100 less days to find a Gitmo solution
From the first moments of the Obama Administration, continuing through today, its 100th day, Senate Republicans have pledged to work closely with our new president to find solutions to the many foreign policy challenges we face. As our armed forces continue to wage two wars overseas, Republicans believe it’s important to work with the new administration to advance a foreign policy agenda that protects the American people and furthers our interests abroad.
So far, there have been two major points of convergence. Republicans agree with the President’s strategies in Iraq and in Afghanistan, where the new administration has agreed in both cases to closely follow the best advice of our military commanders on the ground. We part ways, however, with the administration’s proposal to close the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by an arbitrary date in January 2010, before it even has a plan for the 240 terrorists who are there.
To date, the Administration has not provided the American people with any specifics about what will happen with these inmates once this arbitrary January deadline arrives, or how transferring or releasing these men will keep our country as safe as Guantanamo has. The American people don’t want murderers back on the battlefield, where they can plan future attacks. And they certainly don’t want these men released into their neighborhoods, as some in the administration have shockingly proposed, according to news reports.
Guantanamo holds some of the most dangerous men alive, including Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the mastermind of the September 11th attacks. This man, who bragged about decapitating the American journalist Daniel Pearl, openly expresses his desire to kill more innocent Americans. Another Guantanamo detainee is Abd Al-Rahim Al Nashiri, the mastermind behind the attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors in 2000. Of the more than 800 men who have been held at Guantanamo over the years, the ones who remain clearly represent the “worst of the worst.”
The administration has not been all that clear about its reasons for closing Guantanamo before it has a plan for these detainees. The reason isn’t that Guantanamo is unsafe or unsecure, since no one disputes that it is. The reason isn’t that the facility is poorly run, since Attorney General Holder, the man in charge of carrying out the closure of Guantanamo, has said himself that the facilities there are good ones. Finally, the reason isn’t that the administration has a better or an equally safe alternative.
Once the administration does present an alternative, the American people will need assurances that this alternative will keep them as safe as Guantanamo has. The American people will also need to know that trained terrorists currently held at Guantanamo won’t end up in their communities. If they are released in American communities, the administration will have much to explain — particularly since the U.S. Senate has spoken overwhelmingly on this issue: two summers ago, the Senate voted 94-3 against sending terrorist inmates to United States soil — even if it only meant sending them to our most secure prisons.
On matters of national security, the new administration’s most important commitment should be to keep the American people safe. On Guantanamo, it has missed the mark, just as it did when it recently released classified CIA memos on U.S. interrogation methods. Not only does releasing these memos enable Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations to prepare for capture, it also runs the serious risk of demoralizing our intelligence community which plays an indispensible role in the global fight against terrorism and which should not expect reprisal for good-faith efforts to protect Americans from harm.
When the administration fulfills its commitment to protect Americans, as it has on Iraq and Afghanistan, it can count on strong Republican support. But if any proposal endangers Americans, it will meet strong Republican opposition.