American Elephants


Guantanamo is Far More Complicated Than You Would Think. by The Elephant's Child

In his second day in office, Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center within one year.  He had no idea what to do with the 241 inmates who are usually described as “the worst of the worst.” He is determined to close the facility because he believes that the world disapproves, and that closing it will somehow improve our image in the world.  He apparently feels that prisoners can be brought to the United States,  and prosecuted in the criminal justice system.

But as historian Arthur Herman explains in a brilliant  history of the facility:

Gitmo was never meant to be a prison where inmates were to serve sentences for crimes.  It was, in the words of a Defense Department document, a detention facility set up n order to prevent “enemy combatants from continuing the fight against the U.S. and its partners in the war on terror.”  Its goals were military and tactical, not juridicial or penal.  Still the conditions under which these unconventional prisoners were to be held did involve questions.

The Senate, alert to public opinion, and including the Democratic leadership and 99 of  its members,  refused to grant the President the $80 million he asked for to close the detention center, and stripped the requested funds from a war-spending bill.  Senate Leader Harry Reid said “Democrats under no circumstances will move forward without a comprehensive, responsible plan from the president.  We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States.”

The REAL ID Act of 2005 prohibits anyone connected to terrorist activity from entering and living in the United States.  (A bill that Obama voted for).  There are approximately 30 detainees who have been cleared for release from incarceration.  The administration is trying to find them a home.  European nations are reluctant to make any commitment unless President Obama also allows a number to live freely in the United States.

One federal district court judge has ruled that 17 Chinese Muslims be brought to Washington D.C. The judge cited no law or treaty to support his order.   The Uighurs have appealed to the Supreme Court, where it rests at present.

It is doubtful that it is legal to incarcerate detainees in the federal prison system without trial, or to put them in solitary confinement without trial in maximum security prisons.  Trials are a problem, because the prisoners  were meant to be detained, not tried.  As David Rivkin and Lee Casey point out:

Guantanamo has always been a symbol, rather than the substance, of complaints against America’s “war on terror.”  It’s the military character of the U.S. response to 9/11 that foreign and domestic critics won’t accept.

President Obama has made the naive assumption that the Bush administration did not consider  these problems when they opened the Gitmo detention center.  It was not decided on either lightly or without reservations, and there were efforts from the first to make sure that the facility was responsible and honorable.  The first ‘building’ was a trailer home for the representatives of the International Red Cross, who help inmates to write home.  Rivkin and Casey again:

Mr. Obama can still reverse his decision to close Guantanamo.  This would cost him significant political support among his base.  But making unpopular decisions to serve the national interest is a president’s duty and obligation.



This is Real Life, Not a Movie! by The Elephant's Child
May 30, 2009, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Law, Military, National Security, Politics | Tags: ,

The Obama administration is repeating the national security mistakes of the Clinton Administration.  Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted the first World Trade Center bombing and knows what he is talking about, writes at National Review Online:

On Thursday, Josh Meyer of the Los Angeles Times broke the story that the FBI is edging the CIA out of the business of fighting international terrorism.  Under the bureau”s “global justice initiative, Meyer reported that “FBI agents will have a central role in overseas counter-terrorism cases.  They will expand their questioning of suspects and evidence-gathering to try to ensure that criminal prosecutions are an option.”  Who needs a War on Terror, or even an “overseas contingency operation,” when all the world”s a crime scene?

If you’re thinking, “Hey, we’ve seen this movie before,” you”re right.  Slowly but surely, it’s September 10 again, a retreat into Clinton-era counterterrorism, when radical Islam prosecuted a war while we tried to prosecute radical Islam in court, playing cops-and-robbers while jihadists played for keeps.

Do read the whole article.  Dick Cheney was right.  The Obama administration is weak on national security, and our enemies have noticed.

The administration’s problem is an inability to recognize the difference between a criminal matter and a military matter.  They are not the same.  Obama is not much interested in foreign affairs, and it shows.  As Andy McCarthy says, “Yes, we’ve seen this movie before.  And we know how it ends.”



Once Again the Far Left is Hoist on their Own Petard! by The Elephant's Child

The headline in The New York Times reads : “US May Revive Military Courts at Guantanamo.”  Back before the inauguration of Barack Obama, President Bush held a meeting with former presidents and Barack Obama so that he could ask them anything he wanted and they could offer advice if it was solicited.  One offhand piece of advice suggested that President Obama look into the reasons behind the actions of the Bush administration before he made up his mind.  That bit of advice was apparently rejected.

Mark Steyn laughed, in The Corner at NRO, that “Any Day now, the new conventional wisdom will emerge: Obama has turned around Bush’s failed war on terror because he’s had the courage to do the tough things that, while not always attractive, are ruthlessly effective.”

