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Monday, March 26, 2007

The Failure of Guantanamo

More proof that the president's a stubborn ass. Despite being told by pretty much everyone that the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was a bad idea, Bush refused -- and continues to refuse -- to shut it down.

New York Times:

In his first weeks as defense secretary, Robert M. Gates repeatedly argued that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had become so tainted abroad that legal proceedings at Guantanamo would be viewed as illegitimate, according to senior administration officials. He told President Bush and others that it should be shut down as quickly as possible.

Mr. Gates's appeal was an effort to turn Mr. Bush's publicly stated desire to close Guantanamo into a specific plan for action, the officials said. In particular, Mr. Gates urged that trials of terrorism suspects be moved to the United States, both to make them more credible and because Guantanamo's continued existence hampered the broader war effort, administration officials said.

Mr. Gates's arguments were rejected after Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and some other government lawyers expressed strong objections to moving detainees to the United States, a stance that was backed by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, administration officials said.

We already knew that Cheney is freakin' evil and Gonzales isn't looking like a Boy Scout either. So, of course, those are the people The Decider decides to listen to. Alberto Gonzales' poor judgement is becoming more apparent every day and what the hell has Dick Cheney been right about since taking the office of Vice President? Why does anyone listen to these guys anymore?

The New York Times Editorial Board comes to a distrubing conclusion -- that Guantanamo doesn't exist to serve the 'War on Terror,' but merely to expand the president's power.

Mr. Bush rejected that sound advice [to close Guantanamo], heeding instead the chief enablers of his worst instincts, Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Their opposition was no surprise. The Guantanamo operation was central to Mr. Cheney's drive to expand the powers of the presidency at the expense of Congress and the courts, and Mr. Gonzales was one of the chief architects of the policies underpinning the detainee system. Mr. Bush and his inner circle are clearly afraid that if Guantanamo detainees are tried under the actual rule of law, many of the cases will collapse because they are based on illegal detention, torture and abuse -- or that American officials could someday be held criminally liable for their mistreatment of detainees.

It was distressing to see that the president has retreated so far into his alternative reality that he would not listen to Mr. Gates -- even when he was backed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who, like her predecessor, Colin Powell, had urged Mr. Bush to close Guantanamo. It seems clear that when he brought in Mr. Gates, Mr. Bush didn't want to fix Mr. Rumsfeld's disaster; he just wanted everyone to stop talking about it.

It has always been part of the neocon dream to rebuild the world. Part of that rebuilding was 'restoring' executive power. That's what the warrantless wiretaps are about, that's what building huge databases is about, that's what Guantanamo's about. None of this stuff actually accomplishes anything -- terrorism trials are extremely rare. The entire purpose of doing these things is to prove that the president can do these things.

And how's that been working for him? Look at the testimony of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- who takes any of that seriously? He's claiming resposibility for just about every damned terrorist act ever committed. No one doubts he's been tortured, so no one believes anything he says. The very fact that he's been tortured renders him unbelievable. It's served no purpose and undermines our legitimacy.

Keeping Guantanamo open is just one of the many, many mistakes that Bush and company has made. But, unlike the Iraq War, this can be undone. We close Gitmo, put people before legitimate courts of law, and let the system that's worked for over 200 years work again.

It's a great plan, but there's one hitch -- the president's a stubborn ass. He'll never close Guantanamo, because that would imply that it was a mistake. Just like the warrentless wiretaps which have led to zero prosecutions, Guantanamo exists only because the president believes he has the ability to make it exist. It serves no other purpose.

Like the wiretaps, Gitmo is a failure.


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