In a post I wrote on election night, I said that “a part of me desperately wants to believe that Obama will be [a] breath of fresh air….[but] I remain profoundly afraid that he’s just not ready for the job.” I didn’t vote for him, but I hoped that I was wrong about him not being ready, while fearing that I was right. Today I got my first inkling that I might have been right.
In a front page story written by Joseph Williams and Bryan Bender which appeared in today’s Boston Globe, it was reported how President Obama is apparently ready to sign an executive order suspending trials at Guantanamo Bay, including the trials of the five suspected terrorists who allegedly masterminded the 9/11 attacks, as well as closing the facility altogether in a year’s time. This is not surprising in itself; he said he would do that when he was running for office.
But here’s the sentence that froze the blood in my veins: “Longtime advisers on the issue said Obama would probably establish a team to conduct a case-by-case review of the evidence against all 245 detainees remaining at the prison with the aim of sending as many as possible back home” (emphasis mine).
Sending “as many as possible back home”? As in: let them go free? Can someone please tell me why this would be a good idea? The people held prisoner in Gitmo aren’t there because of overdue parking tickets, right?
Look, by all means review the cases as expeditiously as possible. One can certainly argue that this should have been done already. If you have evidence against them, try them. If you don’t, release them. That’s how our system of justice is supposed to work. And admittedly, Gitmo has not always worked very well.
But it’s the “aim of sending as many as possible back home” part that’s really scaring me here. My immediate problem with this is that the 245 are there because they are suspected al-Qaeda, Taliban or other foreign fighters who pose a threat to the United States. This means it’s a safe bet that they hate America. I think it’s also a safe bet that the years spent at Gitmo haven’t done much to change that. So what do you suppose these guys are going to do upon their release? Well, here’s a wild guess: they’re probably going to engage in more terrorist activities.
Now I suppose it’s possible that the Globe reporters have somehow gotten it wrong. There is also talk of relocating these prisoners to Kansas and or Pennsylvania. This raises another thorny issue: if we close Gitmo, where do we put them? It seems like nobody wants these guys.
All this really amounts to is a symbolic gesture from Obama (see, world? that bad man George Bush is gone! It’s OK to like America again!) Unfortunately, foreign policy isn’t about being liked, it’s about being respected, even feared. People don’t attack you if they’re afraid of you. If you have any doubt of that, ask yourself this: when was the last time Russia or China was attacked by terrorists (or anyone else, for that matter)?
I know this all sounds rather bellicose, but that’s just how it is. Sure, the Bush administration cut corners and was ham fisted in some of its approaches, but stop to consider the difficulty of the job they had. It would be nice if terrorists would all go around wearing Osama bin Laden t-shirts, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. The terrorist’s stock in trade is secrecy. Piercing that veil often takes extraordinary measures. While you might not have liked the CIA’s tactics, you can’t argue with the results: there have been no terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11.
This is usually the part where the hand wringers start whining about “torture”, which I always find ironic, given the amount of suffering the victims of the 9/11 attacks must have gone through before they died. Come to think of it, what is the score on that account? Let’s see, that would be: People Who Died on 9/11–2,985 vs. People Who Have Died at Gitmo: 0.
Yes, torture, in this case water boarding, isn’t very nice. But last time I checked, neither is blowing up buildings and killing innocent people. It amazes and disgusts me that some in this country have more sympathy for terrorists than for their victims.
In a nutshell: if you have information about past or (more importantly) pending terrorist activities, I want our government to get that information out of you, by any means necessary. Now since I’m basically a softie, I’m all in favor of giving you the chance to volunteer this information, well, voluntarily. But if it turns out that the only reason you’re giving up this information is because it’s the only way you can think of to stop the pain, I’m fine with that. Almost 3,000 people (maybe more) died on 9/11. If subjecting you to some temporary discomfort will prevent that from happening again, then so be it.
I still have hopes that Obama will be a good president, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s off to a bad start with this one. If he closes Guantanamo, he has made the world a more dangerous place for all of us.