When something happens in the public sphere, we never know all the details. But usually we know enough to build a plausible mental model for how it all went down. Based on the actors’ previous actions, the context, and what we know about the ideological battles at any time, we think and hope we have some level of understanding.
But then something happens that makes no sense at all. It could only happen with a level of incompetence or malice that we intuitively don’t believe is possible, even in those public figures we despise.
The Bergdahl situation fits that description for me. Here are the links directly from Drudge on the whole thing, in case you’re not up on the latest:
Reintegration: Military hides Bergdahl from public view...
FLASHBACK: 'Converted to Islam And Taught Captors Bomb Making Skills'...
NYTIMES: Left note explaining desertion before going AWOL...
Pentagon knew whereabouts but didn't risk rescue for 'deserter'...
Never Officially Listed as POW...
CHARGE: Soldiers died searching for him...
Former fed prosecutor: Release of Gitmo terrorists impeachable offense...
CHENEY: U.S. will 'pay a price'...
Freed Taliban leaders given hero's welcome...
Toobin: Obama 'Clearly Broke Law'...
Three years since consulting Congress...
FATHER: 'I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners'...
WAS HILLARY IN ON IT?
You can get the gist from the headlines. This guy has been gone five years – notice that I don’t say “missing” because the NYT says he left a note that he was deserting before he left, and apparently his location was known. He was exchanged for five Taliban leaders in Gitmo who were welcomed as heroes back home – and it looks like that was done in clear violation of the law concerning Congressional notice about such releases.
On top of all this, the Taliban said back in 2010 that Bergdahl apparently converted to Islam and collaborated with the very people his unit was fighting.
If that’s all true – and there’s no indication otherwise at this point – then the Obama administration gave five enemy leaders their freedom to retrieve a traitor who went over the enemy voluntarily and didn’t seem in any hurry to leave. There is no conceivable upside for the United States that I can see.
Now, maybe all kinds of things will come out to challenge this interpretation. We’ll wait and see.
I rather hope so. Because as it stands, this simply doesn’t make any sense.
I can think of several ways this could get through the White House, but note of them seem any more likely than any of the others. Here are the possibilities I can think of off the top of my head:
- Nobody at White House knew the details on Bergdahl because they are all incompetent boobs who don’t know how to do due diligence on anything
- Somebody at White House knew, but was afraid to say anything because Obama (or Jarrett) had declared that they wanted this to go forward
- Somebody at White House knew, and put the information in a report, but Obama and Jarrett are both too lazy to read reports closely and realize what’s important
- Everybody knew, including Obama, but he simply didn’t care because he thought it could be spun as a triumph
- Everybody knew, including Obama, and he knew the real nature of Bergdahl would get out, but Obama simply didn’t care because it was an opportunity to poke congressional Republicans in the eye
All of these assume extreme incompetence or malice or both. But I can’t think of any way a competent White House that has the best interests of the country in mind and is operating in good faith takes a decision that gives these results. I’m leaning towards extreme incompetence; in fact, I’m waiting for today’s press conference where Obama tells us he found out all this stuff about Bergdahl the same time we did through press reports, since that shtick seems to work every time he tries it.
OK, sharp and excellent QandO commenters – what am I missing here?
Now that progressives, liberals, whatever they’re calling themselves today, are secure in the fact that Barack Obama will be in the Oval Office for another 4 years, they plan on doing everything they can to see that he does what he said he’d do way back in 2008 – or at least what they thought they heard him say he’d do.
Those parts include climate change, drone strikes, gun control and closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, among others.
We’ve seen the first shots fired in the gun control advocacy (no pun intended) with the absurd Costas gun-control editorial at the half-time of an NFL game. And, of course, Dianne Feinstein is making the usual “assault weapons ban” noises.
By the way, as a complete aside, but speaking of gun control, I want to show you a classic exchange:
Can you say pwned?!
Anyway, back to the subject at hand – the liberal agenda. Remember, Obama told the Russian President that he’d be “more flexible” after his re-election. There’s absolutely no reason that he won’t be less politically inhibited (because in the political world, that’s what “more flexible” really means) domestically as well as internationally is there?
