Friday, June 19, 2009

Closing Gitmo – What’s the Rush?

Point: Conservative Brother

The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay should not be closed.

There. I said it.

I think that the Obama Administration is making a huge mistake by closing down that facility and trying to pawn off the detainees on other countries around the world. It is abundantly clear that the public here in the U.S. is opposed to having any of the accused terrorists anywhere on our shores (myself included), particularly with the sensitivity that we understandably still have following the events of September 11, 2001. But other countries around the world have also had their own tragic experiences with violence and terrorism throughout the years, so why should they be any more enthusiastic about having these folks unloaded in their neighborhood?

First of all, look at where the detainees are being sent. If I didn’t know better, I would think that these men, who are alleged to have participated in the planning and execution of numerous terrorist attacks over the past two decades, have won the lottery. Four of them have been sent to Bermuda (hardly the first place I would think of when trying to come up with an appropriate place for imprisonment), and in the days since they arrived have been treated as rock stars. Seriously – television interviews? Photo ops? A nice house and a beautiful new island home, complete with soon-to-arrive Bermudan citizenship?

And then there is the mighty nation of Palau that has inherited responsibility for 17 of the detainees – except I question their willingness to have taken on this burden if the government hadn’t slipped them a check for $200 million along with the end of the chain holding these folks. If Palau – a beautiful island resort, judging from the pictures I’ve seen and from having flipped through the official website for the Palau Visitors Authority – had really been willing to accept these folks, would the President have had to bribe them with the promise of a big chunk of change?

No, the detainees should be left right where they are – in Guantanamo. Yes, I agree that the process for putting these men on trial has been extended for far too long, but here’s a thought: instead of letting them go to Club Med or Rio, put them on trial! Don’t offer them any more or any less than that to which they are entitled under the articles of the Geneva Convention – simply put, don’t extend to them the protections that normal American citizens enjoy and to which they are entitled. They are not citizens, and they weren’t arrested for a DUI or robbing a bank; they were captured as a result of battlefield conflict or for their roles in planning and executing attacks that resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

I can understand this being part of Obama’s plan for restoring American’s standing in the Middle East and around the world. However, what does bending over backwards to extend mea culpas to everyone and releasing the detainees into resorts around the world have to do with restoring our standing? If anything, in this particular instance I think it makes us look incredibly weak. I don’t recall the government of Yemen apologizing when their nation was used as the launching pad for the attack on the USS Cole. I don’t recall the king of Saudi Arabia picking up the phone or sending out a statement apologizing for the fact that many of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. Why should we apologize for what we are doing to protect ourselves and to seek retribution and punishment from those responsible?

A recent Pew survey found that more people – 46% - are opposed to closing the Guantanamo facility than are in favor of keeping it open (45%). Mr. President, Madame Speaker, Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton – the people are telling you no (just as they have on everything from TARP to auto industry bailouts), and once again you are ignoring them?

At some point, when we as a nation weren’t looking, our national motto was changed. Thanks to Fernando Lamas, I fear our new motto – our new overarching concern – is that “It is better to look good than to feel good. Do you know what I’m saying?”

Yes, Fernando, we know – and we think it is a crock.

Counterpoint: Liberal Sister

Guantanamo must be closed now! Don't believe me?

"Obviously the Guantanamo issue is a sensitive issue for the people. I very much would like to end Guantanamo; I very much would like to get people to court." - George W. Bush, May 8, 2006

"I'd like to close Guantanamo, but I also recognize that we're holding some people that are darned dangerous, and that we'd better have a plan to deal with them in our courts. No question, Guantanamo sends, you know, a signal to some of our friends - provides an excuse, for example, to say, ’The United States is not upholding the values that they're trying (to) encourage other countries to adhere to.’ My answer to them is, is that we are a nation of laws. Eventually, these people will have trials and they will have counsel and they will be represented in a court of law." - George W. Bush, June 14, 2006

So let me get this straight...a Conservative President opened the doors to this prison and the same Conservative President realized that it should be closed (three years ago), and you are placing the blame on Obama?

Guantanamo has held roughly 800 detainees in about 7 or so years, and approximately 240 remain. Of those, how many have been actually charged with a crime? According to Bush in 2006, the problem with being able to actually press charges against the men was determining whether or not the trials should be held before a civilian court or a military tribunal. So...what's the hold up? Guantanamo has been used to house actual terrorists, suspected terrorists, and according to former Secretary Powell's then-chief of staff, Lawrence B. Wilkerson, "innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants." Surely I am not the only one who sees a problem with imprisoning potentially innocent men for any length of time, let alone six or seven years.

