Friday, December 13, 2013

The Beginning Of The End Of The Guantánamo Gulag?


Had Adam Smith amendments to the NDAA passed in June, one year from today-- December 13, 2014, the gulag at Guantánamo would have closed. On June 13, Smith proposed ending indefinite detentions, which was voted down 200-226, 19 Republicans voting with the Democrats and 13 of the worst and most right-wing fake-dens crossing the aisle to oppose the amendment. Those 13 were:
John Barrow (New Dem-GA)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Pete Gallego (New Dem-TX)
Sander Levin (Idiot-MI)
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)
Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)
Mike McIntyre (New Dem-NC)
Bill Owens (New Dem-NY)
Dutch Ruppersberger (Idiot-MD)
Loretta Sanchez (New Dem-CA)
Filemon Vela (New Dem-TX)
The following day Smith was back with a broader amendment to actually close down the prison in 2014. It also failed, this time 174-249, only two Republicans-- Justin Amash (MI) and Jimmy Duncan (TN)-- voting yes, and a flood of Democratic war monsters, 21 of 'em this time, voting with the GOP.
Ron Barber (New Dem-AZ)
John Barrow (New Dem-GA)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Bill Foster (New Dem-IL)
Pete Gallego (New Dem-TX)
Joe Garcia (New Dem-FL)
Ann Kirkpatrick (Idiot-AZ)
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)
Dan Maffei (New Dem-NY)
Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY)
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)
Mike McIntyre (New Dem-NC)
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)
Bill Owens (New Dem-NY)
Gary Peters (New Dem-MI)
Nick Rahall (WV)
Raul Ruiz (Idiot-CA)
Loretta Sanchez (New Dem-CA)
Brad Schneider (New Dem-IL)
Kyrsten Sinema (New Dem-AZ)
Filemon Vela (New Dem-TX)
Why do these conservatives vote against their own party's core values so frequently. When you ask any of the freshmen, if they're in an honest mood they'll tell you that Steve Israel beats up on them to vote this way. Israel and the DCCC believe that freshmen need to vote conservatively even though past history has shown that conservatives vote for Republicans, not for waffling Democrats. That's how morons like Kirkpatrick and Maffei lost their seats in the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse of 2010. They learned nothing and will probably lose again for not learning anything the first time around. (Actually, Maffei, benefitting from an NRCC too incompetent to recruit a plausible opponent for him, is safe.) McIntyre and Matheson nearly lost last year and are likely to lose against the same candidates this year. Others who are in grave jeopardy of losing because of listening to DCCC orders on votes like this one are Barber, Gallego, Garcia, Maloney, Ruiz and Sinema. The 6 of them have certainly earned the enmity of the Democratic base in their own districts, all of which are profoundly disappointed in them.

OK, back to the gulag. Another of Steve Israel's atrocious recruits this cycle is Michigan conservative Jerry Cannon, former commander of Joint Task Force-Guantánamo and also former Provost Marshal, overseeing the US military police in Iraq. Aside from being another of Israel's anti-Choice fanatics, Cannon is a Military-Industrial Establishment shill who will never be a friend of any movements involved with peace. Obama wasn't the first president who tried to shut down Guantánamo only to find himself thwarted by powerful Military-Industrial Complex forces he couldn't control. Congress overrode Obama. Cheney overrode Bush. Let me quote a few lines from Barton Gellman's fantastic book about Cheney, Angler as he started winding it down:
For more than a year, Bush had been on record that "I'd like to close Guantánamo." It stayed open. In Cheney's most productive years, he had made big things happen. Chney reshaped national security law, expanded the prerogatives of the executive branch, midwifed the both of domestic espionage, rewrote the president's tax bill, shifted the course of a river out west, shut down negotiations with North Korea, and had a major role in bringing war to Iraq. Now he played a game of inertia, slowing down initiatives that would disturb the pieces he already had in place.

…Nearly half a year after the president spoke of closing Guantánamo, former White House counselor and speechwriter Michael Gerson said in an interview that Cheney and his aides were using "a molasses process" to prevent it… They didn't didn't circumvent the process," Gerson said, laughing somewhat bitterly. "They were very effective in using the process… The president wanted to solve the problem at Gitmo. It was a major drawback on the public diplomacy front. They'd insist on prerogatives and not establishing any precedents that would limit the president's authority."
Of course, it was Cheney and his gang of profoundly anti-democratic sociopaths who were undermining the president's authority and ruining his administration (not to mention his place in history). Yesterday, Jason Leopold reported that the admiral in charge of Gitmo today, Richard Butler, commander of Joint Task Force-Guantánamo (same job as the war-like Cannon once had) called the base “not in the best interests of the American people." Unlike Canon, Butler wants to close the $5 billion (and counting) gulag there down. Another former commander of Joint Task Force-Guantánamo, Michael Lehnert, wrote an OpEd for the Detroit Free Press yesterday, also calling for the prison too be closed down. He lives in Traverse City, Michigan, which is in the first district, the one Cannon would like to represent.
In 2002, I led the first Joint Task Force to Guantánamo and established the detention facility. Today, I believe it is time to close Guantánamo.

In the coming week, Congress will lay the foundation for whether and to what extent Guantánamo can be closed. The annual defense bill appears to have compromise language that would give the president some additional flexibility to transfer detainees to their home or third countries, though it maintains an unwise and unnecessary ban on transferring detainees to the United States.

Still, this is a step forward toward closing our nation’s most notorious prison-- a prison that should never have been opened.

Our nation created Guantánamo because we were legitimately angry and frightened by an unprovoked attack on our soil on Sept. 11, 2001. We thought that the detainees would provide a treasure trove of information and intelligence.

I was ordered to construct the first 100 cells at Guantánamo within 96 hours. The first group of 20 prisoners arrived seven days after the order was given. We were told that the prisoners were the “worst of the worst,” a common refrain for every set of detainees sent to Guantánamo. The U.S. has held 779 men at the detention facility over the past 12 years. There are currently 162 men there, most of them cleared for transfer, but stuck by politics.

Even in the earliest days of Guantánamo, I became more and more convinced that many of the detainees should never have been sent in the first place. They had little intelligence value, and there was insufficient evidence linking them to war crimes. That remains the case today for many, if not most, of the detainees.

In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong. We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantánamo, both in terms of detention and torture. Our decision to keep Guantánamo open has helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States.

The majority of the remaining detainees at Guantánamo have been cleared for transfer by our defense and intelligence agencies.

The act of releasing a prisoner is about risk management. We cannot promise conclusively that any detainee who is released will not plan an attack against us, just as we cannot promise that any U.S. criminal released back into society will never commit another crime.

There are a handful of detainees at Guantánamo who should be transferred to the U.S. for prosecution or incarceration. Such transfers remain prohibited under current law, but that law needs to be revisited.

In determining whether we should release detainees who have no charges brought against them, I would argue that our Constitution and the rule of law conclusively trump any additional risk that selective release of detainees may entail. It is time that the American people and our politicians accepted a level of risk in the defense of our constitutional values, just as our service men and women have gone into harm’s way time after time to defend our constitution. If we make a mockery of our values, it calls us to question what we are really fighting for.

When I was the Joint Task Force Commander in Guantánamo, I spent many nights visiting the facility and talking to the guards. I did this because I wanted to be sure that my guidance for humane treatment was being carried out. Many of my young Marines and soldiers were clearly troubled by my insistence on humane treatment, pointing out that “the terrorists wouldn’t treat us this well.” My answer to each of these young service members was always the same: “If we treat them as they would treat us, we become them.”

It is time to close Guantánamo. Our departure from Afghanistan is a perfect point in history to close the facility.

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