Gitmo: The Gift the GOP Can't Let Go
Oh, Obama's failing us again because Gitmo's still open!!!!! Outrage meter up to 11-plus, Stat! Call for impeachment! This is horrible! We were promised CHANGE, and we're getting NOTHING but rhetorical flourishes!!!
Only not so much, because Obama isn't Bush, and it turns out you have to have money to close a prison -- even one as heinous as Guantanamo Bay's military detainment center.
President Obama will seek today to wrest back control of the debate on the future of Guantánamo Bay after the Senate stripped $80 million (£50 million) earmarked for closing the detention centre from a war funding Bill.
Yesterday’s 90-6 vote, after a similar decision by the House of Representatives last week, shows how far the Administration’s national security agenda risks being blown off course by powerful political crosswinds even within a Democratic-dominated Congress.
Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, said that the Administration had to work with Congress on a number of tough choices resulting from a “hasty decision” to close the base: “The President has not decided where some of the detainees will be transferred.”
Mr Obama will deliver what aides describe as a big-picture speech clarifying the philosophy that led him to order the closure of the detention camp in southeastern Cuba and publish secret memos on interrogation techniques — while resorting to many of the same security tools or legal arguments for which the Bush Administration was widely denounced.
You also have to figure out where to send the people who are in that prison when you close it. Some of them you can probably just turn loose because you had no right to hold them in the first place. Others you might need to hang onto, but nobody wants to help you make sure they're safely (let alone humanely) detained.
The vote came as FBI Director Robert Mueller warned that bringing the bad guys here presented risks that ranged from “concerns about providing financing, radicalizing others” to increasing “the potential for individuals undertaking attacks in the United States.” And, of course, somewhere there breathes a federal judge who will seek to begin the process to release them, even here if no other nation will take them.
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), responding to public concerns, has introduced legislation called “Protecting America’s Communities Act” to prohibit the transfer. Said Chambliss:
“People across America are very concerned that this administration has not developed a plan for what to do with these hard-core terrorists once the detention center at Guantanamo is shuttered. Americans are concerned that they will be released into the United States. It is important to remember most detainees held at Guantanamo were captured on the battlefields in Afghanistan or Iraq and were determined to be a threat to our nation’s security. Whatever their ties to terrorists groups or activities, these individuals should never be given the privilege of crossing our borders, even if incarcerated. To do so would be nothing short of an invitation for al-Qaida to operate inside our homeland.”
Under Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution, Congress has the absolute power to exclude aliens for security reasons that include terrorist activities, he said. He;d add to the no-entry list “an alien who, as of January 1, 2009, was being detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.”
Other provisions would seek to ensure that if the President does find a way to transfer them here, they won’t be released until another country is willing to take them. The legislation also acknowledges that armed conflict exists with al-Qaida, the Taliban and related forces and reaffirms the President’s authority to detain enemy fighters regardless of where they’re captured.
Some of them you probably shouldn't just turn loose, and some of them -- especially from a place as heinous as Gitmo -- it would be inhumane not to take care of, considering the damage that's been done them in our names because we were stupid enough not to actively stop w and Cheney when we had the chance.
So now we have to live with the consequences, and it's not fun. But if we're going to turn ours back into a better nation,
we have to recognize that the mess we're in -- like being 200 pounds overweight -- didn't happen overnight and isn't going to be a simple overnight cleanup job.
The aftermath of the 43rd President's reign (and for those of you who don't remember bitching about just exactly how dictatorial Bush was, in light of bitching about how dictatorial Obama isn't being on issues the left blogosphere and progressives want fixed NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW) is a toxic spill the breadth of which we haven't fully discovered yet. We have an idea about the scope of the mess w left behind, but it's vague and incomplete and as the much-reviled NPR pointed out yesterday, we don't know yet what all we don't know, but we know that what we don't know about is worse than we thought.
The GOP still wants its tracks covered on this, and whatever power Cheney retains in DC will be dedicated to absolving w and his henchpeople of the evil they did. We must not stand still for that, and we must not be distracted by efforts to redirect the outrage against Obama, Pelosi, and Reid -- or against a handful of low-level military personnel who've mostly already had their careers ruined and their lives irrevocably altered as scapegoats for the Bush administration's terrorism.
