Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Locked Up Inside

Over at Hullabaloo, dday argues that the admission of torture by Bush's crew wasn't just "nyah-nyah whatcha gonna do, prosecute us?" but in fact a neat little box that may assure Obama can never close Gitmo.
This is why I'm finding that leak to Bob Woodward of Susan Crawford's position on the torture of Mohammed al-Qahtani so disturbing. Crawford, a lifelong Republican, made the very specific point that she stopped Qahtani's military commission trial because he was tortured. By extension, he could never receive a fair trial in the US for this reason. And yet Crawford was insistent that Qahtani was one of the "worst of the worst" and that he should not be released. This is an argument for maintaining Gitmo, and I'm not the only one who thinks it's a trap.
GUDE: It does look very much as if the Obama is going to favor prosecutions in US courts, and any question about the psychological competence of the defendants could call into question those prosecutions. When you look at it in the bigger picture –- when you combine this statement by Crawford, her first ever interview, just days before the end of the Bush administration -– when you combine that with the story out of the Pentagon that they have upped the number of detainees that they claim have returned to the battlefield from 30 to 61, more than 10 percent of the detainees who have been released from Guantanamo since it opened in 2002, this looks like a coordinated effort to tie the hands of the Obama team, to make it much more difficult for the Obama administration to pursue its own policies on Guantanamo, and perhaps even down the road to undermine the Obama administration as it pursues its activities to close Guantanamo, pursue trials in US courts, and release some detainees either back to their home countries or transfer them to other countries for further incarceration.

DUSS: So, in your view, is this Dick Cheney, in his last moments in power, trying to lock in his methods, and his policies?

GUDE: You’ve seen in the numerous exit interviews that both he [Cheney] and Bush have been giving, they have been talking about this very issue about how they view that Guantanamo is going to be very hard. It’s going to be very hard to close, we’ve done what we could, and the reason why we’ve done what we could is because this is such a hard issue. And Susan Crawford used to work for Dick Cheney and a lot of people are saying, “you see, even Susan Crawford, who used to work for Dick Cheney, has seen the light and she’s admitting to torture.” Well, I choose to view it in a different way. And perhaps I have too negative a view of these things, but she’s still doing Dick Cheney’s work in my view. She is making it much more difficult now. This revelation makes it much more difficult to pursue the policy that the Obama team would like to pursue.
It's not just Qahtani, who is probably incapacitated, but Crawford is basically alluding to others who may be capable enough, but the torture of whom would allow them to be acquitted and released, perhaps because the evidence against them is tainted, or the fact of their torture would be grounds for mistrial. And you know that the right will be calling Obama a terrorist sympathizer if one of these guys were set free through no fault of his own. The Crawford interview did change everything, but maybe not in the way a lot of people think. She may have extended the lifespan of Guantanamo by months, years, or even indefinitely. Let's be cautious about today's good news.
In other words, Obama can't close Gitmo because if he tries the terror suspects there, the fact they were tortured throws all the evidence against them in doubt. The practical result would be acquittal...and if the 9/11 terrorists or any terrorists have to be released out on the streets because we can't convict them, the wingnuts will indeed have their "final proof" that Obama is "soft on terror" and assault him for the rest of his Presidency.

I pointed out last week that the "Gitmo trap" argument was bullshit when BooMan made it.
I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you on this one, BooMan.

I can appreciate the complexity of the situation before Obama on Gitmo. But the notion that he is going to "take a little time" rings absolutely hollow when we've had this problem for seven years now. Surely Obama's legal brain trust, and especially Barack Obama himself, a trained Constitutional Law professor and lawyer, has had time to come up with a solution to this problem.

The solution to the problem is to try these folks under the rule of law, if only to prove the rule of law in the United States will still even exist under President Obama.

It's not a question of working through all the nuances and legal pitfalls. It's a matter of restoring world trust in what has been for the last seven years, the most dangerous rogue country on the planet. Only Nixon could go to China, only Obama can close Gitmo.

It's one of the many tough choices he's going to have to make, or the rest of the world will be through with America...and they may very well decide to take things into their own hands.

As you've said, failure to adhere to basic principles of human decency is posing a massive security threat to our country. We have given the world a very good reason to hate us. Obama has the power to reverse that but only if he acts soon.

There's some things where you cannot split the difference. This is one of them. He needs to close Gitmo as soon as humanly possible. We have a narrow window to earn the world's trust again. If Obama blows it, America may never recover.
In fact, it was Digby who pointed out that not closing Gitmo was the real trap.
But I would suggest that Obama contemplate one little thing before he decides to try to find "middle ground" on torture. It is a trap. If he continues to torture in any way or even tacitly agrees to allow it in certain circumstances, the intelligence community will make sure it is leaked. They want protection from both parties and there is no better way to do it than to implicate Obama. And the result of that will be to destroy his foreign policy.
I'm solidly in the Greenwald camp on this issue: there's not really a choice here. Either Obama closes Gitmo and does the right thing, or he's admitting that torture is okay, and that the solution to torture is keeping the victims in jail forever because we don't have the evidence to actually, lawfully convict them in a court of law. Since that's the case, we've got not choice but to close Gitmo. Period.

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