Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Go Figure

The Pentagon is reporting that 61 prisoners previously held at Guantanamo Bay are now back on the battlefield. From the AP (via Don Surber):

Sixty-one detainees who have been released from the U.S. Navy base prison in Cuba are believed to have rejoined the fight, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. That’s up from 37 previously, Morrell said.

The new figures come as President-elect Barack Obama prepares to issue an executive order during his first week in office to close the controversial prison. It’s unlikely, however, that the Guantanamo detention facility will be closed anytime soon as Obama weighs what to do with the estimated 250 al-Qaida, Taliban or other foreign fighter suspects who remain there.

So what is the price of moral vanity? We don't yet know for certain. But it's reasonable to surmise that the currency will be blood.

(H/T: Instapundit)

5 comments:

Brad Carlson said...

It’s unlikely, however, that the Guantanamo detention facility will be closed anytime soon as Obama weighs what to do with the estimated 250 al-Qaida, Taliban or other foreign fighter suspects who remain there.

Since Senator Dick Durbin was so hellbent on closing Gitmo, why not send the detainees to a prison in his home state of Illinois?

Mike said...

Because putting them in with Blago would be more torture than Gitmo ever was...hey-oh!!!

Anonymous said...

Mark,
first off, I don't know if I really trust these numbers. Dig a little and what the Pentagon actually said is that 18 former detainees are confirmed and 43 suspected of having returned to the battlefield. But "suspected" is not defined, and the Pentagon isn't saying how they quantified any of this, so I am a little "suspect." After all, you've basically got a government agency releasing numbers that reinforce past actions of their own that are now being called into question.

Compound that with the fact that another notable story that came out yesterday was that Bush administration official Susan J. Crawford, who was in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial admitted that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national to the point that he was in a "life-threatening condition". And that, because his treatment met the legal definition of torture, Crawford could not refer the case for prosecution.

Here in lies the practical problems with torture: It can render bringing terror suspects to justice legally impossible, thus allowing them to avoid true legal or moral accountability for their acts of terror (if they committed any), and it leads to getting bad information.

How can we expect to retain any semblance of integrity or respect of law if members of our own Justice Department fail their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution and laws of the US? We can and will agree or not as to practicality or morality of capital punishment, euthanasia, drug laws, abortion, etc. But where laws exist, they are there for all until changed; choosing to ignore criminal actions of high public officials (however earnest such officials may seem to be about why they did so) only breeds disrespect for all laws. This is especially true when law is broken knowingly, in a brazen manner, and with horrific consequences.

Regards,
Rich

Mark Heuring said...

Rich,

Fair points all, but only tangentially relevant to the argument I'm making here. The question is, what do you do with these guys? Closing Gitmo is fine, but what happens next? Let 'em go, so they can go back to kill? Rendition? Federal trial? We don't have good answers or good options, do we?

And I'd suggest that the moral vanity I'm talking about is the fanciful notion that some people have that if we were just to close Gitmo and give suspects Miranda rights, that (a) it would work out better and (b) the world would love us more. And note well, I'm not talking about you, because you know better. It's a lot more complicated than that and it simply won't do for those on the Left (not you) who made Rumsfeld et al. into war criminals to simply make assertions. They owe us a better solution.

I'm all for codifying the laws that handle such things, especially codifying what specifically is considered torture. At this point all we have are various people asserting their views without providing any direction that helps the people on the business end of dealing with the problem.

The reason Gonzales et al. were involved in writing a memo about torture is that there's a gap in the law, one that's large enough to allow enormous room for interpretation. And it shouldn't surprise anyone that a lawyer would find arguments that fit the fact pattern they want to establish. That's what lawyers do. Even attorneys general, as Lisa Madigan has demonstrated so hilariously in recent weeks.

As for the case you mention, it's pretty simple, especially in a military setting -- hurting a prisoner to the point of nearly killing them would be a violation of the UCMJ. If there's evidence that this happened, and apparently there is, the proper recourse is a court-martial.

I can promise you this -- at some point, somewhere, some underling will do something untoward under Obama's watch. That won't mean what happened was Obama's fault. At a minimum, perhaps now that evil W is leaving we can start having a serious discussion about some of these things. After all, in 5 days the Close Gitmo Chorus owns the problem.

Anonymous said...

Mark,
I think we are in agreement on a lot of points, and I do know that there are not any easy answers here. The facile Jack Bauer/ticking time bomb scenarios that many torture supporters keep throwing up simply don't or very very rarely exist, and are a moral vanity of sorts for torture supporters. Also, as you noted, the question of what to do with these guys does still exist, and closing Gitmo and letting them go so they can go back to kill is not the answer.
My point was that we still have to do all we can to maintain the rule of law: No one is guilty of a crime until it has been proven. And yes, the UCMJ is in place and a handful of low level soldiers have already been sent to the brig for carrying out such actions in Iraq. Yet no one can doubt that these and other criminal acts of torture have been knowingly authorized, enabled and allowed to persist by high elected and appointed officials. And because of that, the well has been poisoned.
Gitmo wouldn't be the rallying point that it is if this were not the case.

Rich