But now? Now it’s safe:
“Liberals in the media are going to be tougher on Obama and more respectful at the same time,” Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker’s chief political commentator and a former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, told POLITICO. “He was the champion of our side, he vanquished the foe….. [but] now liberals don’t have to worry about hurting his chances for re-election, so they can be tougher in urging him to do what he should be doing.”
Apparently the NY Times plans on leading the way in pushing and prodding Obama to do what he said he’d do (or what the NYT thinks he said he’d do):
The New York Times editorial page launched a series titled “Goals for a New Term,” calling on the president to implement stronger gun control laws and shutter Gitmo, which he had pledged to do during his first year in office. The tone of the editorials has been sharply critical: On guns, the editors suggested Obama lacked courage. On Guantanamo, they slammed his administration for deciding “to adopt the Bush team’s extravagant claims of state secrets and executive power, blocking any accountability for the detention and brutalization of hundreds of men at Guantánamo and secret prisons, and denying torture victims their day in court.”
Gitmo? There are rumblings out there – again – of the Federal government purchasing a closed prison with the idea of moving the jihadists in captivity there on to the shores of the US. Seems prison is okay for the jihadists if the left initiates the idea of buying one and housing them there. But holding them in Gitmo, a place that wasn’t their idea (but clearly is superior to moving them here) is just beyond the pale because, you know, it was that evil Bush’s idea. So it’s not about incarceration, it’s about the myth of Gitmo … or something.
Obama has claimed he has no interest in climate change legislation/taxation in his second term (well, he doesn’t as long as there’s a Republican House … if that changes in 2014, he might develop an immediate interest). Then he’s said he does. Then, yeah, not so much. So who the hell knows. But what we do know is progressives intend to try to push him on this and it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if he responds positively. He certainly has nothing to lose. And it may provide a distraction if the economy keeps tanking. He can couch his attempt to tax thin air in the usual class warfare (fat cat corporations fouling the streams and polluting the air while melting the ice caps to boot). He can call for “social justice” because, you know, climate change effects those least able to afford it first … or something.
Drone strikes? Yawn. A small faction of the left concerns itself with drone strikes. It is classic leading from behind. Get over it progressives. Your President approves all those arial assasinations himself. It is part of the responsibilities that Nobel Peace Prize winners must endure.
Sarcasm aside, it will indeed be interesting to see if Obama does anything for progressives in his 2nd term. Will he become an activist president or will he vote “present?”
Well, let’s see – is he taking the lead in fiscal cliff negotiations and working tirelessly with Congress to ensure a solution before the deadline or is he going on a 20 day vacation to Hawaii ending January 6th?
Guantanamo was going to be closed and Obama planned on bringing the accused terrorists to trial in Federal Court. One of the things he said was he believed they were entitled to a day in court and that the Bush administration had held the detainees way too long. “Speedy trial”, etc.
Now, two years after assuming office, the Obama administration and Attorney General Holder have completely reversed themselves and decided that not only is Gitmo the proper venue for such trials, but that military tribunals, a means which they both savaged, was also adequate for the job.
Predictably the left is out to spin it in such a way that it is everyone else’s fault but Obama and Holder.
John Cole in a post entitled “Cowards”:
And no, I’m not talking about Obama and Holder. I’m talking about the clowns in Congress who apparently don’t have enough faith in this nation and who are so afraid of one man that they have to try him in secret in another country.
Simply said and as usual, mostly wrong.
Jeralyn Merritt also wants to blame Congress but is more specific about it:
I was really hoping Obama and Holder could think outside the box and come up with a way to defeat the Republican-created ban on federal criminal trials. It’s not the trials that were banned, just funding for getting them to the U.S. to stand trial.to lay the blame on Congress –
Republican created? Merritt clarifies that a bit, but again, for the umpteenth time I want to point out that from 2008 to 2010 Democrats enjoyed huge majorities in Congress and could have done just about anything they wanted to do with the funding of federal trials or moving the venue of the trials to a city in the US.
It didn’t happen not because of Republicans, but because of one of the few bi-partisan moments in those two years. For the most part no one wanted those trials in the US. For example:
Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat who objected to holding the trial anywhere in New York State, hailed the administration’s decision Monday.
