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The White House and Guantanamo – They Didn’t Have A Plan

Now where have we heard THAT before?

Time is supposed to be nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.

Well, that didn’t quite work today – as my as-usual overcrowded day collided with a wish to be in on two conference calls. But somehow it was all made to work.

The main topic of both calls was the confusion that’s breaking out as the White House finds itself in a pickle – as the campaign rhetoric about the importance of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay collides with the reality that there really aren’t any viable options moving forward.

The reality? When it comes to this White House and Guantanamo, it’s obvious that…. they didn’t have a plan….

More below the fold.

Guantanamo was the main topic of both conference calls, so I’ll just take the liberty of lumping them together for the write-up here. The first call was what is becoming a roughly bi-weekly hosted by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (with special guest Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS)), while the second was a non-regular one hosted by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).

There’s an old Roman proverb, “I hold a wolf by the ears” – and it’s pretty clear that after the pious campaign promises to close the Guantanamo detention facility to demonstrate moral purity to the wider world…. the realities of what to do with some 250 very dangerous, mean, ornery, homicidal, genocidal terrorists are coming due.

One problem is that the law forbids the return of prisoners to their home countries if there is a strong possibility that they will be tortured (for real) or killed there. The most prominent example of this situation was exemplified a few years back but the case of five Uighurs from western China. Uighars are a Turkic people who live in a part of China that the Chinese call “Xinjiang” but that the Uighars call “Eastern Turkistan.” When they became eligible for release, they couldn’t be sent to China (see above) and didn’t want to go back to China; in a complex set of arrangements, they were eventually settled in Albania.

Other countries – many of them countries that have been pontificating at us about Guantanamo for years – have been asked to take some of these dangerous prisoners, but they have for the most part refused. France has generously agreed that if need be they will take in one detainee. Earlier this year, there was a kerfuffle when word leaked out that Lithuania might take some detainees; Lithuanians everywhere went berserk, and the plan (if it really existed) was dropped.

A final problem is that so far roughly a quarter (at least) of those released from Guantanamo have identifiably returned to the battlefield.

So in the absence of other countries taking in detainees, the only other place to bring them would be into the United States itself. Well, naturally, absolutely no one wants captured terrorists parked in their back yard. And as Sen. Chambliss pointed out, if any of them manage to get habeus corpus rights, then it’s almost certain that some will be acquitted – and released inside the U.S. This would also probably make them eligible for federal and state health-and-welfare benefits.

Back when the Iraq War ran into trouble, our leftist friends were screaming and yelling that it was all because “They didn’t have a plan.” This, of course, was a silly argument; as someone pointed out nearly two-and-a-half years ago, war is not a civil engineering project – the enemy will react to your actions and push back in unexpected ways…. ways that no “plan” could possibly foresee.

However, the irony in this case is inescapable. The present Administration made a very big fuss about closing down Guantanamo for reasons of moral purity – and to try to appease “world opinion” (and all that fluff). But it’s now becoming obvious that they literally never went beyond that in their thinking. There was no thought given to the implications of a closure, nor was thought given to what to do in Guantanamo’s stead. They were just hoping that somehow they could make a gesture and the problem would just politely go away.

In other words…. They didn’t have a plan.

Time’s up. They need to come up with a plan, and fast. The best one would be to simply ‘fess-up and admit that it was a silly gesture with no substance. In the absence of Guantanamo, it would be necessary to create a similar facility somewhere else.

The lack of management experience at the White House is really starting to show….


For the Sen. Chambliss call, fellow contributing editor Brian Faughnan was also involved; that call ended up covering a great deal of other ground, but I’ll leave it to Brian to provide a summary of those issues.

For the Rep. McCarthy call, there was some brief opening discussion of efforts to clean up the disastrous messes that are the voting procedures for overseas members of the armed services and their use of absentee voting. To make a longer story short, many House Republicans are trying to find some way to replace the present paper-and-mail-it-in system (which varies by state) with a simpler electronic system. It’s worth noting that Estonia now has a general e-voting system in place that can be used by anyone in the country to vote in elections; I have a lot of qualms about such a system in general use, but it does show that such technology and procedures do exist – if anyone in Washington needs a “model” to examine.

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