Celia Murray: Columnist
Attorney General Eric Holder testified at a Senate hearing last week regarding the January 2010 scheduled closing of the United States detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This is just one more step toward the President keeping his campaign promise to close the facility – a move that is long past due.
Since October 7, 2001, when the war in Afghanistan began, 775 detainees have been taken to Guantanamo. Of these, approximately 420 have been released without charge. As of January 2009 approximately 245 detainees remained.
While the Bush administration urged that so-called “enemy combatants” should be held without trial and without the protections afforded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, the use of Guantanamo Bay as a military prison has drawn criticism from human rights organizations and others, who cite numerous reports of detainees being tortured or otherwise poorly treated. The criticism has come from all corners of the globe; senior officials in Great Britain, Germany, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia have all been harshly critical of the detention center. A United Nations Human Rights Council report claims the actions of the United States violates international law; a report from the International Red Cross classifies the activities at the detention center as “tantamount to torture”; and Amnesty International’s 2005 report referred to the Guantanamo Bay prison as “the gulag of our times.”
Even some Republican leaders have come to recognize the folly of Guantanamo Bay. Most notably, according to former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, “Essentially, we have shaken the belief the world had in America’s justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open … We don’t need it and it is causing us far more damage than any good we get for it.”
While some on the far right have a “don’t give a damn what others think” attitude, such a mindset is severely short-sighted.
Many security analysts believe that the operation of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and the treatment (torture) of detainees has been a huge boon for Al Qaeda recruitment. Furthermore, this country’s treatment of prisoners of war directly impacts the treatment our soldiers receive when they fall into enemy hands.
Even so, many Republicans continue to be harshly critical of the President’s plan to close Guantanamo Bay and continue to engage in the scare tactics of the last eight years.
As Attorney General Holder testified last week, House Republicans were offering legislation to slow down the release of detainees, and Senate Republicans released a video obviously designed to generate fear in the minds of the public. That video showed pictures of the most despicable of the terrorists to horror movie background music and a voice overlay which asked, “Where would dangerous detainees go?”
This came even as Holder testified that those considered terrorists would not be released and assuring that the administration’s paramount concern was the safety of the American people.
Do Republicans actually expect the American public to fall for this? Surely we all recognize that this country knows how to lock up dangerous persons and keep them away from the public. Remember Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, the Washington D.C. snipers, James Earl Ray, the Son of Sam, and many, many other exceedingly dangerous killers we’ve kept safely locked away for years? It’s something we’re good at.
So, Republicans, how about concentrating on doing something productive – you’re not going to scare us this time.