“This means with certainty that the trial will not be in New York,” he said. “While not unexpected, this is the final nail in the coffin of that wrong-headed idea. I have always said that the perpetrators of this horrible crime should get the ultimate penalty, and I believe this proposal by the administration can make that happen.”
It was a “wrong headed idea” from the beginning. There were two reasons. One, most didn’t see the detainees as “criminals” and thus they were not deserving of a “criminal trial”. They are accused terrorists who had committed acts of war against the US, so military detention and military tribunals seemed much more appropriate. Two, moving them to the US put whichever city hosted the trials in the crosshairs of terrorists. It would be an unnecessary risk for what were basically to be show trials. However, the other risk was, given the sensitive nature of some of the intelligence used to apprehend them and prove their guilt, revealing it in civilian court would compromise the methods used. So there was (and is) a distinct possibility that they’d get off in a civilian trial even though enough evidence of a secret nature existed to convict them handily.
The perfect venue then was the tribunal system where such information could be introduced in a venue that would protect that information.
And let’s be clear about a couple other things.
There was no desire to see justice done by either Holder or Obama – it was mostly about trying to back up campaign rhetoric, which this decision finally points out was wrong, with action.
The White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, for instance:
"Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is going to meet justice and he’s going to meet his maker," said President Barack Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs. "He will be brought to justice and he’s likely to be executed for the heinous crimes that he committed in killing and masterminding the killing of 3,000 Americans. That you can be sure of."
Really? If the idea is to show the “American criminal justice system works”, it’s hard to see that with words that are really just screaming “show trial” from the spokesperson for the President of the United States. Gibbs took a lot of heat for that, as he should have, but it was a moment of truth that said they weren’t really interested in justice so much as having their way. And it was the President himself who also made such a “prejudgment”:
In an interview with NBC News, Obama said those offended by the legal privileges given to Mohammed by virtue of getting a civilian trial rather than a military tribunal won’t find it "offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him."
Also remember that the Obama Administration and the Justice Department endorsed indefinite detention regardless of the outcome of trials. So had any of the detainees managed to get a verdict of “not guilty”, they might have been detained anyway. Again, that screams “show trials” – if the verdict comes out the way we want it we’ll execute it. If not, and we deem it necessary, we’ll keep the detainee for as long as we wish.
So while it may feel good to those on the left to blame Congress for this decision, I actually have to agree with Democrat Chuck Schumer – which pains me a bit – this was a “wrong headed idea” from the get-go and it has finally collapsed under the weight of reality.
We’re at war with these people, not fighting “crime”. They are “enemy combatants” until proven otherwise. They should be treated as we’d treat any such prisoners – and have treated them in previous wars – through trial by military tribunal.
And finally, after a two year delay (so much for the “speedy trial” complaint by Obama) we’re back where we were in 2008.
Oh speaking of 2008, by the way:
The defendants indicated in December 2008 that they were inclined to plead guilty without a full trial. But in one of his first steps after taking office, Mr. Obama halted all the commissions under way at Guantánamo while he reviewed the detainee policies he had inherited.
He just endorsed what he “inherited” and also managed to delay justice for two more years.
That’s certainly been one of the major reasons that candidate and then President Obama has cited for closing the facility. But the Weekly Standard did an analysis of some 34 al Qaeda messages and found that Guantanamo was barely mentioned, and when it was, it was at worst a neutral topic.
So why is this important enough to talk about. Because of the emphasis Obama places on that excuse to close the facility in the face of facts that just don’t support the premise. Here’s what he recently said [emphasis added]:
Obviously, we haven’t gotten it closed. And let me just step back and explain that the reason for wanting to close Guantanamo was because my number one priority is keeping the American people safe.
One of the most powerful tools we have to keep the American people safe is not providing al Qaeda and jihadists recruiting tools for fledgling terrorists. And Guantanamo is probably the number one recruitment tool that is used by these jihadist organizations. And we see it in the websites that they put up. We see it in the messages that they’re delivering.
But when we turn to the actual 34 messages that discuss recruiting, that isn’t at all the case. Here are the results of key word searches in those messages:
Guantanamo is mentioned a mere 7 times in the 34 messages we reviewed. (Again, all 7 of those references appear in just 3 of the 34 messages.)
