Again, the Problem Is Not Gitmo per se...

...the problem is indefinite detentions.  But in its general sloppiness, the press over the last 8 years has branded the problem as "Guantanamo Bay," giving Obama the ability to claim progress by closing Gitmo, while still maintaining the right to indefinite detention at the Administration's pleasure.

I guess we have to take our allies where we find them in defending the Constitution, so I will quote Russ Feingold's thoughts here (despite his history of legislative attacks on the First Ammendment).  Via Q&O:

While I recognize that your administration inherited detainees who, because of torture, other forms of coercive interrogations, or other problems related to their detention or the evidence against them, pose considerable challenges to prosecution, holding them indefinitely without trial is inconsistent with the respect for the rule of law that the rest of your speech so eloquently invoked. Indeed, such detention is a hallmark of abusive systems that we have historically criticized around the world....

Once a system of indefinite detention without trial is established, the temptation to use it in the future would be powerful. And, while your administration may resist such a temptation, future administrations may not. There is a real risk, then, of establishing policies and legal precedents that rather than ridding our country of the burden of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, merely set the stage for future Guantanamos, whether on our shores or elsewhere, with disastrous consequences for our national security.

Bruce McQuain concludes:

Anyone monitoring what Barack Obama has been saying since taking the oath of office who doesn't see a rather large authoritarian streak in the man hasn't been paying attention. What he is suggesting is blatantly worse than what the Bush administration did. Unfortunately, it is mostly being lost in the ground clutter of the financial crisis. But it is certainly there for those who take the time to look.

Update:  This Rachel Maddow video on Obama's speech is great. She calls it the Department of Pre-Crime based on the Phillip K Dick novel and Tom Cruise movie:


  1. Dr. T:

    I'd like to hear from the soldiers who captured these men. Were they actively fighting our soldiers? Were they giving aid to the Taliban fighters? Or were they just military-aged men who were captured near an area of fighting? If they were fighters or Taliban aiders, then their unlimited detention is appropriate. If they were bystanders, then they should have been questioned and released. Unfortunately, the Pentagon and/or Dept. of Defense has not been PR-savvy about this issue. Don't they believe it's important for us to know?

  2. Henry Bowman:

    Well, this is why the Guantanamo Bay prison facility should never have been constructed and used. Any of these fellows caught fighting Americans or our allies should have been briefly interrogated and then shot. It is a PR nightmare for whoever is in charge. The folks fighting us are not in uniform and would happily behead any American soldier that they captured.

    There are, reputedly, some imprisoned at Gitmo who are there based simply upon accusations of [say] the Northern Alliance. These guy should be sent back to Afghanistan.

  3. Rathtyen:

    I don't fully get this article. The Gitmo prisoners are prisoners of war. They are not being held indefinately, but are being held for the duration of the conflict. As I understand it, this is standard practice with captured enemy combatants (eg during WWII, a lot of Italian, German and Japanese prisoners were held in Australia till the war ended). The alternatives are to simply release them or kill them. In Medieval times, a captured archer could expect to have his string drawing fingers cut off, but then to be released, but we've sort-of moved on from there.

    This is quite different to someone being held on a criminal basis. Nor is it the internment of enemy nationals or people believed to be sympathetic (eg Boer family internments during the Boer War, or American Japanese internments in WWII). Its about combatants, and its only about a small number of those apprehended.

    The debate therefore should be whether or not the conflict during which the Gitmo prisoners were apprehended was in fact from the prosecution of a war, or something else. Its not a conventional war, but to my mind, its still a war.

  4. james:

    Holy crap. Rachel Maddow? MSNBC? I didn't know the network allowed their talking heads to rip the President a new one so big, so soon. Nicely done!

  5. Eric Pickup:

    I'm confused about when battlefield combatants against the US got constitutional rights. Anyone who was fighting out of uniform should have been interrogated and executed in the field, anyone in uniform should be held until Afghanistan/Iraq is pacified and no longer a war zone. That would perfectly follow both "international law" and history. It would also follow US law which has traditionally only applied to citizens and residents.

    As a libertarian I don't trust government and I do worry about reports of "enemies out of uniform" being post-mortem cases but in Iraq (post-invasion) and Afghanistan It is pretty safe that most enemy fighters are breaking treaty by blending with civilians and hence endangering them. The Geneva Conventions weren't to protect combatants but to safe-guard civilians.

    There should never have been a need for a prison anywhere. They should have been shot/gassed/hung after interrogation. With maybe really important (and soon to be dead) war-criminals moved somewhere for extra questioning. Question them for a few months and then kill them as war criminals.

    It is only our new and overly developed sense of lawfare that a long-lasting facility was needed.

    Now we are dealing with the consequence of giving war criminals constitutional rights in the US with grave repercussions for the world.

  6. Gringo:

    The solution is release and kill. Release them, and kill them.