Counter-Terrorism: Prisoners of, What?

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December27, 2006: The United States is not the only country that is unsure what to do with captured Islamic terrorists. The U.S. has perhaps a thousand such men imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, and prisons in other countries. The captives are not kept in the United States, because of the risk of legal pressure to try them in American courts, where it is likely that intelligence information, sources and foreign contacts would be revealed. Other countries have less risk of that happening, but they still have to decide what to do with the Islamic radicals, who often make no secret of what they would do if they got loose. Perhaps the strangest situation is found in northern Iraq, where the autonomous Kurdish government holds nearly two thousand Islamic terrorists, or men suspected of being terrorists. The Kurds have captured these men over the last few years, which is one reason the Kurds have managed to keep their territory largely free of terrorist violence. Thus the Kurds are reluctant to let any of these prisoners free. The Kurds know, for example, that dozens of the men the United States has freed from Guantanamo Bay, were subsequently caught participating in terrorist operations. For many of these terrorist captives, world wide, there is not enough hard evidence to convict them in a traditional court trial. But that would be like trying to convict soldiers, caught not wearing a uniform, of being at war with you. That's the problem with a war against terrorists. To succeed, the terrorists have to remain undetected. Those that are caught, are often guilty only of talking about committing terrorist acts, not actually doing, or even attempting, it. On one extreme, the suspected terrorists can be treated as criminals, prosecuted, and released if a case cannot be made in court. But the point of terrorism is to terrorize, and when you do that, many nations are willing to just lock up terrorists, and keep them locked up until the terror goes away. Politicians, although under a lot of pressure to treat the terrorists as common criminals, also know they would be toast if an "innocent" terrorist was later caught killing people.

 


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