The Furor Over Gitmo was Absurd from the Get – Go

Looks like the U.S. Senate has been reading

At any rate, with yesterday’s Senate vote of 90 to 6, U.S. Senators, at least for now, have thrown a wrench into the President’s plan to shut down the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and move detainees–hard core terror suspects–to the United States.

While based on his speech today, it seems President Obama remains committed to shutting down Guantanamo, hopefully the justified concern over this issue will prompt him to be very careful in ensuring these detainees are handled in a way that minimizes the possibility of release. In his speech today, he spoke about what he termed a “fifth group” of detainees, “Those who cannot be prosecuted, but pose a clear danger to the American people” who “have trained at Al Qaeda camps, commanded Taliban troops in battle, expressed allegiance to Usama bin Laden” or “made it clear that they want to kill Americans.” He seemed to suggest that those who fall into this category – even if they cannot be prosecuted – will not be released.

More concerning was his statement about another group, “Those who can be transferred safely to another country.”

Keep in mind the Bush administration, in using administrative review boards who reviewed the evidence supplied to them by detainees’ lawyers, also released numerous Gitmo detainees to other countries, one in seven of whom, according to Obama’s speech today, went on to engage in terrorism.

Among their number was Said al Shihri who, after his release to a Saudi terror rehabilitation program, went on to serve as al Qaeda’s number two man in Yemen, helping to plot a bombing that targeted the U.S. embassy in Yemen in September, killing ten innocent civilians.

If al Shihri was among those judged to be less dangerous, one blanches at the thought of who remains in Guantanamo, and what would likely ensue if they got out any time soon – even if to another country.

While civil libertarians generally bring a necessary perspective to discussions of human rights during war, the controversy about Gitmo has, frankly, been more than a little absurd from the Get – go. For one thing, many of the most vocal Guantanamo-haters don’t seem to know the facts about what actually goes on there.

No doubt the reflexively NIMBY-esque Senators are pandering to their constituencies. But ultimately their collective decision to vote against bringing terror suspects to the U.S. is a sound one. While it may be true, as asserted by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), that no one has ever escaped from a federal “supermax” prison and that “the idea that we can’t find a secure place to house 250-plus detainees in the U.S. is not rational,” this argument begs the question.

The real issue, as attorney Brooke Goldstein explained to this journalist back in February, is the raft of legal complications that will likely result in the release of some of these terror suspects if they are brought to the U.S.

Ms. Goldstein said, “If Guantanamo prisoners are moved to a domestic prison, they will be subject to U.S. law and will be afforded the same rights and constitutional protections of an American citizen … Based on the succession of past cases, it is certain that after they are tried in the U.S., some of these prisoners will be released. If they are released … the chances of their rejoining the violent jihadi movement are high.”

This likelihood, combined with the reality that between eleven and fourteen percent of those terror suspects released so far from Guantanamo have already been nabbed participating in terrorism, strongly suggests that trying the remaining detainees in a system likely to release even more of them is not sound policy at this time.

Increasingly, it would appear that the much-demonized Gitmo is essentially the sanest, most rational, and most humane way to house some very malevolent and destructive people, as U.S. Senators, Right and Left, run in horror from the prospect of housing these detainees in these legislators’ states.

Although I strongly disagree with what seems to be her conclusion that bringing Gitmo detainees to the U.S. is A-OK, New York Post columnist Kirsten Powers did a good job today of outlining the hypocrisy of legislators, many of whom joined in the blasting of President Bush over Gitmo but now want nothing to do with Gitmo’s tenants: There’s Senator Max Baucus (D-MT): “We’re not going to bring al Qaeda to Big Sky Country — no way, not on my watch” and Dem Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska: “I wouldn’t want them, and I wouldn’t take them.”

According to Virginia’s Mark Warner, Quantico prison “is in a very populated area in the greater capital region,” and therefore not such a nice place for terrorists. And California’s Diane Feinstein (D-CA) pointed out that, no doubt given its proximity to the Gihardelli chocolate factory and Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not Wax Museum, Alcatraz works better as “a national park and a tourist attraction, not a functioning prison” for terrorists. True enough.

But the gold star for hypocrisy on this issue goes to former Kansas Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius distinguished herself as an Obama-booster during his his campaign, during which he repeatedly trumpeted his promise to shutter Guantanamo and harshly criticized President Bush for keeping it open (she has been rewarded for her loyalty with her appointment as secretary of health and human services in the Obama Administration). Sebelius wasn’t taking any chances; back in January she wrote a letter to the Pentagon insisting she did not want Guantanamo detainees sent anywhere near Leavenworth prison in Kansas.

If a Governor who was a chief backer of President Obama during his campaign, while he traveled the country pledging to shutter the evil Guantanamo, took prophylactic steps in refusing to take this burden off President Obama’s hands, who else can reasonably be expected to?

This entry was written by and posted on May 21, 2009 at 8:31 pm and filed under Blog. permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Keywords: . Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. */?>