January 22, 2009

Why America needs Guantanamo


President Obama has already ordered a stop to all cases related to detainees at Guantanamo for 120 days so his administration can study the situation and determine what they believe to be the best course of action. Likely, despite Obama's frequent feints to the right, demurring to the reality of the situation and the complexity of the issue, it seems more likely now that a shutdown of the facility is a possibility. It could be a feint to the left before coming back to reality, a ploy to please his base wherein he comes out in 4 months and says something to the effect of "we'd like to close it down but the issue is too complex and it's going to take quite some time to resolve, please be patient with us."

It's a mantra the Obama administration will likely come to lean on for just about everything over the next four years. The economy - it's complex, it's going to take time to fix. The environment, yes it's important but we can only make minimal progress until we get this economy sorted out. The Fairness Doctrine - we're working on it, there are kinks to work out. Card check - you know, this darn thing is trickier than we realized. The White House will become an automated voice response system to the left, the center and the right. "We are experiencing an unusually high volume of special interest demands. Your issue is important to us, please be patient. You are issue number 12 in the queue. The approximate wait time for your issue is 2013. Your patience is appreciated." Followed by the elevator music version of Guantanamera.

But the specific issue of Guantanamo is one that hopefully will stay in the queue indefinitely. The case of Maher Arar in Canada is instructive as to why. The case was big news in Canada when it became the subject of a commission of inquiry. Arar was captured after a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002. Arar was rendered to Syria after his capture by U.S. forces. In Syria he apparently had been tortured. Arar was eventually cleared by the Canadian commission and was awarded a $10.5 million settlement. But the Toronto Sun yesterday reported that another Canadian detainee, Omar Khadr who is being held at Guantanamo, shortly after his detainment, identified Arar as someone he had seen at Al Qaida training camps.

That Khadr, a teenager at the time of his capture should be credible as to being involved with Al Qaida is not in question. According to the report in the Toronto Sun,


Parts of a 27-minute video seized by U.S. forces after the firefight shows a
baby-faced, grinning Khadr in the company of al-Qaida leaders helping assemble
and lay improvised explosive devices.
and further,

Khadr described in detail how he had been trained by top al-Qaida figures —
associates of his father — in surveillance techniques and in making and laying
explosive devices aimed at American forces.

His father, who was killed in a raid in Pakistan, ran two agencies that
raised funds for al-Qaida. The Khadr family often stayed with terrorist
financier Osama bin Laden.
Khadr's testimony and other parts of the Sun story, belie the cruel and unusual punishment image the world seems to associate with Guantanamo. More importantly, the explosive evidence associated with the Khadr case, while old but only recently revealed, came from Guantanamo prison refutes the Canadian commission's findings. Guantanamo is serving a purpose, beyond simply detaining potential terrorist thugs. It is helping with intelligence and doing so, in this case at least, in a humane way.

Guantanamo is necessary. Certainly Arar would not have been tortured like he was in Syria. Certainly Khadr would have been less compliant and co-operative under a different detainee location. The fact that the thugs at Guantanamo are not wanted elsewhere should indicate that there is reason for them being there. And in the War on Terror, it is clearing garnering evidence that would be lost upon the likes of the Canadian commission on the Arar case, and likely on the standard due process provided by American courts.
This is a war. The detainees are at least suspected, enemy combatants. To treat them as otherwise is to ignore the reality of the situation. America needs Guantanamo for it's intelligence value, as well as it's detainment of those who pose a threat to the lives of innocent civilians.
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