Friday, June 22, 2007

Gitmo, effectiveness and posturing

There is a factional fight within the White House over whether or not the United States government should close down the prison camps at Guatanamo Bay, release the innocent and the guilty but harmless individuals, and transfer the indictable to a variety of federal prisons within the continental United States. TPMMuckraker that the typical sides in this fight [Rice/Gates v. Cheney et al] are leaking to gain advantage and nothing is being done.

I believe we should close down Gitmo, release the innocent and the harmless and charge the rest. This means airing our dirty laundry on torture, sensory deprivation and coercion but I believe that we are fundamentally a tough country that can face itself and the facts. I also believe that this course of action will improve our ability to more effectively minimize and marginalize Al-Quaeda.

I hold this belief for three reasons. First, a restoration of habeas corpus, and the rule of law restores a significant amount of internal American moral cohesion. In order to fight effectively and over a long period of time, core principles of identification must be held. We are not barbarians, but our recent behavior has been barbaric. We are better than the thugs of Al-Queada, the ISI and the hardest elements of the Taliban. We need to act that way.

Secondly, our ability to cooperate with other intelligence services are compromised as Gitmo imposes very significant soft power costs of cooperation. Minimizing and marginalizing Al Quaeda requires this cooperation. Furthermore, the 'intelligence' that we are getting out of Gitmo is primarily crap as it is being derived from torture and other techniques that are similar to the Stalinist show trial confession extraction techniques. These interrogations are not designed to gain new and true information. They are designed to get someone saying what you want to hear. Information loops are much like computer programming --- garbage in, garbage out.

Finally, we are engaged in a war of narratives with Al-Queada. They have a vision for their society and the place in the world that is diametrically opposed to our vision as a benign hegemon that has established over the past sixty years the dominant global rule set. Within their narrative the United States is an imperial, racist exploiter of natural resources controlled by non-Christians and the supporter of oppressive, torturing regimes.

The United States as a matter of policy should not automatically change its policy in order to move away from the Al-Queada narrative's vision of the United States. However at any and all times that are practicable, the United States government should not reinforce the opposing narrative while simultaneously weakening our own narrative of human rights, responsive governments and personal liberty. This narrative is far more attractive and persuasive when we walk the walk as well as the talk.

Closing Gitmo improves our security and I encourage President Bush to do this.

However there is an opposing viewpoint that closing Gitmo decreases our security. John at Rightwing News advances this argument:

If you're looking for a signal that the Bush administration is no longer serious about fighting terrorism, this would seem to be as good as any,...

Honestly, I'd rather that they make a simple decision about all the inmates at Gitmo: are they members of Al-Qaeda or not? If they're not members of Al-Qaeda and haven't taken American lives, they should send them home. If they are members of Al-Qaeda, they should hang them.

No due process, no appeals, no respect for Geneva --- somehow this is supposed to improve our security...

No it is a means of posturing for toughness instead of looking at the tough problems and thinking them through. Our country is tough. It is resiliant and we have gone through, survived and thrived against much tougher and more dangerous enemies. Keeping Gitmo open is mindless chest beating that does not help us deal with our problems effectively. Instead it is a posture that makes our problems more difficult and expensive to work on.

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