Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Home Of The Not-So-Brave

Shuttering Guantanamo Bay has proved far more difficult than President Obama had anticipated. The most visible symbol of the shameful behavior of the United States under the Bush administration remains open because of the fear mongering of those who refuse to acknowledge just how deeply our national honor was stained in the name of "security." Oh, those fear mongers don't mind if other countries are stupid enough to take in those men who have been beaten and tortured and held for years under bogus unspecified charges. Let other countries take the "risk," but don't expect this country to accept them.

What is so shameful about this cowardice is that a lot of it is coming from members of Congress. In May, the Senate voted 90-6 to block the transfer of any Guantanamo Bay detainees to the US. 90-6: that's some powerful bipartisanship, no?

Some real warriors were stung by the cowardice. As reported in the Washington Post, a group of retired US military officers have openly challenged the fear-mongers:

A group of retired senior military officers on Tuesday backed the Obama administration's troubled effort to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, saying that those who oppose transferring detainees to the United States for trial are engaging in fear-mongering.

At a forum on Capitol Hill, the retired generals and admirals argued that shuttering the facility in Cuba is in the strategic interest of the United States because it will destroy a potent propaganda and recruitment tool used by terrorists.

But, they said, the president's goal has nearly been overwhelmed by fear and misinformation.

"It appears to us that a campaign to ratchet up fear has taken off," John D. Hutson, a retired Navy rear admiral and former judge advocate general, said ahead of the forum, which was organized by Human Rights First, a New York-based advocacy group.

Added Hutson: "We believe the people going to be prosecuted are not warriors. They are criminals and thugs. . . . We ought to be using the criminal justice system."

Of course, if on 9/12/01 we had taken the approach suggested by Rear Admiral Hutson against the criminals and thugs who attacked the US, President Bush wouldn't have been able to get his war on, first in Afghanistan (the prelude to the war he really wanted) and then in Iraq (the war he really wanted), and President Obama wouldn't have been able to adopt the war in Afghanistan as his very own display of manliness. Hundreds of billions of dollars wouldn't have poured into the coffers of private contractors and the military industrial complex instead of into the US economy in general.

Instead, we went with the fear factor and we continue to do so, completely unmindful of what it is doing to our reputation as a nation of laws, and ignoring the dangers of the consequences of such unmindfullness.

Even the 'center-left' editorial board of the Los Angeles Times acknowledges the need to end this cowardly behavior with respect to Gitmo:

Shuttering Guantanamo is essential to restoring the United States' image abroad. But it cannot be done unless those prisoners who can't be released are housed elsewhere. If this country doesn't take its share of detainees, how can it lecture other countries about their responsibility to help? In criticizing the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policy, Obama rightly said that "too often our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight." That is precisely what Congress must not do with Guantanamo.

I suggest we send several cartons of Depends to the 111th Congress and urge them to exercise their spines a little. It would do them and the rest of us a world of good.

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