Jules Crittenden snorted more loudly, and goes into a little more detailHot Air points out that the leak came on a Friday night, where awkward announcements and bad news sneaks out.  The Left, grasping for anything to discredit the Bush administration has tried mightily to discredit the War on Terror in general, and the Iraq War in particular. They tried to discredit the 9/11 attacks, downplay the idea of terrorism — only poor misunderstood souls, acting out their anger at being discriminated against — and in general, insinuate that there really was no terrorism, just something that the Bush administration had dreamed up to help get elected.

The prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, an ideal location for housing terrorist combatants, became a symbol of the White House’s intransigence in insisting that detainees did not qualify for the protections of the Geneva Conventions. The political left made Gitmo a symbol of the Bush White House’s alleged hostility to human and constitutional rights.

After years of demands from the left that Guantanamo be closed, Obama signed an executive order in his first week requiring the facility to be closed down within a year.  Never mind that visitors have continuously said that it is a model prison.  Never mind that the Obama administration has not the slightest idea what to do with prisoners who are ready to kill at the slightest opportunity.

They have cleared 17 Uighurs — Chinese Moslem radicals trained by al Qaeda— for release in the United States, and another 13 detainees, bringing the total up to 30. Well, not to worry, we will pay for welfare for them so they can more easily adapt to American life.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been in Europe asking European leaders for help in relocating Guantanamo detainees. Holder spoke before a select group of policy experts, academics and journalists (European leaders?) in a crowded room of about 100.

In answer to a question about Bush administration officials “decisions to authorize tough interrogation techniques”, Holder said he believed that many of them would, privately, admit to having made some mistakes in the pressure and worry that followed the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I don’t suspect that would be true of Vice President Dick Cheney,” Holder added.

At another point, a questioner earnestly asked if those Guantanamo detainees who are believed to be innocent could be put in a hotel somewhere.

“Those detainees who are believed to be innocent.” Made me snort a little more loudly too.  This is not an easy problem, as the Obama administration is beginning to discover. It was after much searching and study that the facility at Gitmo was built in the first place.

Actions have consequences.  When you gin up a story about innocent terrorists and all the torture going on at Guantanamo for political advantage, sooner or later you have to face the solid block wall of reality.  A hotel with hot halal meals, white glove treatment of prisoners, Mecca pointed out so detainees can pray in the way prescribed by their religion and Islamic reading materials, will be expensive to build and where to put it? Defense Secretary Robert Gates has asked Congress for $50 million to build a facility.  Who wants such a prison just down the road?

As Investors Business Daily said:

The Pentagon will have to build a facility for the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay if their current housing is closed.  We know the perfect spot: a military prison in Cuba on a naval base called Gitmo.



The H1N1 flu strain by The Elephant's Child

The Swine, Mexican, H1N1 flu, will be relatively mild scientists say, according to genetic data, and won’t be as deadly as even the average winter flu. Scientists are working on a new vaccine, but it won’t be ready until around December.  Because of  Hillary Clinton’s insistence on removing the profit motive from vaccine manufacture, there is now only one company that makes vaccines in the United States.

The World Health Organization says that only 7 8 people worldwide have died from the H1N1 flu.

Janet Napolitano warned youngsters released from schools closed in fear of the flu, that school closure didn’t mean they should go the the mall, but that they should stay home.

Somebody or other announced that the flu was caused by a virus — as the flu always is — and you cannot get it by eating pork chops or bacon.

According to the media, this flu is closely related to Seattle’s own winter storm watches.  All panic, few flakes.



A few insights from Obama’s press conference. by The Elephant's Child

In his televised press conference last night, celebrating his first 100 days, President Barack Obama claimed that his $787 billion deficit spending stimulus package “has already saved or created over 150,000 jobs.”  It’s just that nobody can figure out where these saved or created new jobs are, and a lot of policy wonks are trying to figure it out.

“This crisis is neither the result of a normal turn of the business cycle nor an accident of history.  We arrived at this point as a result of an era of profound irresponsibility that engulfed both  private and public institutions from some of our largest companies’ executive suites to the seats of power in Washington D.C.”

Well, no. This crisis is the result of regulations put in place by Congressional Democrats, and of Democrats refusal to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

While we have inherited record budget deficits and needed to pass a massive recovery and reinvestment plan to try to jump-start our economy out of recession, we cannot lose sight of the long-run challenges that our country faces and that threaten our economic health…”

Well, guess what happened while our attention was diverted by the debate about torture?  Congress passed an enormous budget without a single Republican vote. The graph below shows the ” inherited deficits,” and estimates of Obama’s spending.

wapoobamabudget11

“We have rejected the false choice between our security and our ideals, by closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and banning torture without exception.”

