Archive for the ‘Guantanamo’ category

And Now There Are 80

April 18, 2016

The Department of Defense has announced the return to two Yemeni “detainees” to Saudi Arabia from the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. With their release, Guantanamo headcount drops 80. This number includes another 23 who have been cleared for release pending completion of the nitty gritty such as which country will actually receive them. Hmmm, 57 in a prison with a capacity for upwards of 700.

Anyone who worries about the foibles of big government need look no further than the fiasco of Guantanamo. Originally establish to house and process al Qaeda members and sympathizers, the Guantanamo detention facility vacuumed up a motley collection of nasty terrorists, questionable persons guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a healthy dose of totally innocent souls turned in for the promised ransom payment.

Once housed in Guantanamo, the unfortunate detainees and the US authorities began to realize there was no recognized legal procedure to process the detainees.

So if anyone is wondering how so many Americans can be Donald Trump supporters, Guantanamo is one reason. Congress, read the GOP leadership, has made keeping Guantanamo operating when any security or business analysis leads one to closing it and transferring the remaining inmates to super max prisons State side. Why?

The reason given (said with a straight face) is “to protect” Americans. Guantanamo is full of “crazy bastards” who are bent on killing us, Lindsay Graham says. You are immediately struck with the question “does he really believe that” or is this just another political smoke screen?

Bringing the Guantanamo detainees to US prisons would probably open the possibility of civil rights court actions since these prisoners have not been charged (a Constitutional guarantee for a speedy trial). And for most there is a reasonable chance they would be released.

But there is a bigger recognition that is being overlooked. There is no shortage of terrorists or persons willing to attack Americans and American interests around the world. No one should ever allege that the Guantanamo detainees are the worst of the worst. What about all those ISIS thugs who decapitated their prisoners? Are they somehow a grade less on the scale of worst of the worst.

Closing Guantanamo makes sense from a financial position, from a consistency with our laws and traditions, and demonstrating that Republicans and Democrats can make worthwhile decisions together.

The Republican intransigence is just one more proof to Trump supporters (and many others) that the GOP can’t govern.

GOP – No Way, No How

February 24, 2016

Yesterday, the Congressional GOP leaders got to say “no” twice. “No” to closing Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility and “no” to even courtesy meetings with any Obama Supreme Court nominee.

“Why meet with the nominee if we already know the outcome”, Senator John Cornyn said. He could have said welcome to the end of bi-partisanship, it’s all or nothing.

The Supreme Court opening, more than any other, could likely lead to the end of what America has known as a two party system. The refusal to consider a lawful Presidential nomination (forget about considering and then rejecting) will expose the GOP as a collection of splinter factions many of which are out of step with both history and the future.

American history has seen Democrat and Republican majorities and with these changes in majority party, Supreme Courts which have swung conservative and then back to liberal. For the GOP to put their foot down now exposes members with a short memory and little or no respect for precedent.  Looking more closely, it reveals a party which stands for nothing but its members’ well being.

The Guantanamo situation exposes  other GOP hypocrisy in a different way. Guantanamo Detention Facility is a stain on America’s reputation with a dark and dishonorable past. Today with a dwindling number of inmates, Guantanamo is becoming obscenely more expensive every day. Where is the fiscally minded GOP looking for opportunities to cut wasteful Government spending?

Locked within this Guantanamo controversy is the unseemly fact that all the detainees are uncharged with a crime, some imprisoned for over 14 years. To be sure, some detainees represent the hardest of hard core terrorist but that secure US super max prisons would not be adequate to hold them is simply untrue.

While some GOP members admit that prisoners could be safely held in US facilities, they point out that (liberal) US courts might in fact enforce Constitutional Law and require charging and trials. Hmmm.

It appears everyday that the GOP has morphed into a collection of conservative camps infiltrated by your everyday greedy politicians willing to sell his/her souls for a vote. The GOP has no lofty goals other than dismantling what progressives have built. While working to improve or make more efficient public institutions is a worthwhile pursuit, simply repealing or obstructing is a coward’s approach and leaves no one better off.

