Friday, May 27, 2005

Just Shut It Down

Just Shut It Down



Shut it down. Just shut it down.

I am talking about the war-on-terrorism P.O.W. camp at Guantánamo Bay.
Just shut it down and then plow it under. It has become worse than an
embarrassment. I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will
die if we keep the Gitmo prison open than if we shut it down. So,
please, Mr. President, just shut it down.

If you want to appreciate how corrosive Guantánamo has become for
America's standing abroad, don't read the Arab press. Don't read the
Pakistani press. Don't read the Afghan press. Hop over here to London
or go online and just read the British press! See what our closest
allies are saying about Gitmo. And when you get done with that, read
the Australian press and the Canadian press and the German press.

It is all a variation on the theme of a May 8
article0,6903,1479040,00.html> in The Observer of London that begins, "An
American soldier has revealed shocking new details of abuse and sexual
torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay in the first high-profile
whistle-blowing account to emerge from inside the top-secret base."
Google the words "Guantánamo Bay and Australia" and what comes up is an
Australian ABC radio report
that begins: "New
claims have emerged that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay are being tortured
by their American captors, and the claims say that Australians David
Hicks and Mamdouh Habib are among the victims."

Just another day of the world talking about Guantánamo Bay.

Why care? It's not because I am queasy about the war on terrorism. It
is because I want to win the war on terrorism. And it is now obvious
from reports in my own paper and others that the abuse at Guantánamo
and within the whole U.S. military prison system dealing with terrorism
is out of control. Tell me, how is it that over 100 detainees have died
in U.S. custody so far? Heart attacks? This is not just deeply immoral,
it is strategically dangerous.

I can explain it best by analogy. For several years now I have argued
that Israel needed to get out of the West Bank and Gaza, and behind a
wall, as fast as possible. Not because the Palestinians are right and
Israel wrong. It's because Israel today is surrounded by three large
trends. The first is a huge population explosion happening all across
the Arab world. The second is an explosion of the worst interpersonal
violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the history of the
conflict, which has only recently been defused by a cease-fire. And the
third is an explosion of Arabic language multimedia outlets - from the
Internet to Al Jazeera.

What was happening around Israel at the height of the intifada was that
the Arab multimedia explosion was taking the images of that intifada
explosion and feeding them to the Arab population explosion, melding in
the minds of a new generation of Arabs and Muslims that their enemies
were J.I.A. - "Jews, Israel and America." That is an enormously toxic
trend, and I hope Israel's withdrawal from Gaza will help deprive it of

I believe the stories emerging from Guantánamo are having a similar
toxic effect on us - inflaming sentiments against the U.S. all over the
world and providing recruitment energy on the Internet for those who
would do us ill.

Husain Haqqani, a thoughtful Pakistani scholar now teaching at Boston
University, remarked to me: "When people like myself say American
values must be emulated and America is a bastion of freedom, we get
Guantánamo Bay thrown in our faces. When we talk about the America of
Jefferson and Hamilton, people back home say to us: 'That is not the
America we are dealing with. We are dealing with the America of
imprisonment without trial.' "

Guantánamo Bay is becoming the anti-Statue of Liberty. If we have a
case to be made against any of the 500 or so inmates still in
Guantánamo, then it is high time we put them on trial, convict as many
possible (which will not be easy because of bungled interrogations) and
then simply let the rest go home or to a third country. Sure, a few may
come back to haunt us. But at least they won't be able to take
advantage of Guantánamo as an engine of recruitment to enlist thousands
more. I would rather have a few more bad guys roaming the world than a
whole new generation.

"This is not about being for or against the war," said Michael Posner,
the executive director of Human Rights First, which is closely
following this issue. "It is about doing it right. If we are going to
transform the Middle East, we have to be law-abiding and uphold the
values we want them to embrace - otherwise it is not going to work."