As for the aforementioned Uighurs, their release to Bermuda was certainly an upgrade, and the media spotlight has been bright, for sure. I suppose the reason they were released was because they were innocent! The reason they were not sent to China? The Chinese Government would kill them. How would be able to justify imprisoning innocent men for years, then sending them back to China knowing that they would be executed?

And how about some alternative plans? You mentioned that Palau has taken some of the detainees...what about the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Centre for Care and Counseling in Saudi Arabia? Certainly it has had very mixed results with the former detainees it has taken in, but it was not President Obama who sent prisoners there, it was President Bush (who, just this week, blasted Obama for reading from the very playbook Bush left for him by considering sending 100 Yemeni prisoners to the same Saudi Center). Or what about the town of Hardin, Montana? A town that has been hit so hard by the economy that the town council unanimously passed a measure to house detainees in their very expensive, and very empty, prison? If the plan is ultimately to charge these men for crimes against America, why not have them housed actually IN America?

I know there are some very bad men in Guantanamo, but I believe strongly that there are also many innocent men there who have never had a day in court, and at this rate, may never. If there was enough evidence to detain them in the first place, there should be enough evidence to charge them.

There is no saving Guantanamo. With each day that it remains open it continues to say to the world that Americans love the Justice System...most of the time.


  1. I make no bones about my neocon tendencies and urgw anyone who believes closing Gitmo is a good idea to go to and read the article entitled "The Gitmo Myth and the Torture Canard." If one reads this honestly (it takes 15 minutes) and still believes it is the best policy, then I will refrain from calling them what I think they really are. MZ

  2. Interesting article. Assertions are not the same as evidence. I am interested in the phalanx of liberals that were opposed to Guantanamo from the beginning. Names? Agendas? Reasons? I take issue with the perennial complaint of conservatives that liberals are always muddle-headed on crime and punishment. The issue, at least my issue, from the beginning is that we have been in non-compliance with Geneva Conventions, and this article does not refute that--simply shows that non-compliance has been limited.

    It is hard for the public to understand how torture, for example, was so incidental and limited when Dick Cheney continues to crow about how helpful it has been. Note that he offers not a shred of evidence. Has he read this article?

    The military's own attorneys have complained about the lack of justice. There are two issues. One is why people are not being brought to justice. The other, a whole separate issue, is the question of how and where to detain people. I see a lot of defense, but no strong case being made, that Guantanamo is self-evidently the best of all possibilities for the latter.

  3. Well, first off, let's get something straight.

    How many of the Gitmo prisoners return to the battlefield to action. There were several recaptured and retaken to Gitmo. Why? One of them mentioned that Gitmo provided him food, clothing, and shelter. Something that was scarce back in his home country. He said he got treated better at Guantanamo than at anytime in his life.

    1) So, why was Gitmo even opened? It was opened because no other country would take these people and hold them which is still true to this day. 2) These people are NOT American citizens, did NOT break US law, they broke international law, so why would we even think about subjecting them to the US Court system?

    The four guys recently arrested in connection with an alleged homegrown terror plot to bomb two synagogues in the Riverdale section of the Bronx using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The suspects also planned to target military aircraft with a Stinger missile at a New York Air National Guard Base. All suspects are currently in custody and are facing charges of Conspiracy to use Weapons of Mass Destruction and Conspiracy to acquire anti-aircraft missiles. These folks were Christians when they went into the system and came out as radical Muslims hating America. You really want the terrorists being held at Gitmo in our prison system? I hope not.

    3) Waterboarding was done on only three terrorists and used only in the beginning of the investigation to get the terrorists to talk. Waterboarding is NOT torture. Water boarding has been around for centuries. It was a common interrogation technique during the Italian Inquisition of the 1500s and was used perhaps most famously in Cambodian prisons during the reign of the Khmer Rouge regime during the 1970s.

    So, what to do with the terrorists that remain? Get them on trial as fast as possible in a military tribunal or an international court trial since they broke international law, not US law. They have NO right to be in a US court.

    But even that may be too late as word is coming out of Afghanistan that now terrorists captured on the battlefield are being read Miranda rights when captured and the Red Cross is telling the detainees to clam up until they speak to a lawyer. Way to put the security of the nation first before anything.