Myers Discusses Guantanamo Detention Facility
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, June 6, 2005 While debate about the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is good, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today, a separate debate is needed on an underlying problem: How does a civilized nation deal with non-state violent extremists?
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, poses with Malaysian Minister of Defense Najib in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on June 7. Myers was in Malaysia to meet with the local government officials and discuss military-to-military relationships between the two countries. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers asked that question during a media roundtable.
Myers, who is meeting with Malaysian leaders, also spoke about regional cooperation.
The chairman said a conventional war has well-understood laws. The Geneva Conventions are a part of that, he said. The law of war spells out how sides handle enemy prisoners of war in great detail. This has worked well in the past when the United States confronted a conventional enemy, Myers said. "But it's a big problem when it comes to how to handle non-state actors that are very, very violent," he added.
The laws of war did not envision covering the kind of people who would fly airplanes into buildings to murder innocent men, women and children. Nor do they cover extremists who conduct bombings in Madrid, Riyadh, Bali or Casablanca, the chairman noted.
"It's a different problem," he said. "I think there needs to be a dialogue about that: How do you legally handle and treat people who are a part of that?"
About 500 detainees are in the facility in Guantanamo Bay, the chairman said. Some of those men are very dangerous, and others still have intelligence value. "Some you wouldn't want to release under any circumstances, because the threat is not just to the United States, it's against innocent men, women and children (everywhere)," the Myers said.
The United States has three options, said he explained. First, the United States can put the men on trial - either by commissions or in U.S. courts. Second, the U.S. can release these men to their home countries. But in some cases, their home countries don't want a thing to do with them, Myers said.
Finally, the United States can just release them. "We've released 248 detainees, some of whom have come back to the battlefield, some of whom have killed Americans after they have been released," he said.
The chairman said it is not his place to make the decision on the Guantanamo Bay facility, but he said nations should be discussing the situation, because they will wrestle with it sooner or later.
Myers arrived here after visiting Singapore. He visited the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Counterterrorism before meeting with his Malaysian counterpart, Adm. Dato Sri Mohd Aziz bin Hj Mohd Nor, and other leaders of the Malaysian military.
Myers said in the news conference that he hopes the excellent bilateral relations between the U.S. and countries in the region can help foster multinational partnerships. "No one can do this alone," he said.