Jewish World Review May 7, 2013/ 27 Iyar, 5773
Close down Gitmo? Why, sure
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Again with Guantanamo.
Whenever this president can't answer a direct question about some failure of American security, or at least can't answer it satisfactorily, he goes into his riff about the need to ... close the brig at Guantanamo.
This shtick always works. It gets his true believers applauding and his habitual critics stirred up. Ah, the best of both possible political worlds! Best of all, he never has to get back to that embarrassing question, having changed the subject.
There's a reason that an offshore military prison was set up where it was: to confine terrorists and those suspected of being such someplace where they could be safely questioned at length under military law. Rather than transfer them to the mainland and treat them as ordinary criminal suspects with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto. And take all the risks such a move would involve. Including the possibility, indeed probability, that, once read his rights à la Miranda, the prisoner will clam up and American intelligence will be denied valuable information. The kind of information that might prevent the next terrorist attack.
Our president, now confronted by tough questions about terrorist attacks from Benghazi to
Its existence offends him. As it has for years. Maybe because American military law in general does; he doesn't seem to recognize it as law at all but some kind of inferior substitute to be evaded whenever possible. Even if the U.S. code of military justice predates the U.S. Constitution, has a rich history of its own, and, when a new kind of barbaric war is unleashed, has its indispensable uses. Uses that civil law may not, especially in these times and these circumstances.
The first military tribunals in this country were set up by
The major was tried and sentenced to death by a high-ranking board of senior American officers, a courtesy the British hadn't bothered to extend to a young patriot named
None of this law or history, or just prudence and experience, is evident whenever our current chief executive and commander-in-chief of the armed forces lectures the rest of us about the need to close down a military prison now holding scores of dangers to
At those moments, the Hon.
Close Gitmo? Fine. Nobody ever argued that it was the ideal solution to the tricky problem of how to handle combatants, legal or illegal, in this war on terror, only the best available now. And maybe indefinitely. Our president doesn't seem to like that phrase, either -- war on terror. It comes too close to calling something by its right name instead of Overseas Contingency Operations, whatever that means, if anything.
Everybody regrets Gitmo's existence, or at least the necessity for it. Yes, the law of war holds that combatants legal and illegal may be held till hostilities are concluded. But, our president complains, our we don't know when that could be. It could be forever!
Right, sir. And we didn't know when we could safely release all those German and Italian prisoners once held in places like
Transfer all these military trials to lower
Close Gitmo and just duplicate it somewhere else, maybe in the upper Midwest à la
Close Gitmo and then what? Take the prisoners we want to squeeze for information and hold them aboard a
What about just sending the recalcitrant types back home and letting their countries of origin figure out how to deal with them? But be sure to call it repatriation because we've already called it rendition, and that euphemism didn't fool anybody for long -- because no one could deny that it made
Is there any clear alternative to Gitmo that this president does recommend? He says he'll tell us later. No rush. He's had only four years or so to find one. With any luck, he'll be talking about closing it down it for another four years -- but only talking about it.
Take a look at this president's rambling remarks at his press conference last week and see if you can figure out what he was recommending as an alternative to the prison at Guantanamo. Because it beats me.
To quote a tactful summation offered by one of the wire services: "He was ambiguous, however, about the most difficult issue raised by the prospect of closing the prison: What to do with detainees who are deemed dangerous but could not be feasibly prosecuted?" Despite the president's wordy dissertation on that subject, he doesn't seem to have the faintest idea.
The first requirement of justice, as it is the last, whether civil or military justice, is moral clarity. For all his verbal meandering at that presidential press conference, he steered clear of it. Moral clarity is hard work. Delivering a moralistic lecture is a lot easier; there's no heavy intellectual lifting involved.
Here was a chance for our president to ride one of his favorite hobbyhorses without actually saying anything, and even please some of his more fervid supporters on the left, who know they want Gitmo shut down but, after that, draw a blank. Much as this president does. But that never keeps him from running on about the subject, which is a lot easier than talking about the latest misadventures -- and worse -- of the vast national-security apparatus he is nominally in charge of.
Many of us look forward to hearing more from our president on the subject of Guantanamo -- so long as the cell doors there remain safely locked, bolted and barred while he prates on.
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