The upcoming general election will put in play a lot of GOP Senate seats.  Control of the Senate could return to Democrats.  With the Supreme Court likely balanced between Conservative and Liberal on many issues, the GOP will not win anything long term by delaying acting upon an Obama nomination.  Instead the GOP could lose the White House, the Senate, and ultimately the Supreme Court “activist” majority.

Such an outcome will drive the far right to even further damage the governing process, and I would predict, still unsatisfied, damage it to the point where the GOP breaks apart with a right of center and a far right factions emerging.  This will translate into the end of the modern day Republican Party.  Hmmm.

Government Follies

November 6, 2015

Federal Government carries a large responsibility to serve the people’s interests well.  Regrettably, too many times Congress or the Executive act in ways which are claimed as fact based but upon examination are both politically motivated and even worse, based upon false reasoning. Here are two bi-partisan examples. Representing the GOP is Congress’ repeated attempts to thwart President Obama from closing Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. The Democrats have countered with Keystone XL decision.

The GOP has longed campaigned to keep Guantanamo open and has claimed that these detainees are the worst of the worst, represent an imminent threat to Americans, and it simply is too dangerous to transfer them in US Supermax prisons. There has been much speculation over the GOP rationale. Reason’s provided have been public safety, cost, and why try to fix something that is not broken. Hmmm.

Proponents for closing Guantanamo have said the GOP is really objecting for two reasons. First, the GOP has long opposed closing and does not want to discredit the neoconservative principles that set the detention facility up in the first place. The second reason sadly flows from GOP wishes to say “no” to anything and everything President Obama supports.

There is a sticky problem associated with these detainees. In US Courts, the fact that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods have been used may make it difficult to convict surely “bad” people. For the majority of the remaining detainees, simply charging them with anything credible is very questionable and most likely a reasonable court would consider their detainment unjustified and move to set them free. Would this set a precedent for the worst of the worst too?

One would expect a thinking government would reduce the number of detainees to the lowest number possible. With only the worst of the worst left, close Guantanamo and relocate the remainder in secure US facilities. With the terrorist world having now moved well beyond al Qaeda (like the world has moved beyond Windows 7, 8 and XP), should US Courts rule later for the release of these worst of the worst, what harm could there be?

The Democrats, not wanting to be outdone, have made a sorry joke of the XL decision. The Environmental movement has made XL a test case. The Environmentalist have alleged that building the pipeline is equivalent to endorsing CO2 pollution. Unfortunately, these green advocates appear to not realize the tar sands are in Canada and if the oil produced form these sands does not flow through the XL, Canada can ship it by train (far more dangerous) or move it to the West Coast and export to Asia (where demand remains high).

For a tried and true Environmentalist, the exact argument against building the XL makes little difference.  Lower fossil fuel production is all that counts. For Congress and President Obama, the argument favoring XL should focus on safety and concurrence from Nebraska where the pipeline is to be built.  Safety in the future should be a top concern. For example, if the pipe line were to rupture, what unintended consequences might there be?

Instead we have seen a typical GOP-Democrat food fight with both sides spewing out nonsense. The XL will not make a drop in the bucket with employment (new jobs) nor is it key to America’s energy policy. In fact today the urgency of completing the XL has been overtaken by the new oil fracking has brought to market. Fracking has been so successful that the price of oil has crashed and may not justify actually building XL at this time.

With safety concerns in hand and the State of Nebraska on board (the specific pathway), Federal Government approval should be a foregone conclusion. It appears, however, that President Obama will rule against the XL application on environmental grounds. (thinking ahead to the 2016 election and votes?) Sadly, the Federal Government will have spoken with an erred political tongue and will have once more taught the public how little the Government can be trusted to make sound decisions.

Political Chuckles

September 4, 2015

Today is a slow news day. It is early September just before the Labor Day Weekend. Here’s vignettes to put a smile on your face.

President Obama has just secured enough Senate votes to ensure the GOP cannot override his veto of a promised Congressional resolution aimed at negating the Iran nuclear deal. Kim Davis, the born again christian and County Clerk in Kentucky who refused to obey court orders to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples is behind bars. Tom Brady has prevailed in a court case against the NFL. And there is maybe some light in the possibility of closing Guantanamo. Each of these stories carries some humor that might light up these slow news times.  Hmmm.