And where did the detainees go?  Obama also acknowledges that the harsh interrogation techniques he has banned might have yielded useful information.

“I don’t think we should micromanage.”

This is what the President says about the automobile companies after describing just how he plans to micromanage the automobile companies.

“We have to lay a new foundation for growth.”

The Treasury Department announced yesterday that it is going to step up the issuing of 30-year bonds to cover the hundreds of billion of dollars the Obama administration is spending on bailouts, budget and stimulus.   An advisory committee warned that domestic and foreign investors are going to demand significantly higher interest rates in exchange for buying the vast number of new bonds.  Higher interest rates will strangle the economic recovery.

At the Reason Foundation, economist Jeffrey Miron explains the financial crisis, and why we would have been better off to have done nothing at all.



Liz Cheney takes on the “torture” controversy and Norah McDonald as well, and wins. by The Elephant's Child

Liz Cheney, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter, is here interviewed on MSNBC, on the interrogation memos and the question of “torture.” Norah McDonald gives a wonderful example of media bias. She can’t quite believe that anyone would have the gall to disagree with President Obama. For an example of disagreeing with a president, see “Afterburner“, a video we posted earlier. Hilarious.



The West Coast Plot and “criminal prosecutions:” A study in political inexperience. by The Elephant's Child

Click to view full size

(click image to view full size)

“The Obama administration is confused.” writes Stephen Hayes in the Weekly Standard.

The president says harsh interrogation techniques “do not make us safer,” but his top intelligence adviser says the same techniques produced “high-value information” that gave the U.S. government “a deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.

Obama White House officials routinely boast that theirs is “the most transparent administration in history,” but then they release Justice Department memos about the interrogations in which the assessments confirming the value of those techniques are blacked out.

Attorney General Eric Holder tells a congressional committee that he is unaware of memos about the information gleaned in harsh interrogations that have been requested by former Vice President Dick Cheney, but his boss, the president, not only knows about those memos but also describes their contents to members of Congress.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says the administration could support an independent investigation of interrogation techniques based on the 9/11 Commission.  Then he says that Obama decided long ago that such an investigation would be too political.

In the National Journal Stuart Taylor Jr. says “The review should start by taking seriously the views of the people with the most-detailed knowledge.  They say that the coercive interrogation program was highly effective.

Michael Hayden, Bush’s last CIA director and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey recently wrote, “As late as 2006, fully half of the government’s knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from those interrogations.” Former CIA Director George Tenent has said,”I know that this program has saved lives.  I know we’ve disrupted plots.  I know this program is worth more than [what] the FBI, the [CIA], and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.” Former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has said, “We have people walking around in this country that are alive today because this process happened.”

Marc Thiessen notes that: Specifically, interrogation with enhanced techniques “led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’

to use East Asian East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into a building in Los Angeles.” KSM later acknowledged before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay that the target was the Library Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast.  The memo explains that “information obtained from KSM also led to  the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave’.”In other words, without enhanced interrogations, there could be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York.

“Admiral Dennis Blair, the top intelligence official in the United States” says Stephen Hayes,

believes that the coercive interrogation methods outlawed by his boss produced “high-value information” and gave the U.S. government “a deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.” He included those assessments in a letter distributed inside the intelligence community last Thursday, the same day Obama declassified and released portions of Justice Department memos setting out guidelines for those interrogations.

That letter from Blair served as the basis for a public statement that his office put out that same day.  But the DNI’s conclusions about the results of coercive interrogations — in effect, that they worked — were taken out of Blair’s public statement. …

The letter included this language: “From 2002 through 2006 when the use of these techniques ended, the leadership of the CIA repeatedly reported their activities both to Executive Branch policy makers and to members of Congress and received permission granted by “members of Congress” — permission that came from members of Obama’s own party.

Dick Cheney: “This is the first time that I can recall that we’ve had an administration come in, take power, and then suggest using the power of the government against their predecessors, from a legal standpoint.  Criminal prosecution of lawyers in the Justice Department whose opinions they disagreed with on an impor”crimitant issue.  Criminal prosecutions.  When was the last time that happened?”

Porter J. Goss, former CIA director: “Since leaving my post as CIA director almost three years ago, I have remained largely silent on the public stage. I am speaking out now because I feel our government has crossed the red line between properly protecting our national security and trying to gain partisan political advantage.  We can’t have a secret intelligence service if we keep giving away all the secrets.”

It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed.  In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.

The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.

  • We understood what the CIA was doing.
  • We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.
  • We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.
  • On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.

Should the winner of a  presidential election attempt to use the enormous powers of his office to investigate and prosecute his political adversaries? Will this begin a cycle of retribution in which policy disputes are to be criminalized?   And will this tear the country apart?




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