Imagine the following scenario: Four Americans are apprehended and detained by a foreign nation. This foreign nation, a close ally of the United States (US), suggests a willingness to return the American detainees, but only if the US is willing to take them back. In response, the US announces its eagerness to take custody of its own citizens. Meanwhile, rumors begin to circulate that the American detainees are being mistreated.
How much more can Kuwait be expected to take?
The foreign nation then advises it will only return the Americans if the US can ensure the returned detainees will take no future action contrary to the foreign nation’s interests. Again, the US agrees, asserting it will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of both countries. Meanwhile, documentary proof surfaces that the American detainees are being subjected to harsh interrogations.
The foreign nation thanks the US for its guarantees, but expresses concern that the US does not have a state-of-the-art center where the detainees can be “reintegrated.” In response, the US spends 40 million dollars to build and staff a reintegration center that, in every way, exceeds the foreign nation’s expectations. Meanwhile, the foreign nation’s own court orders the release of two of the four Americans, finding no evidence to justify their continued detention. The foreign nation grudgingly complies with the order of its court, but refuses to release the final two Americans.
Instead, the foreign nation thanks the US for building the reintegration center, but insists the US sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU), agreeing to confine the final two Americans for six months, permanently restrict their passports, and monitor them on a regular basis. In response, the US begins researching whether it can sign such an MOU without violating domestic law. Meanwhile, any progress toward trying the remaining American detainees grinds to a halt as political opponents within the foreign nation debate the proper forum for such trials.
With diplomatic resolution as the only remaining option, the US expresses a willingness to sign the MOU, agreeing to all it legally can. The foreign nation thanks the US, but adds a requirement that the previously-returned American detainees must now also be subject to passport restrictions and regular monitoring, even though the foreign nation’s legal system found no evidence against the returnees.
In this hypothetical situation, how long would the US tolerate the foreign nation’s ever-increasing and shifting demands? The answer is: the US would not tolerate such conduct at all. Rather, it would demand its citizens be returned and apply whatever diplomatic pressure was necessary to affect that result.
Nonetheless, the reverse of this scenario is exactly how the US has treated its ally Kuwait in connection with the remaining Kuwaiti detainees confined at Guantanamo Bay. For eight years, in response to each U.S. demand, Kuwait has given the required assurance or taken the required action, only to face expanding requirements and watch the goal line shift further back.
Now imagine this scenario: For more than eight years, you have been imprisoned by a foreign government on an island prison thousands of miles from your home. Two years earlier, a foreign prosecutor drafted charges in a specially-designed military court–but it is anyone’s guess whether you will ever go to trial (let alone receive a fair trial). So, with little else to do, you spend your days worrying about the health and the welfare of friends and relatives you have not seen since you were very young–and whom you may never see again. This is the story of Kuwaiti citizen Fayiz Al Kandari.
Kuwait is undeniably a strong and faithful ally of the US. Yet, in the case of Fayiz Al Kandari, the US has treated Kuwait more like an enemy. Most recently, after Kuwait agreed to all previous demands, the US insisted Kuwait restrict the passports and regularly monitor two innocent Kuwaitis previously ordered released by a US Federal Court. In other words, the US’s ever-increasing demands have now entered the realm of the absurd.
Lt. Col. Barry Wingard represents Fayiz al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti who has spent seven and a half years in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay without trial.