Archive for May, 2009

Guantanamo on the Front Burner

May 24, 2009

This week Gitmo news has dominated headlines. Both President Obama and former Vice President Cheney have given speeches that dwelt in part on relocation of Guantanamo detainees to US soil. Following the House example, the Senate pulled an $80 million budget request for bringing Gitmo detainees to the US.

And, in a vote that surprised many, the Senate passed by 90-6 legislation that forbids relocating Guantanamo detainees into the US. Even Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) said “we will not bring terrorists onto US soil.” The overwhelming rejection of the president’s request shocked the White House and generated the need for him to make a national security speech at the National Archives.

As this debate continues some points have emerged that will bear watching.

  • The president admitted that some Gitmo detainees will have to be confined, without trial, indefinitely. Yet he still insists that they be held in US Super Max prisons. Such a move – incarcerating unconvicted enemy combatants in a civilian prison opens the door for unconstitutional confinement of any deemed a threat by whoever is in high office.
  • Such a policy is certain to be contested at the highest court levels with virtual certainty that the policy will be overturned. Clearly any new judges that Obama is likely to nominate would reject that premise on its face.
  • The end result may well be that men that the DOD, affirmed by Obama in his speech, pose the greatest danger to America would then be released outright.
  • While this outcome may fall into the “unintended consequences” category, it is far too dangerous a possibility to take lightly.

All concerned citizens must be aware of these factors and weigh in with elected officials to insure their voices are heard.

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Guantanamo Closed? Bipartisan Pushback Increases

May 18, 2009

Despite attempts of many of both sides of the political aisle to make disposition of Guantanamo and its detainees into a Democrat-Republican battle, it has become increasingly clear that this hot-button issue is strictly bipartisan.

Chicago Tribune writer Steve Chapman, in a Townhall article, dismisses relocation to the US as being greeted with “disconcerting shrieks of panic” by Republicans. Chapman quotes Republican pollster Glen Bolger “This issue is at the intersection of good policy and good politics.”

Maybe, but de-politicizing Guantanamo will yield the best policy.

On the other end of the spectrum, President Obama’s decisions to resume military tribunals have been attacked by the ACLU and Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin. At what point, Benjamin said, sending a thinly-veiled threat to the administration, “When” do we start considering Obama a “war criminal.”

Yet attempting to twist the Gitmo question into just another politics-as-usual, polarizing argument is a bit difficult when many top Democrats have serious concerns of their own, as they should. This should not be played out as simply one more “formulaic sitcom” on the Hill when, in fact, Americans from all over the country are understandably concerned.

Democratic Senator, author, and former Secretary of the Navy James Webb (D-VA), weighed in heavily with a suggestion that the Obama administration put on the brakes. “We should close down Guantanamo at the right time,” he said. “I think what’s happened is Guantanamo has become the issue, rather than how we process these people who were detained there.”

Webb suggests something of an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to Guantanamo. “We spent hundreds of millions of dollars building an appropriate facility with all security precautions on Guantanamo to try these cases,” Webb said. “I do not believe they should be tried in the United States.”

Obama’s own HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, when governor of Kansas strongly supported Gitmo closure, and just as adamantly opposed having them in her state. The NIMBY argument, generated by public outrage and concern has overweighed even administration supporters who must face constituents.

Pennsylvania Democrat Jack Murtha stands virtually alone as welcoming Gitmo detainees to his district. This unpopular stance has already become an issue in his campaign against Iraqi war veteran challenger William Russell.

Though the media continues to cast this as a conservative-liberal issue, one quick look at House appropriations actions dispels that notion. Led by Wisconsin Democrat David Obey, the Appropriations Subcommittee pointedly removed $80 million in funding for relocation of Guantanamo detainees to the US from the administration’s requested budget. “When they have a plan we’ll consider it,” Obey said, “they can get back to us then.”

Referring specifically to the Chinese Uighers slated for possible release soon into the US, Webb said it best. In a sign of the kind of opposition that such relocation has generated, he said relocating them to Virginia wasn’t an option. “On the one hand, it can be argued they were conducting dissident activities against the government of China,” he said. “On the other, they accepted training from al Qaeda, and as a result they have taken part in terrorism.”

And that is the bottom line for consideration regardless of politics: these men are trained terrorists and need to be handled as such. It is not a matter of rhetoric from the left or the right, not a case of “fear mongering” generated by any Party, or an issue to be spun by commentators who are far more interested in who gets elected next.

Guantanamo Detainees – France Gets Its One

May 16, 2009

While on what has become known as his “apology tour” of Europe, President Barack Obama appealed to EU countries to accept Guantanamo detainees. France’s president Sarkozy famously offered to “take one.”

