Sunday, January 25, 2009
The Club Gitmo Fumble
President Obama has made a number of questionable decisions in the last five days,but one of the most potentially far reaching involves his decision to close the tropical resort we run for Islamist terrorists known as Club Gitmo, and to order the CIA to close all of its secret facilities where jihadis are being held.
A number of his fans in the dinosaur media have characterized this as officially 'ending the war on terror'. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Club Gitmo was an answer,if an imperfect one, to a knotty problem of the Bush Administration's own making. After 9/11, President Bush refused to mobilize the nation properly and do what the circumstances called for - asking Congress for a declaration of war against al-Qaeda, it's allied organizations and any nations found harboring or abetting it in the jihad against America. And no, a rinky-dink 'authorization to use force' was not nearly the same thing, as any Constitutional law expert would tell you.
Because the president shirked that Constitutional duty, it meant that virtually every aspect of the War on Jihad had to be resold to the American people and an increasingly hostile and partisan congress,which led to a number of problems and hampered our war effort significantly.
One of those problems was what to do with enemy combatants caught on the field of battle.Had the Decider done what he was supposed to, they would simply have been POWs who could be legally held until the end of hostilities.Instead, they wound up in legal limbo, because since they weren't POWs, they needed to be criminally charged in order to be legally held. Which is why the jihadis who sued the government for habeus corpus to make the Bush Administration justify their continued captivity with actual criminal charges were actually on to something.
In order to press charges and get a conviction in court, the feds needed to compile evidence, much of which was highly classified and then turn it over to the jihadis and their lawyers in discovery prior to the trial. Since the Bush Administration was understandably reluctant to do that,things stayed in legal limbo as these cases percolated through the American justice system on appeals.
Finally, at the point where the courts were going to order the Bush Administration to either show cause for the incarceration of these jihadis or release them, the Bush Administration came up with the idea of using military tribunals to try these cases, which was probably the best idea left standing in view of the earlier screwup of not calling these scum POWs in the first place.
Even at that, a number of the guests at Club Gitmo were simply kicked loose, which meant that many of them went right back to al-Qaeda and fighting the infidels. Most conservative estimates are that at least 60% of the jihadis graduated from Club Gitmo simply went back to war against us.
Club Gitmo and 'secret torture prisons' became a major talking point of the Angry Left and the Democrats in the last election cycle,and it was to be expected that President Obama would toss this raw meat to the base as soon as possible, although characteristically, he left himself a whole lot of wiggle room just in case.
The problem is that Obama's executive order doesn't solve diddly squat.We still have the same basic problem...what are we going to do with these people and with any future jihadis we catch, say if Obama decides to ramp up things in Afghanistan?
Right now, we really have very few options.
We can simply cut all of them loose, which goes along with the EU take on things and means that a number of our enemies will have lived to fight another day, while still others, like the Chinese Muslim Uighers or the Russian Chechens will simply be met at the plane, subjected to a real interrogation and then executed. It will also provide a lot of legal oomph for the lawyers of American traitors like John Walker Lindh who will argue that their client is being discriminated against and should be freed. Especially since we aren't in a declared war.
Or we can continue to hold them,perpetuating the same fuzzy logic of the Bush Administration. But since Obama has given the orders for Club Gitmo and similar facilities to be shut down, that means they'll be held in the continental United States.
Aside from the danger of escape (minimal but not out of the realm of possibility), the chief problem with holding them in the US is that any area where they're being held is going to become a target for al-Qaeda or for jihadi wannabes here in America,and Americans abroad could become kidnapping targets in an attempt to free the al-Qaeda prisoners.
Some jokesters have suggested that the jihadis be held in the West Wing, or in San Francisco ( where they'd probably be greeted by the mayor and a ticker tape parade), but this is not a problem that is going to go away.
Since Obama and the Democrats obviously aren't going to do the right thing and declare these people POWs, Club Gitmo and the military tribunals was probably the next best thing. By shutting that mechanism down, President Obama has made his first major national security blunder.
Increasingly, it looks like the inmates have taken over the asylum in DC.