When reports began surfacing in 2003 that Guantanamo Bay was housing children detained as enemy combatants, then-Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers dismissed these concerns by noting that
despite their age, these are very, very dangerous people. They are people that have been vetted mainly in Afghanistan and gone through a thorough process to determine what their involvement was. Some have killed. Some have stated they're going to kill again. So they may be juveniles, but they're not on a little-league team anywhere, they're on a major league team, and it's a terrorist team. And they're in Guantanamo for a very good reason—for our safety, for your safety.
According to documents released this week, Myers' claim hardly reflected reality as the assessment of fifteen year-old Naquib Ullah makes upsettingly clear.
Ullah, who was suffering from tuberculosis when he was nabbed by American forces in 2003, had already experienced unspeakable brutality before being shipped off to Cuba. According to his own account, Ullah
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was kidnapped while doing an errand for his father by eleven men who belonged to a group called “Samoud's people” from the village of Khan, Afghanistan. Detainne stated the eleven men that abducted him forcibly raped him at gunpoint and he was taken back to their village encampment as a prisoner and forced to manual work.
Just days later, word arrived to the camp that American forces were closing in, and that a raid would be imminent. The men “ordered the detainee and some others to stay behind and fight the Americans. The detainee was captured in possession of a weapon but it had not been fired.”
Why the child was brought to Guantanamo is not fully justified in the assessment. The report's author, Major General Geoffrey Miller, seems at a loss to understand how the boy ended up in his charge. His observation lead to the unavoidable conclusion that Richard Myers was either completely out of touch with the war in Afghanistan that he was ostensibly overseeing, or just a craven liar, when he assured reporters that all Gitmo detainees were subjected to a “thorough process” of vetting. Miller unambiguously notes that Ullah
was a kidnap victim and a forced conscript of a local warring tribe, affiliated with the Taliban. Though the detainee may still have some remaining intelligence, I's been assessed that that information does not outweigh the necessity to remove this juvenile from his current environment and afford him an opportunity to “grow out” of the radical extremism he has been subject to.
One may ask if Miller was referring to the extremism of Gitmo, not radical Islam, because two sentences later the Major General points out that the boy
Has not expressed thoughts of violence or made threats toward the US or its allies during interrogations or in the course of his detention. He is considered a low risk to the US, its interests and its allies.
Miller's assessment is a far cry from what then-Vice President led the public to believe when he argued that the only the most dangerous threats to American security were being transported to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention. “They are very dangerous,” Cheney warned. “They are devoted to killing millions of Americans, innocent Americans, if they can, and they are perfectly prepared to die in the effort.” My guess is that Naquib Ullah might beg to differ, or at least would have at the time. He was returned to Afghanistan in 2004.