The Iran nuclear deal is a reasonably important matter which holds the potential for another Middle East war up to and including the use of nuclear weapons. One would think Congress would be highly motivated to avoid war.  Clearly, Iran, might cheat on the deal’s terms and proceed secretly to develop nuclear weapons. Such a consequence will likely lead to military action. So, wouldn’t a prudent person object to the deal?

Here’s the humor. Iran is just as free today to develop nuclear weapons, do it secretly, and claim profusely it is not. Once the West were to establish Iran had nuclear weapons, guess what, military action could follow. So, how can 100% of Republican Congress members all vote against the deal. Are they unable to see a difference or are they more interested in a political statement against President Obama?

Kim Davis is sadly in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. She has claimed the “laws of God” have provided her the authority to ignore a Federal Court order. While this is both sad and unfortunate for Ms Davis, her custody is offering a wonderful opportunity for panderers like Mike Huckabee. He has endorse her “good” fight and is now planning to visit Davis while she in jail. Huckabee, who is a Presidential candidate and if elected would need to swear he would defend the Constitution and the laws of the land seems to see this one differently. I wonder whether he is trying “Trump” this issue to get his name out, or whether he does not see the connection with Sharia law advocates?

Tom Brady, the NFL New England Patriots’ quarterback, who got the book thrown at him over allegations that he knew about the activities leading to the use of under inflated footballs in a playoff game. NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodall, chose to play the role of arbitrator in a NFL versus NFL players union dispute over Brady’s four game suspension. The Court ruled, in essence, that Goodall violated the terms of the NFL Players Agreement and vacated the penalties Goodall had levied and then ruled as arbitrator as ok. The humor lies in the big Goodall picture. Until the public began hinting they would not buy advertisers’ products, Goodall paid little attention to off-field player behavior. Since getting “religion”, the morality rudderless Goodall has issued one penalty after another that made no consistent sense. The court’s verdict was not a statement of Brady’s innocence, but instead was a slap down for the Commissioner.

Today’s last piece of humor is a variant of the Iran nuclear deal. The GOP has nearly unanimously opposed Guantanamo Detention Center’s closing. The basis, they claim, is they don’t want the remaining “dangerous” detainees moved onto US soil. These detainees were simply too dangerous, the GOP claimed. Once again humor can be seen in (1) seemingly lack of knowledge that US Federal “supermax” prisons hold and have held far more dangerous prisoners, and (2) the “don’t close Guantanamo” seem to lack the very basic awareness that due process is the backbone of American jurisprudence. These Congress members are our lawmakers. Don’t you see the humor?

Admittedly humor might be a stretch in these cases. Hypocrisy might better apply. I see the humor, however, when the subjects come forward, stand tall, and profess to hold certain opinions which are clearly inappropriate if not outrightly incorrect.

Parallel Universes

August 14, 2015

A New York Times article today discussed the Obama Administration’s preparation underway for the President’s upcoming meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping. Not surprisingly the Administration is taking the meeting seriously and the Administration wants to be well prepared. There are trade issues, openness of southeast Asia sea routes, terrorism, cyber security as well as expansion of cultural ties to name a few. Crowded agenda it would appear.

The article, however, focused upon the readiness of President Obama to discuss “human rights”. Hmmm.

Of course human rights are important. One cannot help but wonder, however, why the President of a country which operates Guantanamo Bay detention center where prisoners are held with out charge indefinitely and others who are cleared of charges and still kept imprisoned, can speak to human rights?

The Chinese are dealing with a billion and half citizens and have chosen to impose strict regulations on public displays of dissatisfaction. Anyone who has visited Beijing, Xian, or Shanghai would have found these cities quite fascinating and easy to move around in. Visiting China cannot be confused with cold war era visits to the Soviet Union where “handlers” were assigned to visitors and every effort was made to limit contact with Soviet citizens.

