Detention Retention: Are Guantanamo Detainees All Innocent?

The New Republic, December 7, 2007

Seth Waxman, arguing on behalf of 37 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, told the Supreme Court Wednesday that each of these men “maintains, as this Court explained [in an earlier case] that he is quote ‘innocent of all wrongdoing.'” Waxman, a former solicitor general, is the kind of oral advocate who can sell justices their own underwear. And in one fashion or another, he is likely to win this case.

But neither the justices nor the public should take quite at face value the insistence, however passionately and eloquently argued, that large numbers of innocents populate Guantanamo. To focus just on the 37 before the court this week, most Americans would not use the word “innocent” to describe Bashir Nasir Al Marwalah, who told a review panel at Guantanamo that he had traveled from his home in Yemen to Afghanistan to train at an Al Qaeda camp in 2000, returned in the summer of 2001 for more specialized training as a sniper, and served the Taliban on the back lines. Asked “Are you a member of al Qaeda?” he responded: “I don’t know. I know I am an Arab fighter.”

They might choose a different word as well to describe Muktar Al Warafi, who openly acknowledged traveling to Afghanistan in response to fatwas, affiliating with the Taliban, training at a camp, and then going to the front lines “just to visit.”

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