American Elephants


The Progressive Gitmo Myth. by The Elephant's Child

guantanamo_protest_cc_img5When I had just finished the last post on Guantanamo Bay, I ran across a post last year, from Hoover fellow Bruce Thornton, entitled “The Progressive Gitmo Myth.” He added several points that are especially pertinent. Do read the whole thing.

For Obama’s liberal base, Gitmo has been part of a larger narrative of American tyranny, particularly George Bush’s alleged lawlessness in waging an “illegal” and “unnecessary” war in Iraq. Once Howard Dean’s anti-war presidential primary insurgency took off after the war began in 2003, mainstream Democrats began endorsing the far-left “Bush lied” analysis of the war that John Edwards, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton had voted for based on the same intelligence that led to the Bush administration’s decision. With the anti-war movement providing the visuals for television news, the left’s distorted history of Vietnam was resurrected to provide the template for the war in Iraq, particularly the charge that the Bush administration had lied about Hussein’s WMDs, just as Lyndon Johnson had allegedly fabricated the Gulf of Tonkin incident to justify escalating U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Soon the whole litany of American militarist evils was applied to Iraq and the war against terrorists and their enablers. Torture, illegal detention, and abuse of prisoners were staples of that catalogue, and for leftists Gitmo fit the bill.

Soon we were hearing that Gitmo was a “gulag,” “the Bermuda Triangle of human rights,” a “shocking affront to democracy,” and a “national disgrace.” The New York Times, paying heed to charges by detainees trained to lie, said Guantanamo exemplified “harsh, indefinite detention without formal charges or legal recourse” and recalled “the Soviet Union’s sprawling network of Stalinist penal colonies.” Such hysteria, of course, has no basis in fact.

In 2004, a report by Albert T. Church III concluded, “We can confidentially state that based upon our investigation, we found nothing that would in any way substantiate detainees’ allegations of torture or violent physical abuse at GTMO.” Almost all the interrogations at Gitmo were conducted according to the Army Field Manual approved by Obama himself. Conditions for the prisoners at Gitmo far outstrip those in most prisons, including in the United States. Jihadists involved in planning, aiding, and participating in the murders of Americans can play sports, work out on gym equipment, hang out with their comrades, learn English, take art lessons, peruse a library of 14,000 Arab-language books, and view satellite television, including Al Jazeera. They get first-class health care and nutrition, and their food is prepared according to halal standards of ritual purity––all that good grub has led to the “Gitmo gut.” Islamic holidays are respected, Korans handled by guards with delicate care, magazines censored to remove images disturbing to pious Muslims, and arrows painted on the floors pointing to Mecca to guide the prisoners in their daily prayers. Rush Limbaugh is justified in calling Guantánamo “Club Gitmo.”

Yet despite these facts, the myth has arisen that the existence of Gitmo, as the Wall Street Journal summarized liberal thinking, “symbolizes prisoner abuse, serving as a propaganda tool for extremists and complicating counterterrorism efforts with allies.” The incoherence of this argument points to the larger problems of American foreign policy in dealing with jihadism.

Goodness, if everybody doesn’t love us, there must be something really terrible about America. We really don’t need to give a bunch of terrorists the constitutional rights enjoyed by American citizens, nor the pro bono legal counsel. They will be back to beheading their enemies directly.



Guantanamo: Myths, Propaganda, and The Consequences of Progressive Politics. by The Elephant's Child

BN-LD124_2gitmo_M_20151105184452Under the Obama administration, the Democrats have lost 900 state legislature seats, 12 more states are now governed by Republicans, Congress now has 69 more Republican House seats, and 13 more Republican Senate seats. That’s Obama’s legacy. Normally, when Congress has turned against the president’s programs, the president will seek to cooperate more, or at least consult, with the other party in recognition of the intent of the people.

Obama, on the other hand, has determined that he’s going to show the people just who’s the boss and govern by executive orders and memos. When Obama released Taliban who were being held at Gitmo in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, he sent them to Qatar, for the Qataris to manage. He said:

We will be keeping eyes on them. Is there the possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely. That’s been true of all the prisoners that were released from Guantanamo. There is a certain rate that takes place.

I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought it was contrary to the American national security and we have confidence that we will be in a position to go after them if, in fact, they are engaging in activities that threaten our defenses. But this is what happens at the end of wars. That was true for George Washington, that was true for Abraham Lincoln, that was true for FDR. That has true for every combat situation, that at some point you make sure that you try to get your folks back, and that’s the right thing to do.

