Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Obama Wants To Turn A Page In Our Relations With Cuba-- Cruz And Rubio Are Stuck In A Time Warp


Cruz has a mangled and ever-changing history regarding Cuba. His intensely fascist father was arrested by the right-wing dictatorship for fighting on Castro's side. Now both Cruzes are hysterical opponents of rapprochement.

When I woke up this morning, my first text of the day was from Roland who asked me if I thought Cuba would apologize to President Obama and offer to take back Rubio and Cruz. We should only be so lucky-- although neither of the reactionary senators has ever been to Cuba. Both are the sons of immigrants looking for better economic opportunities who took advantage of a U.S. decision to open the floodgates to all Cuban refugees after Fidel Castro overthrew the brutal Mafia and CIA supported fascist dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Both Cubanos oppose mainstream, bipartisan American opinion about normalizing relations with Cuba and neither Rubio nor Cruz is remotely ready to "make up" with their ancestral homeland. In about a month President and Michelle Obama will fly to Havana to, in his words, "advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people." Extremists and Hate Talk Radio hosts are flipping out over this but most normal Americans applaud it.

This morning, standing with Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, the president presented to Congress-- and the American people-- a detailed roadmap for finally closing down the Guantánamo gulag. Only 91 detainees of the original 800 the Bush regime scooped up-- some randomly-- after the invasion of Afghanistan. These were the main points in his address this morning:
• "We’ll continue to securely and responsibly transfer to other countries the 35 detainees already approved for transfer. This process involves extensive and careful coordination across our federal government to ensure that our national security interests are met when an individual is transferred to another country. We insist, for example, that foreign countries institute strong security measures."

• "We’ll accelerate the periodic reviews of remaining detainees to determine whether their continued detention is necessary. Our review board, including representatives from across government, will look at all relevant information, including current intelligence. If certain detainees no longer pose a continuing significant threat, they may be eligible for transfer to another country."

"We’ll continue to use all legal tools to deal with the remaining detainees still held under law of war detention. Currently, 10 detainees are in some stage of the military commissions process-- a process we reformed in my first year in office with bipartisan support from Congress. Still, these commissions are very costly and have resulted in years without a resolution.  We’re therefore outlining additional changes to improve these commissions, which would require Congressional action."

"We’re going to work with Congress to find a secure location in the United States to hold remaining detainees. These are detainees who are subject to military commissions, as well as those who cannot yet be transferred to other countries or who we’ve determined must continue to be detained because they pose a continuing significant threat. We are not identifying a specific facility today."
A NY Times editorial noted this morning that "Republican lawmakers all too often have been reflexive and thoughtless in their opposition to closing Guantánamo, one of the most shameful chapters in America’s recent history. Closing the prison by the end of the year is feasible. It would make the United States safer, help restore America’s standing as a champion of human rights and save taxpayers millions of dollars." President Obama's address (in part):
For many years, it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security-- it undermines it. This is not just my opinion. This is the opinion of experts, this is the opinion of many in our military. It’s counterproductive to our fight against terrorists, because they use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit. It drains military resources, with nearly $450 million spent last year alone to keep it running, and more than $200 million in additional costs needed to keep it open going forward for less than 100 detainees. Guantanamo harms our partnerships with allies and other countries whose cooperation we need against terrorism. When I talk to other world leaders, they bring up the fact that Guantanamo is not resolved.

Moreover, keeping this facility open is contrary to our values. It undermines our standing in the world. It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law. As Americans, we pride ourselves on being a beacon to other nations, a model of the rule of law. But 15 years after 9/11-- 15 years after the worst terrorist attack in American history-- we’re still having to defend the existence of a facility and a process where not a single verdict has been reached in those attacks-- not a single one.

When I first ran for President, it was widely recognized that this facility needed to close. This was not just my opinion. This was not some radical, far-left view. There was bipartisan support to close it. My predecessor, President Bush, to his credit, said he wanted to close it. It was one of the few things that I and my Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, agreed on.

And so, in one of my first acts as President, I took action to begin closing it. And because we had bipartisan support, I wanted to make sure that we did it right. I indicated that we would need to take our time to do it in a systematic way, and that we had examined all the options.

And unfortunately, during that period where we were putting the pieces in place to close it, what had previously been bipartisan support suddenly became a partisan issue. Suddenly, many who previously had said it should be closed backed off because they were worried about the politics. The public was scared into thinking that, well, if we close it, somehow we’ll be less safe. And since that time, Congress has repeatedly imposed restrictions aimed at preventing us from closing this facility.

Now, despite the politics, we’ve made progress. Of the nearly 800 detainees once held at Guantanamo, more than 85 percent have already been transferred to other countries. More than 500 of these transfers, by the way, occurred under President Bush. Since I took office, we’ve so far transferred 147 more, each under new, significant restrictions to keep them from returning to the battlefield. And as a result of these actions, today, just 91 detainees remain-- less than 100.

...[W]e’ll continue to securely and responsibly transfer to other countries the 35 detainees-- out of the 91-- that have already been approved for transfer. Keep in mind, this process involves extensive and careful coordination across our federal government to ensure that our national security interests are met when an individual is transferred to another country. So, for example, we insist that foreign countries institute strong security measures. And as we move forward, that means that we will have around 60-- and potentially even fewer-- detainees remaining.

...I also want to point out that, in contrast to the commission process, our Article 3 federal courts have proven to have an outstanding record of convicting some of the most hardened terrorists. These prosecutions allow for the gathering of intelligence against terrorist groups. It proves that we can both prosecute terrorists and protect the American people.  So think about it-- terrorists like Richard Reid, the shoe bomber; Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up an airplane over Detroit; Faisal Shahzad, who put a car bomb in Times Square; and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who bombed the Boston Marathon-- they were all convicted in our Article III courts and are now behind bars, here in the United States.

So we can capture terrorists, protect the American people, and when done right, we can try them and put them in our maximum security prisons, and it works just fine. And in this sense, the plan we’re putting forward today isn’t just about closing the facility at Guantanamo. It’s not just about dealing with the current group of detainees, which is a complex piece of business because of the manner in which they were originally apprehended and what happened. This is about closing a chapter in our history. It reflects the lessons that we’ve learned since 9/11--lessons that need to guide our nation going forward.

...[T]he plan we’re submitting today is not only the right thing to do for our security, it will also save money. The Defense Department estimates that this plan, compared to keeping Guantanamo open, would lower costs by up to $85 million a year. Over 10 years, it would generate savings of more than $300 million. Over 20 years, the savings would be up to $1.7 billion. In other words, we can ensure our security, uphold our highest values around the world, and save American taxpayers a lot of money in the process.

...I don’t want to pass this problem on to the next President, whoever it is. And if, as a nation, we don’t deal with this now, when will we deal with it? Are we going to let this linger on for another 15 years, another 20 years, another 30 years? If we don’t do what’s required now, I think future generations are going to look back and ask why we failed to act when the right course, the right side of history, and of justice, and our best American traditions was clear.
Herr Trumpf likes the idea of torture; it appeals to his base and it's not likely he understands why the U.S. military is adamantly opposed to torture. I wonder if he would send, for example, the Ricketts family, who are supporting ads against him and who he threatened yesterday, to Guantánamo for torture if he could.


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At 12:24 AM, Anonymous Bil said...

Cruz, ick


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