Today, President Obama held a late afternoon meeting with some of the families of victims of the terror attack on the USS Cole as well as families of victims of 9/11. Among those present was CDR Kirk S. Lippold, USN (Ret.) who was the commander of the USS Cole when it was attacked. Shortly after his meeting with the President, I had an opportunity to speak with Commander Lippold. I will post the full interview tomorrow. Today I will post a few revelations from the interview that couldn't wait.
First, let me say that the families who attended were reportedly far more at ease regarding the fate of the detainees after the meeting than they were going into it. The families did not hold back, and questioned the President for a full fifty minutes. Commander Lippold described it this way: "What the president did was he came in, he articulated the reason for the pause and for closing Gitmo on a one year time line ... not that I agree with his decision or thought processes. He sat down with the families and took questions, and answered those questions in a meeting that lasted 50 minutes."
One of the questions the families were very focused on, and one which many of us at Redstate have been focused on, is what is going to happen to the Gitmo detainees going forward? I asked Commander Lippold if during this meeting the President was able to convey that he has a plan for dealing with all the detainees, and he said the President doesn't seem to have an answer for that. He adds that the 1-year timeline for closure of Gitmo was "putting the cart before the horse" given that the administration hasn't sorted out what to do with them. The President told those in attendance that his legal team is going to be working on crafting a "robust legal procedure" and "opened the door", for the first time perhaps, that the procedure may in fact remain wholly military in nature. The Commander indicates the President suggested they may "develop a robust military procedure" for dealing with the detainees, as opposed to coming through the criminal court system. The President was adamant that they would seek justice swiftly either way, but that he is determined to see due process served. More on that tomorrow.
The other big revelation was of particular interest to Commander Lippold in his capacity as a Senior Military Fellow at Military Families United. During the meeting the President assured the families and the commander that, going forward, they would have "a seat at the table," an "open dialogue" with the President and his staff as they formulate policy in the war on terror and larger national security issues. It is logical to assume that Military Families United would be involved in the mechanics of such an arrangement. Commander Lippold was very excited by this prospect, saying it's very important, and a goal of Military Families United, that those families who "bear the burden, the sacrifice, and the scars of the war on terror" are afforded the opportunity to be heard, and to lend their insights into the policy-making process.
Before I wrap this up, here's a great takeaway quote from the Commander:
"The previous administration was very focused on the prosecution of the war on terror and keeping America safe from future attacks. The current administration is very focused on the prosecution of the detainees of the war on terror. The important thing for America is to find the right balance of both those approaches."
- Caleb Howe
Check back at Redstate.com for more exclusive excerpts from my interview with Commander Kirk Lippold of Military Families United.