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Gitmo May 21, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Politics.
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6 comments

If you go to Huffington Post’s homepage quickly you might be able to catch a glimpse of this [now its actually too late, you’ll have to trust me]: Huge block red letters. Red as anything, red as blood, red as Japan’s rising sun, red as my living room lamp. The letters scream from the gossipnews website, “Obama Sending First Gitmo Detainee To US For Trial.” As evidence of the sites constant shouting and gossiping, I only provide: Should “to” and “for” really be capitalized? The NYT, WSJ, et. al. don’t capitalize these.

Underneath screaming words are three overly-dramatic pictures. From left to right: a picture of two high-security fences, equipped with the works (the fences are presumably at Guantanamo Bay, or Gitmo as some call it despite the lack of an “i” in the name Guantanamo). In the center is an old-looking photo of a youthful dark-skinned man with short curly hair. A youthful man? The face staring, with penetrating dark eyes directly into the camera can be better described as the face of a teenager. On my right is perhaps the strangest of the three photos. The statue of liberty with the empire state building towering in the background; from the angle of the photographer, the world trade center would have played a prominent part in the photo. I reference 911 because I think the editors at Huffington Post intended to reference it as well. Strange. (Likewise, why choose to show the youthful face with penetrating eyes in the enormous title? The detainee’s name is preferable, and it would at least be an attempt to restore dignity to someone in dire need of it).

The gargantuan title…screaming its words continued below the three photos, using no less than 23 words. Obama exclaims in block big-red letters that fears about moving terrorist suspects here are unfounded. They are conjured up by those seeking political advantage, the President said.

I strongly approve of Obama’s decision to move forward with the “Gitmo” problem; doesn’t the word “Gitmo” have a tinge of a slimy and slyish sound to it?; Isn’t it weird and creepy that the word “Gitmo” exists, and is recognizable by many people in the US, or world for that matter?

I approve of Obama’s decision…Obama’s move towards action rather than prolonged inaction is absolutely crucial on the “Gitmo” issue. The issue is overwhelming complex. I think there are about 240 detainees in Guantanamo. Something like 40 are believed to be innocent, including the 17 Chinese Uighur citizens currently being held in Cuba. They were dragged away from their rural families long ago (don’t know when, but does it matter?). The Chinese government will kill them if they go back to China. The 17 Uighur detainees do not want to become citizens of the United States, a foreign country whose government they severely mistrust. Even if these INNOCENT people were brought to the US, the Right would attempt to undermine Obama’s efforts by calling him weak on national security. He would be called “naive,” a word McCain used multiple times on the campaign trail.

An article in the NYT today said Obama’s solution would be a combination of actions including transferring prisoners overseas holding centers (see my earlier blog post on Bagram), transferring them to foreign governments, moving the rest to facilities to the United States to be either held longer, or tried in a military or civilian trials. Congress is obstinately blocking Obama’s plans to close the prison in solidarity (i th, denying money the President requested to help close the prison. Congress did pass legislation calling for a “threat assessment” on each prisoner, which will determine their actual threat to our national security if they were released. This is good. Decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis.

The article on the front page today says 1 in 7 of the previously released detainees have reverted to terrorist activities abroad. Although, it leaves the specificities of “terrorist activities” undefined. Contingent on what these released detainees are actually up to, this is a grave mistake. The “Gitmo” issue is so complex because a direct threat to our national interests are at stake.

But the threat to our national security is less than many people attempt to make it out to be. The FBI director said that moving detainees to American prisons would bring risks including “the potential for individuals undertaking attacks in the United States.” Despite that this quote barely manages to fit within the grammar rules of the English language, the truth of this statement is dubious. The fact is, our federal government can lock up, contain, and neutralize the most dangerous men in the world. I trust our federal government to not accidentally let a dangerous terrorist to slip out of its hands, and run free domestically. I seriously doubt this could happen, let alone the terrorist being permitted to “undertake attacks in the US.” Fear-mongering in this instance is incorrect, unacceptable, and hurts all of us in our push to move forward.

My support for Obama’s decision ultimately derives from this: the need to move forward and put the Gitmo issue behind us. Let’s not forget, Bush created this legal quagmire. The rest of us, Obama and US senators included, have the moral responsibility to quickly improve the situation. Difficult decisions will have to be made on an individual basis. I do not support releasing dangerous men in America or anywhere in the world. But many are not dangerous, several more can be tried in a civilian or military court, these actions must be taken. As for the truly dangerous detainees, a first step is to transfer them to high-security prisons with ample food, water, and otherwise humane conditions. (Why do we continue to occupy Cuba? This fact may even be ridiculous of a policy than the Cuban embargo, and it is a blatant violation of Cuba’s sovereignty.) Providing humane conditions is a minimal but necessary action. Each day this continues our reputation abroad is damaged — and that is a certain harm to our national security interests.

P.S. Thanks to Salman Rushdie for his manic, descriptive, and eccentric writing style, which I love, and which I have miserably attempted to imitate. All should immediately buy his indescribably-good book, Midnight’s Children and read it.