Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dose of Reality on Guantanamo Detainees

Listen to this from the New York Times:

The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

His status was announced in an Internet statement by the militant group and was confirmed by an American counterterrorism official.

“They’re one and the same guy,” said the official, who insisted on anonymity because he was discussing an intelligence analysis. “He returned to Saudi Arabia in 2007, but his movements to Yemen remain unclear.”

The development came as Republican legislators criticized the plan to close the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp in the absence of any measures for dealing with current detainees. But it also helps explain why the new administration wants to move cautiously, taking time to work out a plan to cope with the complications.

Almost half the camp’s remaining detainees are Yemenis, and efforts to repatriate them depend in part on the creation of a Yemeni rehabilitation program — partly financed by the United States — similar to the Saudi one. Saudi Arabia has claimed that no graduate of its program has returned to terrorism.

“The lesson here is, whoever receives former Guantánamo detainees needs to keep a close eye on them,” the American official said.
You think?

But check out the Wall Street Journal's lead editorial today, in any case, "
Obama and Guantanamo":

Campaign promises are so much easier to adhere to when they're strictly hypothetical, as Barack Obama is discovering. The then-President-elect said 10 days ago on ABC that while he still plans to close Guantanamo, "it is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize" and that "many" of the enemy combatants are "very dangerous."

Merely for gesturing at this reality, Mr. Obama suffered the blunt-force trauma of his left-wing allies, and the panicked transition leaked new details on the Administration's intentions last week. On Tuesday the Pentagon halted military commissions at Guantanamo for 120 days, and reports as we went to press yesterday said Mr. Obama would sign an executive order today that the base be closed within a year. This was after he told the Washington Post that closure might take even longer. Isn't responsibility fun?

The first practical question is where to transfer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the 245 or so other remaining Gitmo prisoners. Dangerous enemy combatants can't simply be released into the streets. The Obama camp says that after reviewing the classified files, it will try to repatriate as many as safely possible. But 60 already cleared for release remain because they may be persecuted by their home countries. And even Mr. Obama's vaunted diplomacy is unlikely to convince rights-protecting countries to resettle people he believes are too dangerous to release in the U.S. -- and the more willing Mr. Obama is to release prisoners, the more difficult this problem will become.

One suggestion is moving the remaining prisoners to Kansas's Fort Leavenworth, but state politicians are already sounding a red alert. The military base is integrated into the community and, lacking Guantanamo's isolation and defense capacities, would instantly become a potential terror target. Expect similar protests from other states that are involuntarily entered in this sweepstakes.

In any event, this option merely relocates Guantanamo to American soil under another name. The core challenge is not a matter of geography but ensuring a stable legal framework for detaining and punishing fighters engaged in unconventional warfare against the U.S.
There's more at the link.

The Journal makes the interesting point that now that Obama's in office, he's the one dealing with the brainless leftists who have no clue as to the next steps on Guantanamo detainees. This includes even hysterical "experts" like
Glenn Greenwald, who's been harping about the "criminal" anti-terror policies of the Bush military commissions all week, while alternating between praise and poised-condemnation of Obama's "promising" actions on the "corrosive" lawlessness of the Bush administation's policies on Guantanamo, military commissions, "black sites," and who knows what else.

Sometimes the right thing to do (the Bush program) is so intuitively obvious that the warped opposition of the netroots hordes signifies nothing less than abject Bush derangement and the pursuit of raw nihilist power.


cracker said...

the Best part about Obama.....

as he shifts to center.....

is his ability to say....."Well, we tried, but upon further investigation, ....its not a good idea"

whats the value in this?

it shows and then shares, the burden of reality.....and a bi-partisan opportunity to find a reasonable alternative in reasonable amount of time.

forest thru the trees.

Anonymous said...

It is a bad thing when children always get their way.

Maybe Obama will play grown up now and realize that this may not be the best thing.

Then again, if he pursues this decision it will give the Republicans their first real wedge to drive into Obama's popularity.

Personally, I'm ready for a confrontation. I'm ready to see Obama take a lick.

repsac3 said...

I don't know, guys...

I don't see the problem being Obama's desire to do the right thing now, but Bush's willingness to do the wrong thing in the first place.

We have been through many many wars with many many peoples, but as far as I know, this is the first time we've been unable to follow our own laws as regards how to treat the prisoners. Endless detention without charge just isn't the American way. I'm pretty sure it even says so in some of those founding documents. Up to now we've either tried our enemies or let them go, and I'm pretty certain it hasn't taken us this long to figure out how to do either.

It's unfortunate, but yes, some of those we let go, or bring to trial but fail to convict, will re-offend. That happens in our US legal system with US criminals, too. But just as we don't hold our people anyway, on suspicion that they will commit some future crime, we cannot do so here. To do so is to violate the very American values for which our soldiers fight & die. If these American values & principles are worth the lives of our military to defend--and I think they are--they are worth risking our own lives to uphold, too. It's the old "die like a man, or live like a dog" thing. I'd rather America fight & if need be perish with our values intact than compromise them in the name of safety & security. As I'm sure most soldiers (& many plain old citizens) will tell you, "America" (all that it is, and all that it stands for) is worth more than our individual lives.