China can certainly make improvements in free speech and the plurality of their political system (China is a one party country). The question is why should anyone expect that a two party China would take a different stance on claiming sovereignty of the South China Sea? Why would a pluralistic China decide to cut defense spending or crack down on cyber activity?

The principles that have worked so well with the US, such as free speech, rule of law, free and open elections, and capitalism should in time be valuable to China too. The Chinese government are competent leaders and will in time find the utility of many of US customs…  when they are ready.  Look at what happened when the US pushed hard for Egypt to adopt democratic elections and imposed a constitution on Iraq.  Unintended consequences.

With the death penalty, Guantanamo, NSA spying, Ferguson, and guns in the hands of just about anyone who wants one, the US ought examine itself before it tries to advise other countries.

Guantanamo Again?

October 10, 2014

President Obama is reported to have asked for another plan to close the Guantanamo Detention Center. Is this another Don Quixote event or will something actually take place? Hmmm.

Congress enacted legislation which effectively prevents the President from moving detainees to US prisons. Congress also requires notification of any planned transfer of detainees to another Country. Many Congress members want Guantanamo to remain open indefinitely and see nothing wrong with holding prisoners without charges or the benefit of a trial. I wonder how these Senators and Representatives did on their high school civics exams?

On every basis, this Congressional position is short sighted and internal inconsistent. Most obviously, US maximum security prisons are more than adequate to house safely anyone currently detained at Guantanamo.

Second, Guantanamo stands for the world to see how hypocritical the US can be about its Constitution, its views on human rights, and other honored historic values.

And, third, Guantanamo represents a crowning accomplishment for American Executive Authority gone wrong. The remaining 145 or so detainees are composed of “the worst of the worst” with some pretty dangerous but far short of the “worst of the worst” detainees.

So what’s wrong with Congress wanting to keep these detainees indefinitely?

One must ask a question first. Why are these specific detainees in custody? Why not others?  Are all the other radicals and extremists we read and hear about in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria (not to mention much of Africa) less dangerous than the ones we are holding at Guantanamo? Hmmm.

Supporters of indefinite detention claim if the Guantanamo detainees were released they would immediately take up arms against the US where ever they could. Hmmm. That is likely a true statement since I think I would be very angry if I had been held captive as long as these detainees have.

But the point here is much more obvious. The 145 or so detainees are a drop in the bucket versus all the other young potential recruits waiting to join the “jihad”. Logic would lead one quickly to cutting ones losses and sending the detainees back to their country of origin or simply put these detainees on trial. So why hasn’t it happened?

Military commissions or civil courts all present the same hurdle. What is admissible evidence? Enhanced interrogation, short hand for water boarding and torture, apparently taints most of the important evidence. Civil courts would most likely recognize a writ of habeas corpus and would not accept evidence gained by torture. Hello… these are values which each of us would want were we detained.

The Congressional objection to closing Guantanamo results from first and foremost a desire to not litigate enhanced interrogation. For sure there are Congress Members who think they are singing to the choir by taking a tough public position on not closing Guantanamo. Any logical public discussion, however, would reveal a faulty and self serving argument.

Its time to close Guantanamo.

The Job Undone

October 18, 2011

Guantanamo Detention Facility stands as a living testimony to wrong headed thinking.  Sweeping up people who the government felt were criminals and then placing them in incarceration might have been straight forward were this facility in any of the 50 States.  Following the 5th and 6th Amendments, courts could have tried these detainees and sentenced them as appropriate under the law.  But that was not good enough.

These detainees were called “unlawful enemy combatants” and with that statement, the US Constitution was swept aside.  These detainees were for the most part not American citizens, therefore why should they enjoy protections afforded by the Constitution, the government reasoned.

Some argue that in war it is necessary to take prisoners after a battle and sequester them for the duration of fighting.  But who is an unlawful enemy combatant, and how are they different from Taliban?  Why do we not ship every Taliban we capture to Guantanamo?

The answers lie in the difficulty governments have in admitting mistakes.

In the early days of the Afghan war, the US not only detained people, they sort those picked up by other countries.  The purpose was to extract intelligence, not to keep these people from fighting.  One might say so what until we take the next step and realize that gaining intelligence actually meant torture.

