The voice from the dead [former fellow travelers who went out of style with the Soviet Union’s implosion], The Guardian, tells us that the lawyers for the remaining prisoners at Guantánamo are unhappy. Why? Because they say the White House is not doing enough to fulfill Pres. Barak Obama’s campaign promise to close the prisoner of war camp.
Obama has insisted over the years that Guantánamo and its method of dealing with terrorist captives or suspects is extra-legal, a violation of American Constitutional practice, and most of all, a recruiting tool for the Islamic terrorists. However, the fact is that its very sophisticated propaganda – especially now that of Daesh [ISIL, ISI] – hardly mentions the issue.
Some of you with longer memories will remember that Obama promised to close Guantánamo down on his second day in office. And he has flown much rhetoric in the past few weeks about his intent despite Congressional law which forbids him to transfer its occupants to U.S. Mainland federal prisons. The Congress reinforced its aversion of transfers to U.S. prisons in the National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA] which the President has signed.
Congress” toughening stance came about, in part, because of what critics of the Administration see as the controversial swap of five senior Taliban prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier held by the Islamic terrorists. Fragmentary reports suggest that some if not all of these have returned to combat against the U.S. and its allies. Now Bergdahl, who got a Presidential Rose Garden reception as some kind of hero on his return, faces an Army court martial on desertion and other charges.
Despite all this, The New York Times reports that Sec. of Defense Ashton Carter would try and push 17 transfers of lower-level detainees through by the end of January. That’s’ despite what many interpret as Carter and The Pentagon’s opposition to the Obama attempt to close it down. There are still 106 prisoners left in the pokey, 86 of whom the lawyers estimate could be transferred to their countries of origin But this pattern would not close down the installation before Obama leaves office, much to the lawyers; chagrin. Now Administration spokesmen have made the issue of the high cost of maintaining fewer and fewer prisoners as one of their main talking points for closing it down and transferring or releasing its inmates.
There is no doubt that there are problems at Guantánamo. In the fog of war – and the action in Afghanistan was full-fledged warfare whatever its euphemistic titles – there is little doubt that there were mistakes, perhaps innocents picked up as seeming collaborators in guerrilla actions.
But it is our position that the bulk of those apprehended and confined at Guantánamo are prisoners of war. It is a different kind of war, in part because the enemy is not a full-fledged state. In earlier wars, the pattern has been for the U.S. as with its adversaries to hold prisoners until the conflict is resolved. Granted that may be a long time coming, or even that the end may not conclude with a signature, as Obama has said, on a surrender document on a battleship somewhere.
We think the military trials of the Guantánamo inmates should be speeded up. If there are, indeed, innocents who should be released, well and good. But common sense tells us that former fighters, who have had time to network with other prisoners and improved their skills by reading and studying, should not be released to return to battle. Despite Obama’s assurances that has rarely been the case, objective reports indicate that the majority – not the minority – of those repatriated have returned to the fight. That is not the way to win a war, no matter how unconventional it may be.