Americans safe.

The letter and today's hearing come just days after Attorney General
Holder announced the U.S. will move the trials of the five Guantanamo
detainees accused in the 9/11 conspiracy from the discredited
Guantanamo military commissions and into federal courts, which have an
impressive track record in trying complex terrorism cases. It also
comes just one day after the Senate blocked an amendment to restrict
the Administration's ability to move detainees into the United States
for prosecution.

"We have watched with disappointment efforts to engender fear among
the American people about the prospect of bringing suspected terrorists
to the United States for trial," wrote the 32 retired military leaders
in an open letter to Congress. "Our federal justice system has a proven
track record of successfully prosecuting terrorists and incarcerating
them safely in our prisons."

The retired military leaders are among those who stood with
President Obama in the Oval Office as he signed Executive Orders ending
the use of torture and ordering the closure of the Guantanamo detention
facility. The group stated that many al Qaeda terrorists are already
serving long sentences in federal prisons and pointed to a recent
American Correctional Association resolution assuring the American
public that they "would be safe from harm and free from danger should
any detainees be transferred to a facility or facilities within the
United States." They also noted that U.S. prisons currently house more
than 150 convicted terrorists and none has ever escaped.

"The American people can have confidence that our judicial and penal
institutions are strong and that our military, law enforcement and
corrections professionals are second to none. Closing the Guantanamo
prison facility will make Americans more secure, both on our own soil
and on the battlefields where our service members fight valiantly on
our behalf," the letter stated. "We urge you to do all you can to
ensure that Guantanamo is closed promptly by sending detainees to their
home countries or other nations willing to accept them, and by bringing
those who have committed crimes against the United States here to face

In a recent study of 119 terrorism cases with 289 defendants and
filed since 2001 in the normal federal court system, Human Rights First
found that of the 214 defendants whose cases were resolved as of June
2, 2009, 195 were convicted either by verdict or by a guilty plea. By
contrast, the military commissions are a failed system that has secured
only 3 convictions and their continued use threatens to perpetuate the
legacy of failed trial and detention policies at Guantanamo. Beyond
the legal and ethical reasoning outlined in today's letter, the
military leaders stated that closing Guantanamo will ultimately protect
American soldiers serving overseas. "Continued detention of prisoners
at Guantanamo provides our enemies with a powerful propaganda weapon
which they are using to recruit forces against us, undermining vital
counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and impairing our
ability to secure the goodwill of people in the Middle East and our
allies around the world whose cooperation is necessary for the
achievement of our military goals. Serving U.S. flag-rank officers have
maintained that, because of its effectiveness in recruiting insurgent
fighters into combat, Guantanamo is a key contributing factor to U.S.
combat deaths in Iraq. Depriving the enemy of this weapon is important
for our own security interests and will do much to demonstrate that the
United States values adherence to the rule of law and humane treatment
of enemy prisoners in our custody," they wrote.

Today's letter to Congress marks the latest step in a long campaign
for these military leaders, who have spent years engaged in the effort
to end the use of torture, close Guantanamo and bring those held there
to justice in federal courts. In recent months, these retired military
leaders have met with administration officials and participated in a
series of events, including panels in Washington, DC, Florida and
Michigan. This coming Thursday, they will host a discussion at William
& Mary School of Law in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Read the letter and list of signatories.

Read more about the retired military leaders' work.

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.