President Obama and Guantanamo Bay
A Seismic Shift
A seismic shift occurred this past week. President Obama signed an executive order closing the Guantanamo Bay facility as it relates to the detainee program and halting the military tribunals of said detainees. Not only that, but a strict limit on interrogation techniques has been imposed on our front line personnel engaged in the war on terror via the Army Field Manual.
The genesis of this can be found in the reactions we all heard primarily from the left in this country-and from many around the world-to "torture" and its use on detainees at GITMO. Of course "torture" is a matter of definition and we live in a world where some consider isolation and loud rock music as torture. This is patently ridiculous to any thinking individual and should be dismissed out of hand.
Not quite so clear is the issue of water-boarding. We have heard discussion about this technique ad-nauseum. Reporters have shown us diagrams and re-enactments and I even saw one intrepid FOX News individual volunteer to experience it first hand. Well obviously not as pleasant as a stroll on the beach, no harm is done and the water-boardee emerges a little wet ( probably not wishing to repeat the experience ) after revealing intelligence that helps our front-liners save lives. And if you believe the contemporary reporting, we have only used this technique 3 times-once with arch-9/11 terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad. Considering the number of individuals detained, it is clear we are a judicious user of said procedure.
What gets lost in most reporting on this is a direct comparison of pouring water on someone's head to simulate drowning with no lasting effect to what anyone with a cursory reading of history would recognize as torture. Some of the things that come to mind include the burning of one's skin with lit cigarettes, the use of cattle prods, electrical shock to the sensitive parts of the body, the severing of digits, limbs and tongues, the gouging of eyes, and the ever-so-popular "tossing off the roof" employed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq and, no doubt, many other despot regimes around the world.
I am not a politician nor a journalist. I am not a lawyer nor do I have an ivy league education. I am, however, an airline pilot who reads extensively about current events and cares deeply about the security of his country. Above all, I consider myself a thinker and I am thinking about this!
It is very clear to me that the United States does not employ torture. Yet last week's executive orders assume we do. This is disturbing on many levels. I would like to explore the one that bothers me the most.
FOX News Water Boarding Demonstration
Guantanamo Bay Detainee Detention FacilityClick thumbnail to view full-size
Osama Bin Laden Weighs In
" .......After leaving Afghanistan, the muslim fighters headed for Somalia and prepared for a long battle, thinking that the Americans were like the Russians. The youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers and realized more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat........"
As I thought about these executive orders, the above quote immediately came to mind. They are the words of Osama Bin Laden spoken to ABC's John Miller in his now famous May 1988 interview in the mountains of southern Afghanistan. Less than two months later our embassies in East Africa were bombed by Al Qaeda. Approximately 250 people were killed and 5100 injured.
In Somalia we did run. We gave up. We surrendered if you will. We willfully weakened our position. Bin Laden plainly noted this, as evidenced from the above quote, and plainly thought it was important enough to discuss with an American news reporter. It is quite apparent to me that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda derived a sense of strength from our withdrawal. They perceived it as victory.
Whether or not this perception is accurate matters not. What matters is that they did in fact perceive it as victory and they were empowered by it. I don't think its a stretch to at least partially link the subsequent embassy bombings with this additional sense of empowerment and it may even be true that a "kick-em-while-they-are-down" attitude was the primary ignition source for both attacks!
Al Qaeda and Bin Laden et al seem to be similar to the world's preeminent predator-the shark. They lurk in the shadows; holding back until the most opportune time to attack; circling. Their prey know that the sharks are there but they remain just out of sight. They can sense the growing weakness and just when the time is right and their defense slips-the attack occurs. It is vicious, quick and very successful. If only the poor fish had a steel cage surrounding it or a shark fisherman nearby watching and ready with his speargun.
When I combine the mentality of our personified sharks with the Clintonian doctrine of fighting terrorism in the courts, a pattern emerges that repeats itself beginning with World Trade Center bombing number one and culminates in 9/11 with a few thrown in between for good measure. It is clear to me that you can't fight terror effectively in a court of law. It might look good on paper but in this case you have to fight fire with fire. Its a dirty job-and it works.
President Bush was confronted with a major fire on 9/11 and faced two options. He could have issued another warrant for Bin Laden's arrest and waited for him to dutifully turn himself in to one of our courts or he could have fought fire with fire. We should be thankful and fortunate over his choice. Just as the relationship between Somalia and Kenya and Tanzania is clear, so is Bush's pro-active lethal strength-enhancing approach and the fact that I don't have to list another couple of cities here is. It is true that attacks have occurred in Europe and Asia and the the Middle east-but not here. Say what you want about Bush but his comprehensive anti-terror strategy worked and has kept us safe. Strengthened border entry requirements, FISA, inter-agency cooperation and, of course, GITMO have all been essential components. There are others. Our war-fighters on duty around the clock all over the world are, of course, the critical component; but they are not the focus of my thinking here.
Legalism versus fighting is. The very first thing President Obama felt he had to do upon assuming office was to close GITMO. The end result of which will most likely be a transfer of detainees to American mainland prisons and ensuing trials in American courts with well-funded American lawyers fighting for their "clients". OJ walked free. When you combine this with the talk of "rethinking FISA", and prosecuting those who worked at GITMO or wiretapping, a familiar pattern is emerging.
The Clinton Terror Doctrine
"........History repeats itself........."
I hope it doesn't in this case but I am concerned that it will. GITMO is an unfortunate reality of the new world we live in. Unfortunate and necessary at the same time. It's resolution won't be forthcoming from me, but I fear that one day soon I will be watching TV and freed detainees found "not guilty" on technicalities will be walking out of American courthouses for all the world to see and it will be perceived as victory once again by the sharks. In fact, I can't help but wondering if a certain tall man with a graying beard and an AK-47 propped up against the wall isn't watching CNN right now as a smile forms on his tan face.
A seismic shift in the fight on terrorism has occurred and I don't take the word "seismic" lightly. Then again what do I know?
Favorite Books On This Topic
Inside detail. The real story.
The Somalia story. The movie came from this book.
An alternate view from the UK
- Guantanamo | Human Rights Watch
- What's next for Guantanamo Bay detainees? - CNN.com
Will intelligence agencies be able to get the information they need?
- GITMO's Own Newspaper
Newspaper site published by GITMO naval base.
- Canada a desired location for Guantanamo Bay detainees
Organizations and private individuals are being urged to consider sponsoring Guantanamo Bay detainees for resettlement in Canada, one of the desired destinations.
- Guantanamo Bay detention camp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Prisons That Could House Detainees
An AP article on where the detainees may go.
- Guantanamo Bay [GTMO] "GITMO"
Great description of the facility itself complete with some pictures.
- Goodbye Guantanamo Bay
- Obama Does A Clinton
An article on the President's decision.