Today the lucky residents of Guantanamo are said to be the worst of the worst.  These people are so bad that even if courts or military commissions were to find them innocent, they could not be released.  Has anyone read the Constitution?

Guantanamo represents the dark side of America.  It is, however, there.  Keeping it there as if nothing is wrong promotes the US decay from within.  Guantanamo is third world at its best.

Charge, try, convict, or release.  Now.

Where’s The Shame?

September 27, 2009

Obama Administration officials are saying that the deadline to close Guantanamo Detention Facility will not be met. The reason given was that there was not enough time to complete a careful review of each case. What do they think we are smoking?

Almost all the detainees have been in Guantanamo (or detention someplace) for over 5 years and many for 7 years. Do we not have a legal tradition of a “timely presentation of charges and subsequent trail”? Do we not have a tradition of enacting laws that apply to US citizens around the world? How then could any Justice Department allow individuals to be detained for 7 years and authorities not have an open and shut case to justify this detention?

The devastation of 9/11, for sure, caught the Bush Administration off guard. This Administration loved to wear its religious values on its sleeves and was understandably at a loss when a radical and religious group, citing authority from the great one in the sky (the same location of the Bush higher authority), could and would do so much damage. In an effort to eliminate this threat, and possibly to settle the score with the “higher authority” impostors, the Bush Administration encouraged the round up of as many radicals as they could find. Like so many other things the Bush people did, step one was accomplished without any idea what would be step two.

That is water over the damn so to speak. President Obama inherited Guantanamo and it is on his watch that it should be closed. There are undoubtably some very dysfunctional people there, and we are probably better off with them in detention. The only criteria should be a reason supported by evidence. No evidence, no detention. Other wise the shame will continue and the values of America’s past will be done a continuing disservice.

Cheney’s Presidency

December 16, 2008

As historians sit poised to begin the detailed accounting of the Bush 43 years as President of the United States, they will find the real history in recounting who was the real power and who’s words, thoughts, and deeds were the moving force behind the Office of the President.  It would be none other than Dick Cheney.

A lot of people would have given credit to Karl Rove if the real power were not that of George W Bush himself.  To some extent Rove was a power, but his power was reserved for the gutter and the political favor business.  All important matters of State including security were the domain of Dick Cheney.  His shadow “White House” had its own intelligence effort and routed all important decision through the Office of the Vice President before letting them go on to “W”.  While Karl was waiting to trip you in the gutter, Dick waited in the dark alley way.

In recent interviews with ABC news, Cheney confirmed that he remained dead set against closing Guantanamo and had been (and still was) supportive of the enhanced interrogation techniques (read water boarding and disregard for the Geneva Convention) used by the CIA.  On the other hand, “W”, the man with no strong opinions, has recently expressed regret about Guantanamo and said he would like to see it closed.

Chaney is a modern day Captain Queeg who will stick to his beliefs until the end.  Were his beliefs a little more enlightened, that quality would be a mark of distinction and not a mark of shame.  The Cheney doctrine (the all powerful executive branch) has been shown to be both misguided and dangerous when left to real humans.  Maybe it would work with a benevolent (and wise) dictator but Dick Cheney was neither of those and “W” was too busy with jogging, biking, and having his picture taken to do the work to actually be the President.

As historians write, I hope there will be a special commission (later followed by a special prosecutor) working along side the historians.  Then history can record that a former President and his Vice President were charged and convicted of crimes against humanity and other specific crimes against the laws of the United States.  

So, What’s Next II

April 11, 2008

Let’s revisit the NEW policy that any of the Presidential candidates will need to adopt if there is to be an end to the mess called Iraq.  In my recent posting “So, What’s Next”, I listed 6 elements of a new policy and in this post, I would like to elaborate why each is important.   My elaboration is in italics.

        1. International support based upon a new and more cooperative, non-unilateralist view of the world.

The strongest link to the rationale for invading Iraq (without sanction from the UN) is found in the unilateralist declaration of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) issued in 1998.  Such household names as Richard Pearl, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, and good old boy Dick Cheney were signatories.  This document blatantly proposes that America has the power and it should use it to make the world the way it sees proper.  Without assigning other potential reasons for the invasion (like Israeli lobbying or the simple greed for oil), the NPAC idea of promoting democracy through pre-emptive wars is not a doctrine endorsed by the UN or for that matter a majority of other countries.