Now, I admit to being an idealist, and thinking that the laws & procedures--including those enshrined in those founding documents--that we've determined are the most fair and just for ourselves are just as fair & just for everyone else. I'm not so crazy about trying these people under these laws, and those people under a different set of laws, based simply on nationality. Either these are universal principles of fundamental justice or they aren't.

But that's me. Try them as enemy combatants or insurgents, or whatever... But we do have to try and convict them, or yes, let them go. That's who we've always been, and who we must continue to be if we are to remain that exceptional city on a hill...

Unknown said...

If you read the executive orders on the WH website, the language is very vague and opaque, commissions for this, special task forces for that. Nothing definable except two things, 1) Obama has granted the right of habeus corpus to terrorists and 2) He has drawn the CIA into the mix, before they were not subject to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 or any other DOD limitations on "torture."

Trish said...

John Murtha (D) PA Congressman has invited the Gitmo detainees to his district.
I live in this state, not his district, but close enough.
Unfortunately, I also know a little about the prison system here in PA. There are already a whole lot of Muslim wannabes in our state prisons, and adding a few REAL bad eggs to that basket is a jihad waiting to happen.
That man is a nightmare and a moron. First he calls his constituents racists and then he asks the worst sort of Muslim bad guys to come live here. I hpoe those who re-elected him are happy now.

Gary Baumgarten said...

We'll be talking about the closing of Gitmo at 5 PM New York time today on News Talk Online on

Please go to and click on the Enter Chat Room button to participate.



Norm said...

Issuing these orders before thinking through their ramifications is a very bad sign. One would like to have a leader who at least tries to figure out his plan several moves in advance. Obama needed help from his counsel to even explain the orders he signed to the press. So he is going to close Gitmo, but at the same time he has no clue exactly how he is going close Gitmo. Very disappointing. Sophmorish.

repsac3 said...

Issuing these orders before thinking through their ramifications is a very bad sign. One would like to have a leader who at least tries to figure out his plan several moves in advance.

Oh my... How you managed to type that all out without bursting into flames of laughter or shame is beyond me...

See: Bush Administration--Iraq exit strategy... They never did define victory, & more'n'likely still can't.

Norm said...

Only someone like you would compare
the obvious uncertainty of battle plans and strategy to my statement about Obama's plans to close Gitmo.
Pretty stupid comparison.

Anonymous said...

Norm: My understanding is that we have a year to figure this out before "everything must go." Hopefully that will suffice.

repsac3 said...

In a way, you're right, Norm.

Knowing one's endgame--being able to define victory, for instance--before choosing to start an unnecessary war is considered in many circles to be more important.

Living up to the values & ideals of this nation should be a piece of cake, in comparison.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration did neither, and now those that come after them will have to clean up the mess.

Acting in accord with our fundamental values isn't easy, and once broken, it's even harder to turn around & go back to doing it correctly. Obama has committed this country to finding a way back, however. That he is gathering those in the know & seeking the best way how isn't really all that bad a thing.

Like promising to put a man on the moon, or any number of other commitments made by any number of previous Presidents, the guy set a goal, & is seeking advice as to the best way to achieve it.

Might've been nice if Bush had done the same as regards the WOT, but instead, he just barreled right on in, with neither exit strategy or even plans for the prisoners and alleged eeevildoers that went much beyond "lock them up"... (Again, it was the Bush administration who created this problem... Our new President is the fellow attempting to fix it.)

Norm said...

Your too wordy...try using less words and making a point

AmPowerBlog said...

" ...try using less words and making a point ..."

Impossible for the Repmaster Crash!

cracker said...

Mr Ohlund.

Condolences,Very sorry to hear. I just read about the Day Care Tragedy. Not many details here in the US.

Norm; I think its pre-mature to say Obama has no strategy.

I say this in reviewing his performance up to now. Here is a man who took the oath twice (Belt and Suspenders)

He has surrounded himself with excellent advisors , things arent going to happen overnight, and there are hard choices that previous admins were incapable of making or even promoting.....

We are overcoming overcome it ....sometimes there's a little puking (ejection) involved before you can get the system in a state ready to repair.

repsac3 said...

Sorry Norm... When one leaves the good/evil, black/white mindset, it isn't so easy to give those no-thought-required, one sentence answers.

Context matters.

Read again, & find the points that many others, here & elsewhere, already have.

Anonymous said...

I am a war veteran. It was a most disturbing thing to many of my fellow vets and me to see our Constitution chucked out the window under Bush. "Super powers" are not only defined by their economic and military might, but also their moral might and humanity. By stooping to torture, we lost our moral might. I am thankful that we are on our way to regaining it. Might there be missteps along the way by the Obama administration? Of course...they are all human. But this President understands the sacrifices that veterans and public servants have made throughout our history to ensure freedom, democracy and the continuing existence of a nation that remains true to its founding principles. By stooping to inhumane treatment under the guise of "the ends justifies the means" we only serve to generate more hate and diminish ourselves as a nation.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Barack is off to a great start, on track to keep his word and restore some international credibility for the US