by digby

I've been writing about this since 2004, when we first learned that the US was offering bounties for Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. It's one of the most horrifying thing about Bush and Cheney's torture and imprisonment regime: a good number of the people they did it to were innocent.

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men — and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds — whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.

McClatchy interviewed 66 released detainees, more than a dozen local officials — primarily in Afghanistan — and U.S. officials with intimate knowledge of the detention program. The investigation also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. military tribunal documents and other records.

This unprecedented compilation shows that most of the 66 were low-level Taliban grunts, innocent Afghan villagers or ordinary criminals. At least seven had been working for the U.S.-backed Afghan government and had no ties to militants, according to Afghan local officials. In effect, many of the detainees posed no danger to the United States or its allies.

The investigation also found that despite the uncertainty about whom they were holding, U.S. soldiers beat and abused many prisoners.

Prisoner mistreatment became a regular feature in cellblocks and interrogation rooms at Bagram and Kandahar air bases, the two main way stations in Afghanistan en route to Guantanamo.

While he was held at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base, Akhtiar said, "When I had a dispute with the interrogator, when I asked, 'What is my crime?' the soldiers who took me back to my cell would throw me down the stairs."

Needless to say, doing this caused far more problems than it allegedly solved. Contrary to what puerile minds like Bush and Cheney believe, indiscriminately "showing muscle" doesn't always result in the enemy dropping to their knees and capitulating. Indeed, the opposite often happens.

And the most frustrating thing about the torture and imprisonment of these innocent men is that it has left us with this dilemma of what to do with innocent people who we have tortured and radicalized by our barbaric behavior. The moral thing to do is to let them go free, of course. They did nothing wrong. But we created some enemies, no doubt about it. And many, many tens of thousands more around the world.

And the government was aware of all this almost from the beginning:

The McClatchy investigation found that top Bush administration officials knew within months of opening the Guantanamo detention center that many of the prisoners there weren't "the worst of the worst." From the moment that Guantanamo opened in early 2002, former Secretary of the Army Thomas White said, it was obvious that at least a third of the population didn't belong there.

Of the 66 detainees whom McClatchy interviewed, the evidence indicates that 34 of them, about 52 percent, had connections with militant groups or activities. At least 23 of those 34, however, were Taliban foot soldiers, conscripts, low-level volunteers or adventure-seekers who knew nothing about global terrorism.

Only seven of the 66 were in positions to have had any ties to al Qaida's leadership, and it isn't clear that any of them knew any terrorists of consequence.

If the former detainees whom McClatchy interviewed are any indication — and several former high-ranking U.S. administration and defense officials said in interviews that they are — most of the prisoners at Guantanamo weren't terrorist masterminds but men who were of no intelligence value in the war on terrorism.

But they did serve as guinea pigs for the new torture regime. And the administration liked pimping the specter of the concentration camp --- thought it scared the wogs. So they just kept doing it. And if our next president is John McCain, they'll find a way to keep doing it.

I recommend reading this whole article. They've pulled together all the disparate stories we've heard over the years about innocent men being rounded up and shipped off to hell. It's a truly chilling story.