Monday, November 24, 2008
The Guantanamo Conundrum
The Weekly Standard has an excellent article by Thomas Joscelyn this morning on the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. It's a highly researched and detailed article but in short, Joscelyn explains the important function Gitmo has performed in the war on terror.
Mr. Obama has often stated his intention to close the facility but he has not been clear, as of yet, as to what will become of the 242 detainees currently held there. He has suggested that he wants to try some of them in civilian courts, but Joscelyn correctly asserts that to do this will be to put highly classified and sensitive information at risk. It would also, of course, give the detainees a forum in which they might "grandstand" and further their own agenda.
One of the points of Joscelyn's piece is to caution the Obama team to find an acceptable forum in which to handle these people. These are not conventional prisoners of war and are not entitled to Geneva rights (Obama's AG pick, Eric Holder, even agrees with this.)
Joscelyn makes the point that President Bush established Guantanamo as a detention facility after the 9/11 attacks "in the context of a war against enemies who are still seeking to attack our homeland. President Bush, whatever his faults, protected America after September 11, 2001" and that soon "it will fall to President Obama to do the same." Joscelyn outlines many such thwarted attacks.
Letting these detainees go will not accomplish security for Americans. Nor will sending them "home." Some of their countries are not allied in the war on terror; Yemin for one. Approximately 100 detainees are from Yemin, and history shows that those returned to places like that inevitably find their way back to the battlefield.
Obama has previously stated that closing Gitmo will regain "America's moral stature in the world," but that won't matter much if we're blown to bits. He has also said that he wanted to return to the way we did things in the 1990s when terrorists were put on trial after the fact. He said, "And, you know, let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks - for example - the first attack against the World Trade Center - we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated."
This isn't exactly true, as Joscelyn explains, and trying those folks did little to stop the terrorist network that grew between 1993 and 2001.
I suspect Obama will figure this out as he settles into office and it will be interesting to see what he concludes.