By way of comparison, all of the following keywords are mentioned far more frequently: Israel/Israeli/Israelis (98 mentions), Jew/Jews (129), Zionist(s) (94), Palestine/Palestinian (200), Gaza (131), and Crusader(s) (322). (Note: Zionist is often paired with Crusader in al Qaeda’s rhetoric.)
Naturally, al Qaeda’s leaders also focus on the wars in Afghanistan (333 mentions) and Iraq (157). Pakistan (331), which is home to the jihadist hydra, is featured prominently, too. Al Qaeda has designs on each of these three nations and implores willing recruits to fight America and her allies there. Keywords related to other jihadist hotspots also feature more prominently than Gitmo, including Somalia (67 mentions), Yemen (18) and Chechnya (15).
In fact the Weekly Standard states uncategorically that there is no evidence in those 34 messages that Gitmo is a recruiting tool, much less “probably the number one recruitment tool” used by al Qaeda.
So, what are they about? The usual stuff:
Instead, al Qaeda’s leaders repeatedly focus on a narrative that has dominated their propaganda for the better part of two decades. According to bin Laden, Zawahiri, and other al Qaeda chieftains, there is a Zionist-Crusader conspiracy against Muslims. Relying on this deeply paranoid and conspiratorial worldview, al Qaeda routinely calls upon Muslims to take up arms against Jews and Christians, as well as any Muslims rulers who refuse to fight this imaginary coalition.
This theme forms the backbone of al Qaeda’s messaging – not Guantanamo.
So what’s going on with Gitmo? The usual spin designed to make the place seem much worse than it is with an eye on closing it for some less than pragmatic reason (I mention that because Obama is supposed to be such a pragmatist). The messages reviewed by the WS are all of those which are known to have been delivered since January 2009. Obviously, Gitmo has a small and barely noticeable effect on anything al Qaeda does. Touting it as “probably the number one recruitment tool” of al Qaeda is false and misleading. It implies closing Guantanamo will hurt such recruiting. Obviously that’s just not the case.
Nope, this is about a silly campaign promise made with little knowledge or information about the enemy we’re fighting or what is being used to recruit jihadists into the organization. It would be one thing coming from some blogger out in North Dakota. It’s another to hear it said by the man who is charged with our national security. It doesn’t give one much of a warm fuzzy.
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.”
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the Obama Administration’s security policies and the healthcare summit. The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.[ad#Banner]
Wait, what …?
It’s still open?
But I thought …
Wasn’t this the day the Obama administration promised it would be closed?
And what else?
The Obama administration has decided to continue to imprison without trials nearly 50 detainees at the Guantánamo Bay military prison in Cuba because a high-level task force has concluded that they are too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to release, an administration official said on Thursday.
So the Obama administration has essentially agreed with the Bush administration about holding certain detainees without a trial and the “symbol of American shame” remains open in order to do that?
Hope and change.
It remains a mystery, to me at least, why closing Gitmo is such a priority to this president. In fact, it seems like it is the only campaign promise he actually plans on keeping, although to this point he’s been spectacularly unsuccessful.
But seriously, other than location, what does closing Gitmo and moving these “detainees” to a prison in Illinois accomplish? Does Obama and the left actually believe that doing so will kill jihadi propaganda about the prison in Cuba which they claim is used as a recruiting tool?
“Make no mistake,” he said. “We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al-Qaeda.”
Realistically, all the jihadis will do is change the name to the new prison and it will be recruiting propaganda as usual. Do you think they really care where their fellow terrorists are held? Of course not – the propaganda value isn’t in the place, its in the fact that they’re “suffering under the power of the infidel”. Whether that “suffering” takes place in Cuba or Illinois is absolutely irrelevant to them.
And the Obama administration can run the best prison in the world, but the propaganda they seem so worried about will still characterize it as a infidel hell hole and torture chamber. The depth of naivete necessary to believe that closing Gitmo will solve some sort of perception problem throughout the world and hurt jihadi recruiting is rather disturbing when you consider who it is that supposedly believes it. In fact, the only thing I see this closure of Gitmo bringing is the expenditure of more money we don’t have for no apparent gain – not that government isn’t quite good at that anyway.