The Editorial Board at Bloomberg remarked that “It may come as a surprise to Barack Obama that the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces does not necessarily get to decide when a war is over.”

He also does not understand that the detainees in Guantanamo are not prisoners of war, to be sent home when the war ends,  but terrorists — armed enemy combatants who do not qualify under the Geneva Conventions  as prisoners of war. They have nevertheless been treated as humanely as if they were.

Democrat political propaganda has attempted to portray the detainees at Gitmo as if they were subject to daily torture. Innumerable inspections from every human rights group have determined that they are being well treated, with respect for the Muslim religion. Yet articles about Gitmo are usually 640x392_50143_187015accompanied by this image of the first arrivals, as if this was the daily state of affairs there. It is not. If you look up pictures of Guantanamo, the list of queries includes wanting to see pictures of torture, or of waterboarding.

Democrats always believe their own propaganda, probably because they don’t read anything else. The Geneva Conventions of 1949 were formed because of the way Allied prisoners of war were treated by the Japanese and the Nazis. Today ISIS chops off heads and burns their prisoners alive, or ask John McCain about the Vietnamese, long after the Conventions were accepted as international law. Nazis during WWII were detained in prison camps here, and were well treated. Yet the myth persists. Democrats are always sure detainees are being mistreated, because to so believe fits their political agenda.

Normally, six national security agencies and the Defense Secretary must sign off on letting a detainee go. Obama has ignored them and had his own special committee appointed, composed largely of compliant minions, to make the decision. Announced just as the Pope was arriving, Abdul Shalabi, suspected of being an Osama bin Laden bodyguard, was released back to Saudi Arabia. Shalabi has agreed to take a ‘rehabilitation class’ in Saudi Arabia.

Out of 647 detainees who have been released from Guantanamo Bay, 116 have gone right back to “re-engaging” in terrorism according to a report from the DNI James Clapper.

In August, Muktar Yahya Najee al Warafi  sued for release on the grounds that the war is over and the law authorizing it (and his detention) has expired. (Yes the detainees have full access to attorneys).  Warafi, a Yemeni, served as a medic for the Taliban in 2001. He cited claims by White House officials and Obama’s declaration last January that “America’s longest war has come to a responsible end.”

U.S District Court Judge Royce Lamberth was not persuaded. As long as hostilities continue, so does the war’s legal basis, and Obama’s rhetoric does not overturn Congress’ intention.

President Obama is about to send Congress a plan to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay. It is doomed from the start, but then he can shut down Gitmo by executive order. As Josh Earnest said, we “work with Congress where we can, but if Congress continues to refuse, I wouldn’t rule out the President using every element of his authority to make progress.” The Wall Street Journal added:

Another day at the office for a progressive President intent on reducing the legislative branch to a nullity. For the record, the National Defense Authorization Act this year contains an explicit congressional ban on transferring detainees to the U.S. through 2016.

The White House wants to transfer the prisoners to the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig in South Carolina; at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, or the federal supermax prison in Colorado. The WSJ again:

Mr. Obama’s inability to negotiate honestly with the legislature is a hallmark of his Presidency. More damaging is the precedent he is setting by making major policy changes with no more than a wave of his executive hand. Press reports note that Administration lawyers are working on legal justifications for the Gitmo order. Decision first, the law later.

The press is still invested in Obama’s success, or at least in quieting outrage. Any other president who, while prosecuting an unpopular war, credited with 3 out of 4 deaths in Afghanistan under his watch, saw a series of critical national security advisors resign might get some unfavorable coverage. On Sept. 22, General John Allen announced his intention to resign, Within a week, Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, handed in her resignation. The report from Commentary with the details is a devastating account of a president paralyzed with indecision. He is being tested by the world’s bad actors and has little resolve to act early and decisively.



Quotation of the Day: How Times Have Changed! by The Elephant's Child

trumanpicBOnce a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.

–Harry S. Truman, Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States, 8 August 1950
(h/t: The Global Warming Policy Forum)



Heather MacDonald Testifies That it is Crime, Not Incarceration, That is Ending Opportunity by The Elephant's Child

Here is the brilliant Heather MacDonald testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. She is truly an expert on the subject of crime and punishment. Her testimony is only about six minutes long, but fact-filled, and deeply informed. She is a Manhattan Institute Research Fellow and City Journal Contributing Editor. I hope the Senators pay attention.




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