A small, harmless one, it is assumed.

With the release of detainee Lakhdar Boumediene, an Algerian who was renditioned out of Bosnia in 2001 in an alleged plot to blow up the US embassy in Sarajevo, France now has its symbolic Guantanamo detainee.

While a cynic might challenge the value of allies in problem solving, those of us watching the ultimate disposition of the 240 or so detainees remaining at Guantanamo see this move as another attempt by the administration to dump the Gitmo problem .

Boumediene was released according to a Washington Post article because the Justice Department was unable to present sufficient evidence to a federal court to try him.

Readers of this space are familiar with the issue: battlefields are not crime scenes and soldiers are not CSI. Most of the detainees remaining at Guantanamo – and a large percentage of those already released – are committed terrorists who return to the fight, either physically picking up AKs and killing innocents or by manipulating compliant media.

Additional releases of detainees bring us closer to the day that the Obama administration will order release of detainees into US soil. It is a matter of time.

More than 39 state legislatures have enacted or pending laws on the books prohibiting relocation of detainees to their jurisdiction. More states are expected to act similarly, and several lawmakers in Congress – from both parties – have introduced similar bills.

What we are likely to see is a fight between Federal branches as Congress takes on Executive and Judicial branches, while 10th Amendment challenges will erupt between states and the Federal government.

Public opinion will play a major role in this upcoming controversy. The outrage over having detainees relocated to their districts or states has already caused essentially anti-Guantanamo legislators to move to the side of exclusion.

But the battle has just begun.

Opening the Country to Terrorists

May 9, 2009

At this point in the process it appears inevitable that up to 30 Guantanamo detainees may soon be released into the US. Not relocated into US prisons, but given outright release. Primary among these are the Uighers, all admitted members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, an organization on the State Department’s terrorist list.

US officials are circumventing immigration laws – and defying common sense – to allow these people unfettered entry into the country. Chinese Uigher groups living here and some church organizations welcome them, acting as self-appointed apologists for what they perceive as unfair treatment and detention of these men in Gitmo.

Adding to the surrealism of this action, serious consideration is being given to putting these men on social welfare and assistance programs. “We can’t simply turn them loose without any means of support,” one Congressional lawmaker said.

The very act of turning them loose in our open society is madness. Compound it with government (read: taxpayer) support and the lunacy compounds.

Some in the media are trying to turn this into a partisan fight – claiming that keeping detainees out of the US is a GOP action designed to stifle Obama administration initiatives. This is clearly not the case, as politicians across the board are adamant about keeping Gitmo detainees out of their districts.

This has been seen most recently by Wisconsin Democrat David Obey’s denial of $80 million in requested funds to move detainees to the US. “They can come back and ask when they have a plan,” Obey said in dismissal of the administration’s request.

Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt promoted an up-or-down vote in the House Appropriations Committee to deny terrorists released from Guantanamo Bay any federal or state support. That the situation has deteriorated to this last-gasp stage is unimaginable but true.

Expect that this precedent will compound, with many additional terrorists being apologized to and asked to take up residence in the very country they are committed to destroy.

Military Commissions to Resume at Guantanamo: Time Wasted

May 9, 2009

After four months of dithering with closure of Guantanamo’s detention center and flamboyantly ordering cessation of the military commission trials for captured enemy combatants, the Obama administration just announced that the trials would resume.

Some cosmetic modifications to the process have been added, according to a Washington Post article, but essentially the trial system established by his often-castigated predecessor administration is going to resume.

What has been accomplished is little. Justice has been denied to the detainees, many of whom expressed great discontent with the original decision to delay the trials.

Nor has justice been served for members of the 9/11 families and USS Cole families, who were invited to the White House for a meeting with President Obama that many saw as manipulative and unsatisfactory.

Debra Burlingame, head of the 9/11 families wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal outlining why she and others saw this meeting not as an attempt to resolve a difficult situation but essentiall a photo-op for the president.

Look for this move to be a precursor for the manner in which President Obama will handle Guantanamo: blame the Bush administration for terrible acts, order the facility closed, “study” the situation, “fix” it, and then continue.

Obama will certainly be highly criticized by Guantanamo detainee advocates such as the ACLU, CCR, and other activist groups for essentially continuing a legal process they consider flawed and insensitive to detainee rights.

Those who advocate maintaining the facility as an excellent interrogation/detention center for unlawful enemy combatants may be pleased but the pressure on Obama to close the facility will mount.

This is an issue that will simply not go away quietly in the face of continued global warfare directed by Islamic fundamentalists against the US.