Keep Guantanamo Open? Most Americans Agree

June 2, 2009

By a startling percentage, 62%, the majority of American citizens told the president to keep Guantanamo open.

With a stunning 3-1 margin, the same respondents expressed a desire not to bring detainees to US soil.

Will our political leaders heed the wishes of the public?

We shall keep watch.

See poll results here.

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.

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.

Attorney General Eric Holder to Visit Guantanamo

February 20, 2009

Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to make a “fact finding” trip to Guantanamo next week. It will be the AG’s first visit to the detention facility. He has dispatched an advance team from Department of Justice to precede him.

While Holder has been cautious in the past about blanket condemnation of detention of enemy combatants, he has been a critic of Guantanamo. By comments he made at his Senate confirmation hearings it can be inferred that he believes that detainees have been tortured in the past.

He properly condemned torture, but expanded the definition considerably in his statements.

Holder travels with baggage. His previous employer was the DC law firm of Covington & Burling, where he was compensated at approximately $2 million annually. As a partner he had a voice in any charity work the firm did. C&B is proud of the pro bono work it has done – and continues to do – defending Guantanamo detainees in US courts.

Conflict of interest? You decide.

Having recently accused Americans as being a “nation of cowards,” it will be interesting to hear what he says upon return.

Will he truthfully – and courageously – report a totally transparent interrogation/detention facility with extraordinarily safe and humane care given to detainees? Or will he slip into political mode?

We must wait and see.

Worse Than Gitmo? Mainstream Lingo Ignores Reality

February 18, 2009

Attorney for former Border Patrolman Ignacio Ramos, freed finally after what CNN’s Lou Dobbs correctly calls “a huge miscarriage of justice,” noted on the latter’s evening news show that Ramos had been held in conditions “worse than the foreign detainees in Gitmo.”

Correct as it stands, but for the wrong reasons.

As does much of the American public, the attorney assumes that conditions in Guantanamo are so awful that when uses them as a comparable, people will recoil in horror.

In fact, conditions in Guantanamo – as readers of Inside Gitmo and this web site are aware – are much better than those found in any American prison.

Yet Ramos’ attorney crafted his quote on an entirely different premise: That mere mention of Gitmo would invoke visions of torture and human rights abuses done to his client.

Dispelling the notion of Gitmo as an American version of Devil’s Island is a necessary part of public education if any move to keep the facility open can ever gain traction.

The detainees at Guantanamo are confined, but in circumstances that could be favorably compared to any facility in the world. Health and food standards, daily living conditions, and overall treatment – including legal representation – exceed that found in any other maximum security prison.

If you have not done so already, you need to be aware of all of the facts about this complex issue. Now that the stimulus is passed and the news cycle is going to shift back to Guantanamo the public must have facts to back up our opinions.

You can find all you need to know Inside Gitmo.

Guantanamo Book – Lucky Timing?

February 16, 2009

Many people I meet these days comment on how fortunate I’ve been with the release of Inside Gitmo. “Wow,” they’ll say, “you couldn’t have asked for better timing. You were lucky!”

That’s true. By making closing of Guantanamo his first official act, President Obama called attention to it in a way that provoked pubic interest, concern, and discussion.

Another way of looking at it is the Chinese way: Luck is a combination of preparation and opportunity. It took more than 3 1/2 years of tough research and thousands of hours to write and revise the book through a strenuous editorial and publication process till it was ready for release.

I cannot tell you how many times during that process Rudy, Avery, or someone on the Inside Gitmo team would say, “Damn, if we only had the book out now! What great timing that would be.”

Yet it turned out that none of those occasions was as propitious as this one.

So perhaps the universe does move in mysterious ways and stars do align. In this instance, now that the furor over the economic stimulus package is passing and debates and news cycles are shifting, it is time we look to what is happening almost beneath our noses as preparations for moving, relocating, or releasing Gitmo detainees is being made.

All citizens need to get themselves informed and weigh in on this issue while we still are able. We watched as the economic legislation was rammed through before lawmakers could even read what the billions of dollars they were spending was going for.

We can’t let that happen with Gitmo! We are not responsible citizens if we allow resolution of Guantanamo to take place – perhaps to our detriment -without joining the discussion.

Get ready to join the debate, let your voice be heard, and make your ideas known.

Order your copy of Inside Gitmo from the web site today and send copies to your concerned friends. Join the discussion group on the site, speak out and speak up to your elected officials.

We can’t be railroaded into silence on Guantanamo. We collectively will have to make our own luck with this issue, it won’t happen for us unless we act.

Guantanamo Detainee Binyam Mohamad Set for Release

February 15, 2009

Detainee Binyam Mohamad, whose full profile is highlighted in Inside Gitmo, is, according to an article in UK Guardian, “well enough to return if Obama review clears him for release.”

Good news for anti-Guantanamo activists in the UK and elsewhere; bad news for proponents of justice.

“Binyam,” as his military attorney Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley calls him, is not the “baby-faced innocent” that she defends but a stone-cold al Qaeda operative who according to government charge sheets worked on constructing dirty bombs (nuclear tainted explosives) for use in the United States.

Bradley’s behavior is subject of an on-going discussion within the Inside Gitmo discussion group. You may want to join and participate in this meaningful exhange of ideas.

As part of his “smart diplomacy” and outreach to European countries, we can be assured that Mohamad’s release is a certainty in these new times.

Is this going to be the “solution” that the Obama administration has toward closing Guantanamo? Simply drop charges against some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world so that they can be released back into society. Unfortunately t appears that way in these early stages.