If we want to begin to take the finances and wealth (form munitions sales) out of the conflict, we will need an International agreement to curtail these activities.  Without a repudiation of NPAC by the next President and a call for International cooperation, there will be no sensible path forward.

2. A recognized “honest broker” approach to the entire Middle East.

From day one with the Bush Administration, the US policy in the Middle East was Israel – yes, Arabs – no.  The Saudis were ok since they had oil.  The Palestinians were forgotten and when convenient, were blamed.  The Israelis were allowed to build walls, erect barriers and check points, and to possess of land well within the Palestinian lands.  There was little or no effort by the State Department in finding a peaceful solution and the President’s heavy schedule of mountain biking and jogging simply did not permit him to become personally involved.

The continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict allows all Arabs to play the victim role and enables the more radical elements to do what any other policitical faction does… seek the remaining wealth of the land.  A settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian question will isolate the other conflicts (between Arabs) and enable a broader settlement.

3. A serious national policy to develop alternative energy sources that will reduce green house gases and cut our dependence on foreign oil by 50%.

I believe the fundamental drivers behind PNAC (or at least the White House gang) was oil.  There were two strategic purposes, first to obtain sufficient supplies that gasoline for the US could be plentiful and stable in price, and second, to deny or limit the access to oil for China and India so that the US could influence both their foreign and domestic policies.  Just doing the numbers tells you that the Chinese and Indians with a combined 2 1/2 billion people will sop up all the oil in short order.

The US must acknowledge this and rapidly move onto an economy that is not strapped down by foreign oil.  Eliminating this strangle hold will open wide our foreign policy options.  The Middle East is a big zero in our worldly needs and will be a threat only to those that remain fossil fuel bound.

4. Closure of Guantanamo and the return of all prisoners to their home countries unless they are transfered to US courts and tried under US law.  There can be no secret evidence or witnesses.

Guantanamo is a very sad chapter in American history when the President and his Adminstration should how cowardly they really were.  These are men who sought “deferments” or cushy (and protected) National Guard assignments rather than serve in the Vietnam War.  These “chicken hawks” freely sent other citizens children off to Iraq but did not do the same for either themselves or their children.  From these unpatriotic heros has come the disgraces of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and enhanced interrogation.  American history and values have been based upon due process and respect for human dignity.

Until Guantanamo is closed and the prisoners are either freed or processed in American courts, and there is a full return to the principles of the Geneva Convention, America will always be suspect in any negotiations to settle differences in the Middle East.

5. The mission of US troops in Iraq must be changed with a eventual withdrawal in mind.  Whether it is training or simply peace keeping, the scope of the mission must be reduced.

In parallel with points 1-4, the President must announce a new mission for American troops.  We must renounce any “occupation” status and adopt a training or ready stand by posture.  We must signal that our combat role is finished and will fire only if fired upon.

6. Careful thought must be given to separating the country into three parts (Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite) with an imposed split of oil revenues.  (The idea is that these groups will fight for their oil anyways but if they are already assured some split (plus foreign investment incentives), they might not fight so hard for more.

The final exit strategy is unknowable at this point.  The main Shiite and Sunni factions could decide to live side by side, or they could decide the spoils were still unevenly divided.  In the path where fighting continues and political compromise is not forthcoming, the US should look to a “soft divide” into three states within a state concept.  The Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Shiites would each control about a third.  Oil revenues, however would be shared on some basis (probably a third each).  It is possible that in setting up this 3 State approach, Iran and Saudi Arabia might conclude that they should encourage more compromise ahead of this type of step.  In any case, no movement, then 3 States.

These 6 points are all necessary to cleanse outselves of the stench created by Bush and Cheney, and to convince the other parties that the new US foreign policy is NEW.  If the next President rejects such an approach, we will be discussing this again during the 2012 election campaign.