Today we learn that 20% of those poor goat herders who were innocently swept up in Iraq and Afghanistan have engaged in terrorist activities after their release. And we’ve supposedly kept the really bad one’s. Wasn’t the fact that they were terrorists the reason we stuck them in Gitmo to begin with? So, if we now stick them in Thompson Correctional Center and keep them “indefinitely” without trial if it determined that is necessary (as promised by President Obama) how does TCC become any different in the eyes of jihadi’s (or, for that matter, the rest of the world) than Gitmo?
The short and simple answer is, it doesn’t. All of that is a smoke screen. In fact what the move does accomplish is to transfer the terrorists from military control and custody to civilian control and custody and, by the way, into the US legal system – the real reason, I believe, behind the desire to close the Cuban facility.
What were the charges?
Expanded executive power. Trampled on rights. Ruled by executive order. Creeping authoritarianism.
Does that about cover most of what the left tried to hang on the Bush presidency? And who was the answer to all those problems?
The Obama administration, fearing a battle with Congress that could stall plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, is drafting an executive order that would reassert presidential authority to incarcerate terrorism suspects indefinitely, according to three senior government officials with knowledge of White House deliberations.
Such an order would embrace claims by former president George W. Bush that certain people can be detained without trial for long periods under the laws of war. Obama advisers are concerned that bypassing Congress could place the president on weaker footing before the courts and anger key supporters, the officials said.
So it was never about principle, was it? It was always about politics.
Hope and change.
Sometimes, watching this circus of the Obama administration, you just have to shake your head and laugh a bit, even if the laughter is rueful:
The Obama administration is moving toward reviving the military commission system for prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, which was a target of critics during the Bush administration, including Mr. Obama himself.
Officials said the first public moves could come as soon as next week, perhaps in filings to military judges at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, outlining an administration plan to amend the Bush administration’s system to provide more legal protections for terrorism suspects.
Continuing the military commissions in any form would probably prompt sharp criticism from human rights groups as well as some of Mr. Obama’s political allies because the troubled system became an emblem of the effort to use Guantánamo to avoid the American legal system.
The more this crew gets into the weeds concerning Gitmo, the more they seem to validate all the moves Bush made.
I’m sure it’s a bit maddening for them.
Officials who work on the Guantánamo issue say administration lawyers have become concerned that they would face significant obstacles to trying some terrorism suspects in federal courts. Judges might make it difficult to prosecute detainees who were subjected to brutal treatment or for prosecutors to use hearsay evidence gathered by intelligence agencies.
That was the Bush administration argument for some time. Congress passed legislation to enable it, the SCOTUS shot it down and told them how to fix it and Congress did, only to see SCOTUS change its mind and shoot it down again.
And, of course, that made it very easy to denounce from the campaign trail. But now the reality of governing intrudes:
Obama administration officials — and Mr. Obama himself — have said in the past that they were not ruling out prosecutions in the military commission system. But senior officials have emphasized that they prefer to prosecute terrorism suspects in existing American courts. When President Obama suspended Guantánamo cases after his inauguration on Jan. 20, many participants said the military commission system appeared dead.
But in recent days a variety of officials involved in the deliberations say that after administration lawyers examined many of the cases, the mood shifted toward using military commissions to prosecute some detainees, perhaps including those charged with coordinating the Sept. 11 attacks.
“The more they look at it,” said one official, “the more commissions don’t look as bad as they did on Jan. 20.”
Heh … what a surprise.
Administration officials said Friday that some detainees would be prosecuted in federal courts and noted that Mr. Obama had always left open the possibility of using military commissions.
… is pure and unadulterated BS.
Still, during the presidential campaign Mr. Obama criticized the commissions, saying that “by any measure our system of trying detainees has been an enormous failure,” and declaring that as president he would “reject the Military Commissions Act.”
But according to both Sec. Gates and AG Holder, military commissions are still very much on the table, because, as Holder said:
“It may be difficult for some of those high-value detainees to be tried in a normal federal court.”
Gee — I wonder who else’s administration said that?