December 13, 2010

MO' BETTER GITMO:

The Collapse of the Guantanamo Myth: This week a Democratic Congress ratified Bush-era policy by refusing to fund any effort to shut the detention facility. (JOHN C. YOO AND ROBERT J. DELAHUNTY , 12/11/10, WSJ)

. In the Gitmo myth, President George W. Bush was a Lone Ranger acting without Congressional permission, and Gitmo was a law-free zone. But the American people never opposed capturing and detaining the enemy. And now Democratic Congress has ratified Mr. Bush's policy.

Freezing the Gitmo status quo will stop the release of al Qaeda killers, but it won't end the serious distortions in Mr. Obama's terrorism policy.

The administration relies on unmanned drones to kill al Qaeda leaders hiding in Pakistan and Afghanistan. CIA Director Leon Panetta calls it "the only game in town." Drones take no prisoners, but they also ask no questions. Firing missiles from afar cannot substitute for the capture and interrogation of al Qaeda leaders for intelligence. (The real question now is whether CIA agents will decline to interrogate prisoners, thanks to Mr. Holder's criminal investigations into Bush policies.)

As long as no one is sent to Gitmo, the Obama administration will leave itself two options for dealing with terrorists: kill, or catch-and-release. Mr. Obama's drone-heavy policy means that more people will die—not only al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, but also innocent Afghan and Pakistani civilians.

The Gitmo myth also drove the Justice Department's push to prosecute al Qaeda leaders in U.S. civilian courts. Nowhere else did the Obama administration place its view of terrorism more clearly on display as a law-enforcement problem. The near-acquittal of Ahmed Ghailani, the al Qaeda operative who facilitated the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, by a New York jury last month has clearly revealed that path as a dead end—even if Mr. Holder remains in denial.

The simple alternative is to continue detentions at Gitmo. Detention is consistent with the rules of war, which allow captured combatants to be held indefinitely without requiring criminal charges to be filed. It also keeps our troops and agents in the field focused on finding and killing the enemy, not on collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses.

Using its constitutional power of the purse, the new Congress should continue to keep Gitmo in operation.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 13, 2010 6:26 AM
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