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Monday, January 26, 2009

Gitmo's Closing, Everybody Panic!

Now that Barack Obama has signed an executive order to close the detention facility (read "prison camp") at Guantánamo Bay, one thing is becoming clear -- we're all going to freakin' die. Depending on which right wing nut you ask, the president will have no choice but to move at least one deadly terrorist into either your bedroom or your closet. We are doomed.

Writing for the Center for American Progress, blogger Matthew Yglesias helpfully lays out the arguments being advanced by talking heads in the media. Unfortunately for those same talking heads, he translates the arguments from BS into English:

-The fact that the Bush administration has let dangerous terrorists go free means Obama should keep innocent people detained.

-The fact that the Bush administration screwed up the paperwork on detainees shows that there was more wisdom to Bush’s policies than Obama acknowledged on the campaign trail.

-Obama’s promise of change was empty and hypocritical because it will take time to implement his executive orders.

-The “Guantánamo” issue is primarily about the physical location of the facility rather than the legal status or treatment of the detainees.

-Since many liberals live in San Francisco, anyone who thinks it would be ill-advised to transfer prisoners to a museum in the San Francisco Bay that hasn’t been a prison for decades is a hypocrite.

When you put it that way -- i.e., in plain English -- the arguments don't look so good. No fair using logic, because reality has a liberal bias.

But the argument that's being thrown around the most is that released detainees are "returning to the battlefield." This isn't so much true. The Pentagon has claimed that 61 detainees have "returned to the fight," but can't confirm that number. In fact, of those 61, 43 are "suspected" of terrorist activities.

"[T]hey’ve failed to identify names, numbers, dates, times, places, or acts upon which their report relies. Every time they have been required to identify the parties, the DOD has been forced to retract their false IDs and their numbers," wrote Mark Denbeaux of Seton Hall Law School. "They have included people who have never even set foot in Guantánamo—much less were they released from there. They have counted people as 'returning to the fight' for their having written an Op-ed piece in the New York Times and for their having appeared in a documentary exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival. The DOD has revised and retracted their internally conflicting definitions, criteria, and their numbers so often that they have ceased to have any meaning—except as an effort to sway public opinion by painting a false portrait of the supposed dangers of these men."

So writing for the New York Times or being interviewed for a documentary is terrorism. Someone arrest William Kristol immediately. He obviously plans to kill us all.

Also ignored is the unfortunate fact that the Guantánamo prison has done nothing to reduce terrorism in the world. In fact, it's had the opposite effect.

Agence France-Presse:

A US closure of Guantánamo Bay could deprive militants of a major propaganda tool and help Pakistan in the fight against extremism, analysts said Sunday.

Opened in January 2002 after the United States invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime for sheltering Al-Qaeda, the prison detained hundreds of alleged militants without judicial review.

As the United States sought to fend off accusations that tactics at Guantánamo amounted to torture, the prison became fodder for militants who used its imagery to capture young minds and recruit volunteers to drive extremist attacks.


Pictures of open-air cages, inmates wearing orange jumpsuits with black bags over their heads and testimony from ex-prisoners about ill-treatment made Guantánamo a symbol of the worst excesses in the US-led "war on terror".

Worse, many of the people we put there weren't terrorists. These people developed an understandably poor opinion of the United States while they were in our torture camp. Far from keeping us safer, Gitmo has been a terrorist recruitment center.

"A McClatchy investigation found that instead of confining terrorists, Guantánamo often produced more of them by rounding up common criminals, conscripts, low-level foot soldiers and men with no allegiance to radical Islam — thus inspiring a deep hatred of the United States in them — and then housing them in cells next to radical Islamists," Wrote McClatchy Newspapers' Tom Lasseter in June of 2008. "The radicals were quick to exploit the flaws in the U.S. detention system."

How many of these terrorists "returning to the battlefield" are actually fighting for the first time? It may be impossible to know. But we do know that more terrorists have come out of Gitmo than have gone in. Lasseter calls it a "school for Jihad." Guantánamo is having exactly the opposite of its intended effect. It doesn't reduce terrorism, it increases it -- either by giving terrorist organizations a propaganda tool or by radicalizing non-terrorist detainees.

In the end, there is no good reason to keep Guantánamo open. None of the arguments in favor of it are any good and all of the arguments in favor of closure are sound and reality-based.

If you still feel the need for something to freak out about, then freak out about the fact that Gitmo's still operating. Every day it exists increases terrorism in the world.