At this point, there can be little doubt that the "thinking" behind sending battlefield captives to Guantanamo was deeply flawed and has left a huge mess in its wake. The legal justifications for the prison were never clear and have only grown murkier with time and examination.
Many of the captives were utterly innocent: caught up in tribal rivalries or simply turned in for bounty money by unscrupulous gunmen. Dozens have quietly been declared innocent and shipped home, after years of illegitimate, illegal confinement, humiliation, and torture – including a boy who was 13 years old when captured and a man over 90.
Talk about a terrorist-creation program.
So my question is, why aren't these people being paid by the U.S. government? In most states, when a prisoner is released because DNA evidence shows his conviction to have been in error (for example) he's paid something in compensation for his lost years. While insufficient, this sort of gesture seems the least a decent government can do in cases of mistaken imprisonment.
After all, the families of the victims of the 9/11 attack were compensated by the government. Why? Was the government admitting some responsibility or fault for allowing the attack to occur? If not, why should these people, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, be paid? Were the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing paid? Will the family of Dr. Tiller – victimized by a home-grown terrorist network – be paid by the federal government? What criteria is used to determine when a private citizen's death is worth millions in government compensation?
I don't get it.
But the complexities of these cases aside, innocent men who were held for years in an illegal prison, with no opportunity to defend themselves or even to communicate with their families certainly deserve compensation from the U.S. government. If, as a matter of pride, they refuse payment, perhaps they'd accept a school or medical clinic built in their honor by the U.S. in their home village.
It's not enough, after robbing a man of almost a decade of his life, to open the door and say, "Sorry about that, pal. Good luck." The United States owes these people a great deal. Political considerations shouldn't stop us from doing the right thing, and at least trying to help them make the most of what time they have left, and while we're at it, helping to defuse the entirely justified hatred this false imprisonment generates.