Free Markets, Free People


Guantanamo’s lesson for the Obama administration

The New York Times tells us that closing the Guantanamo facility has "faded as a priority." The once adamant insistence by candidate and later President Obama that the facility must be closed to erase the blight on America’s image has now run smack dab into reality. The New York Times prefers to write it off to “political resistance”, implying political foes on the right are responsible for Obama’s inability to close Guantanamo. In fact the Obama Justice Department has been no more successful in determining what to do with the detainees at “Gitmo” than was the Bush administration. That is the problem area that can’t be resolved.

The reality they face is very simple – those incarcerated are very dangerous people whose sole goal in life is to kill as many Americans as they can by whatever means they have at their disposal. Releasing them back into the world would simply allow them to again engage in achieving their goals.

The Obama administration has fretted and fussed over their inability to close the detention center. They’ve installed commissions to study the problem, they’ve explored various possible solutions and none have provided a resolution to the problem of what to do with these detainees.

If you can’t release the detainees, they obviously have to be kept somewhere.  That is the core of Obama’s problem.  His claim that Gitmo is a stain on the image of the United States and is used by our enemies as a recruiting tool presupposes that closing the facility (and, one assumes, releasing the detainees) would remove that stain and the claimed “recruiting tool” Guantanamo provides.

The final attempt at a solution involved Congressional Democrats putting forward a plan to use a closed prison facility in Illinois to house the Guantanamo detainees and allowing the administration to close the detention center there. This idea was certainly met with political resistance when Americans became aware of the plan. Common sense says you don’t move dangerous detainees in an isolated facility off-shore into the heart of your country and provide violent radicals with an opportunity to bring terrorism to America in an attempt to rescue those being held.

But that plan also shifted the debate in a subtle way that many missed. By considering the plan, the administration tacitly admitted that what they saw as a “stain” on America’s image was, in fact, a necessary “stain.” That image, of course, had to do with holding these detainees without trial in an American facility. Its name happened to be Guantanamo. But moving them to an inland prison doesn’t change the image. It merely changes the name and location of the prison. It was clear, at that point, that the administration had no idea how it could close Gitmo safely and remove that “stain.”  The best it could do was transfer the “stain” to Illinois.

So it has chosen to let the closing of the Guantanamo facility “fade in priority.” Another naive campaign promise squashed by reality. The world is full of dangerous people who wish us ill.  The job of keeping us safe falls to the federal government. For an administration which likes to present teachable moments, this should be one for them.

Guantanamo exists for a very important purpose directly tied to the government’s job of keeping us safe. The administration has now explored that point in seemingly every possible way and the facility remains open and functioning. Perhaps it is time they made peace with that fact and turned their concentration toward keeping the citizens of the US safe instead of worrying about imaginary “stains.”

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31 Responses to Guantanamo’s lesson for the Obama administration

  • Poor Baracky, he’s maybe noticing that governing is maybe a wee bit harder than sitting on the sidelines and constantly sniping. Or, given the amount of golf he plays, I doubt that.

    But I wonder if the REAL people who need to learn that lesson, that massive pack of rubes on the left….I wonder if those useful idiots maybe get it a little now?

  • Obama constantly shows just how ignorant he is of history, the law, governance, statecraft…well, I could go on almost infinitely…
    GITMO was actually a master-stroke of creative thinking in the face of a new and horrible reality.  Everyone…except the Collective…knew that long ago.  Most, if not all, the “catalog of horribles” about GITMO were flat-out lies.

    • “Obama constantly shows just how ignorant he is of history, the law, governance, statecraft…well, I could go on almost infinitely…”

      So Erp is right about something, anyway–they both think alike. 

  • “The once adamant insistence by candidate and later President Obama that the facility must be closed … has now run smack dab into reality.”
    I’m astonished that the Obama administration recognizes reality in any form, and alarmed at the time it has taken them to do so.
    What’s really alarming is the strong possibility that they will be even slower to recognize the impact of the real world on their other “wish list” items.
    Any takers?

    • Maybe Obama should enter into “direct talks” with the detainees …
      then again if he bores them to death, it might be consider torture.

    • Let’s not give the administration too much credit.  The reality that they are facing here is one of political expediency, not necessarily practicality.  Trying to move the detainees simply turned into too much of a political problem, and talk of moving any of them onto the mainland ran into a political buzzsaw.  Maybe Obama truly believes that the existence of Gitmo is a stain on the USA’s reputation and a useful recruiting tool for Al’Qaeda.  But if restoring the USA’s reputation and depriving AQ of recruits is going to cost him votes in 2012, well…

  • “The fantasy I’m basing my position on is very simple – those incarcerated are very dangerous people whose sole goal in life is to kill as many Americans as they can by whatever means they have at their disposal.”
    There, fixed that for ya.

    • I’d be interested to have you try to justify that statement.  Is it your position that GITMO internees are NOT dangerous people?

