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Whither Gitmo – What Are the Risks of Closing Guantanamo?

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gitmo - where america creates the terrorist role models of the future

Among the many black marks on the Bush Administration will be the following; they sure were talented at getting us into jams we couldn’t get out of. Iraq, and Afghanistan are top of the list, but just below them is Gitmo. Opened at a time when Bush and the neo-cons really did think that the War on Terror was going to be a real live war with stacks of POWs, the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay was to put it mildly a total and utter disaster. Bush is clearing Cedar brush back in Crawford, but like a bad dream, Gitmo is still there, yet another piece of heavy luggage that the new President’s got to haul around with him.

Obama is rightly dedicated to totally overhauling America’s image abroad, especially in the Muslim world. And a big blot on relations with Arab countries is Guantanamo. So it would seem to be a no brainer to shut the damn place as quickly as possible. The President wants the doors closed on that particular PR nightmare within a year. Nice idea. Very nice idea.

There’s only one slight problem. It’s not going to work.

The issue isn’t all the serious Al Qaeda terrorists. They’re Supermax bound and so they should be, regardless of the whines of those states that may end up housing them for decades to come. The problem is the guys that are innocent or those whose cases will be incredibly hard to prove in court – which is just about everyone who’s been holed up in the damn place for the last few years. Of course, the right PR move is to let these guys go with a big “sorry for the inconvenience” check and consign the Gitmo experiment to history. The wrong PR move would be, well anything short of that. Unfortunately, what we do with Gitmo should not be dictated by Public Relations, even though that’s the clear intent of shutting the place.

The reason for not being so hasty on Gitmo is simple. Most of the guys we locked up in there may have been innocent when they went in, but they sure won’t be feeling too innocent when they get out. Each of these men, even if they were just peasants, taxi drivers or rag-tag recruits when they got swept up in Afghanistan or Yemen, are now living martyrs to the Al Qaeda cause, and will be feted and lauded as heroes. Add to that the fact that they’re going to be very, very pissed off, and if we release them we might just be handing Al Qaeda the best source of new leadership and inspiration they’ve had for years. That infusion of morale and cohesion for Al Qaeda would simply not be worth the PR benefits of shutting our little Cuban motel.

If he’d kept silent on Gitmo, Obama would have been under tremendous pressure to shut the place, but despite the barrage it would have been wiser to stall rather than set such an onerous deadline which many in the International Community will use as a club to beat us with. The clock is now ticking on what to with the radicalized cadre that we could be setting loose. The choices are not pretty. Weaken our push for the rejuvenation of our International reputation and our adherence to constitutional principles and international law on the one hand, or hand the bad guys a gift on the other.

Bush handed Obama an impossible situation, but he let his principles get the better of him, and called for shutting down Gitmo, without really considering the consequences. The President is a principled man who’s loathe to go back on his promises. We can only hope that delaying closure of Gitmo until a solution is found to releasing innocent prisoners is the exception that proves the rule.

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Written by coolrebel

February 26, 2009 at 10:08 pm

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