To go back to that Atlantic article cited in my first graf:
2 Jan 2009 03:30 pm
"Sin is a suppurating wound; punishment is the surgeon's knife."
The Bush Administration prisoner, torture and rendition apparatus was effectively dismantled today with four pen strokes. President Obama convened a panel to determine how to closure the Guantanamo Bay detainee prison within a year. He ordered that all intelligence gatherers limit their interrogation techniques to the published Army Field Manual, revoking Executive Order 13440, the now infamous Bush administration gloss on the Geneva Conventions. He directed the Justice Department to request a stay in a critical policy-determining court case. He explicitly rejects the legal advice promulgated by President Bush's legal counsel on interrogation policy. He ordered the government to give the International Committee of the Red Cross immediate access to detainees. Renditions to countries that are known to torture prisoners will be stopped. All CIA "black" detention facilities will be closed. Now -- even as he limited interrogation techniques -- the result of a recommendation from his transition advisers -- he's convening a task force to determine whether these techniques are too restrictive. The intelligence community worries that smart armies will train their soldiers to resist AFM techniques. Basically, Obama's stance is: the AFM will govern intelligence interrogations unless we decide that it won't. It's not entirely clear what the administration wants to do with those held in Gitmo. The GOP introduced legislation today prohibiting detainees from being released into the United States.
What a wonderful day that was -- and how hard it is to remember that feeling of elation, that sense of justice overcoming viciousness, today.
We're finding out just how effective the GOP's rear-guard action is, now.
Republicans are poised with an amendment by James Inhofe of Oklahoma that would block any of the Guantanamo detainees from coming to U.S. soil to stand trial or serve their sentences. A detainee was released to France last week, leaving 240 at Guantanamo.
"Shuttering this facility now could only serve one end: and that is to make Americans less safe than Guantanamo has," said GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
"Guantanamo is the perfect place for these terrorists," McConnell said later.
House Democrats also dropped funding to close Guantanamo when producing their version of the war funding bill, which easily passed last week.
The Guantanamo controversy has roiled Washington, with most Republicans adamantly opposed to closing the prison, which mostly holds enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan. Republicans say abuses at the facility are a thing of the past.
President Obama must persuade Democratic solons now to help him close this blot on our nation's honor -- the vote against the funding was 90-6. That's not just the GOP at work (although the GOP/Blue Dog coalition and the NIMBY contingent are, in my opinion, deserving of a little crosshair-focused attention for their actions on this vote among many. What, you don't have crosshairs on your word-processor? Get some!!!!!!!).
(I would, personally, prefer Guantanamo's military prison now become our nation's Spandau -- and house w, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, and their henchpeople without possibility of parole during the rest of their earthly existence, right out in those open kennels they claimed were so comfortable for the Gitmo prisoners they exiled to years of being held not just without access to lawyers but without even having charges filed against them -- orange jumpsuits and bracing sea air are spa conditions, right?)
The horrors of the past eight years, cumulatively, aren't gonna be redeemed in half a year -- or one term, or even two, of a Presidency. What's been done inside our country and outside our country in the name of the Global War on Terror can't be swept away, after all, with a few penstrokes. It wasn't built that way. It was designed to mimic cancer, and spread virtually untraceable tentacles into every vulnerability in the planet's bodies politic. Like a virus, like a metastasis, it didn't just exist following 9-11-01, but was nurtured and cultivated as assiduously as a bioweapon -- remember the anthrax mailed to the Senate, CBS, and some ancient lady in some tiny Vermont town, as well as a tabloid newsroom? People died in that attack, too, but that's been swept aside as conveniently as the notion that any disease -- anthrax, Ypestis, Ebola -- presents a clearer and more present danger than swine flu, the hype over which is continually being re-ignited in our hyper-sensationalist media.
Am I now an apologist for hope? Dunno -- there was a striking line in "Criminal Minds" last night. A black man who'd lost a leg in Iraq was confronting the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit's investigators over their decision to bring his mother to the headquarters of their investigation into his sister's disappearance (along with what turned out to be at least 92 other irrevocably altered lives, by the end of that nightmare-inducing episode). A highly decorated veteran, he said (paraphrased):
"Bad news, you adjust to it and move on. Hope is paralyzing."