      • It is not just the position of Thomas L. Knapp, but the position of all Libertarians, and especially ALL americans.
        For this position is the cornerstone of our justice system:  Innocent until proven guilty.
        The presumption that these are anything other than sheep farmers offered up in exchange for large cash payments from US troops is to deny the reality of the economic incentives… and to engage in fascist terrorism fearmongering.
        I thought Q&O was a libertarian site, not a neocon site.

  • The issue of Guantanamo seems to come around with the regularity of an unwanted season.
    Just rename Guantanamo to “Chez Guevara” and teach all the guards to speak Klingon, and get on with life.

  • On the other hand, a lot of the “stain” is purely posturing by foreigners anyway.
    I mean, it’s rich as hell to hear the French complain about how the US treats prisoners.
    As soon as a Democrat was elected, the Rest of the West stopped caring quite as much – and the US media stopped caring what they thought, even more importantly.

  • Thomas: You do realize that Gitmo has very few people in it anymore, right?
    There were people there who were shoveled in by foreign intel but were basically innocent or half-assed.
    Those people all got released years ago, as soon as the US figured out they were basically innocent, because keeping innocent people there is not only wrong and bad PR, but a waste of precious resources.

    • And quite a few of those released WERE bone-deep Jihadists.

    • Like the two Afghan kids who learned English and wanted to grow up to be US Marines…scarred for life I tell you. Much better to be hawking kebabs in Kabul, free from all worries and cares.

  • McQThe New York Times prefers to write it off to “political resistance”, implying political foes on the right are responsible for Obama’s inability to close Guantanamo. In fact the Obama Justice Department has been no more successful in determining what to do with the detainees at “Gitmo” than was the Bush administration. That is the problem area that can’t be resolved.

    I suggest that it can’t be resolved EXACTLY because of “political resistance”.  Now, when one says “political resistance”, especially when The Dear Golfer is involved, it’s supposed to invoke images of the nasty ol’ racist teabagger Rethuglikkkan Congressional majority obstinately blocking everything he wants to do because he’s black and Rethuglikkkans hate poor people.

    In fact, it’s political resistance from all sides for exactly the reason you state: “Common sense says you don’t move dangerous detainees in an isolated facility off-shore into the heart of your country and provide violent radicals with an opportunity to bring terrorism to America in an attempt to rescue those being held.” This became an excellent example of NIMBY: even people who might not mind the detainees being moved to American soil balked when they learned that the soil in question was uncomfortably close to their homes or Congressional districts.

    McQAnother naive campaign promise squashed by reality.

    I suggest that it was less “naive” than “cynical”.  The dems, including The Dear Golfer, made Gitmo a much larger issue than it needed to be for cynical political reasons (i.e. tarring Bush as a cruel, lawless despot who was “making us less safe” through his illegal wars and unwarranted detention of innocent goatherders kidnapped in the pristine wilds of Afghanistan).  The brainless fools who make up their base ate it up, so the dems doubled down: “Elect us and we’ll close that evil concentration camp (an American Auschwitz!).  We’ll regain the moral high ground and people around the world will love us again!”

    They got what they wanted: power.  Now, it’s time to just sort of forget about that promise… as I believe they always intended to do (politicians of all stripes are really good at that).  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter much poltically, because anybody stupid enough to vote for The Dear Golfer once can be safely counted on to be that stupid again.

    “Four legs gooood, two legs better!”

    sharkI wonder if the REAL people who need to learn that lesson, that massive pack of rubes on the left….I wonder if those useful idiots maybe get it a little now?

    Don’t hold your breath.

    • … made Gitmo a much larger issue than it needed to be for cynical political reasons

      There then must be some great stuff out there that can be recycled.  Let’s make this bipartisan.

  • Sigivald,
    Last I heard, there were ~200 remaining abductees at Gitmo, and the number credibly accused of illegal acts was in the single digits.

    • Sources, please.   Abductees may tell us all we need to know about you.  But, hey, put up your sources.

    • So – when are you going to offer your spare room to house a couple of these poor mistreated souls?

    • So there are good solid rumors behind your news.

    • Hey, any chance you can point me to the web site that details out the crimes committed by the Japanese and German POWs who were interned without a trial for the duration of WW II (and beyond?)
      …oh, and those dudes were in uniform mostly.

  • http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/05/26/94878/judge-orders-yemeni-detainee-released.html

    A federal judge Wednesday ordered the Obama administration to free a Yemeni man at Guantaamo who has long claimed he was captured in Pakistan studying the Quran and had no ties to al Qaida.
    U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr.’s ruling of unlawful detention in the case of Mohammed Hassen, 27, raised the number of detainee wins in Guantánamo detention challenges to 36.
    The win-loss scorecard was 14-36 on Wednesday. Civilian judges have upheld the military detentions of 14 other foreign men among the 181 war on terror captives at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

    Of those 50 who went before judicial review of their charges, a whopping 72% were ordered to be released.