The PJ Tatler

Who needs a plan for dealing with terrorists at Gitmo? Not President Obama!

It would be kind to go easy on President Obama for being uncertain about how to deal with captured terrorists being held at Gitmo. That problem is among the thornier issues raised by the terrorists and how they conduct their parade of war crimes against civilization. They intentionally attack civilians. They don’t wear uniforms, and they don’t adhere to an obvious chain of command. They’re terrorists, and in a more rational world they would be treated as some combination of illegal combatants, war criminals and spies, depending on their actions and circumstances of capture. But we don’t live in a very rational time, and President Obama made Gitmo one of his central indictments against President Bush. He made closing the camp one of his highest priorities, and even promised to close it by a date certain. That date has come and gone, the camp is still open, and the president hasn’t found a gut call that fixes the situation. We don’t always have enough evidence to try them, and other countries tend to shy away from taking them back, so we’re stuck with them. The Bush administration foresaw many of these problems; that’s among the reasons they put the terrorists in Gitmo in the first place. Given Obama’s scurrilous attacks on President Bush, I don’t see any reason to go easy on him for this. He wanted the job, and claimed moral superiority and promised to close it, and two years into his presidency, he ought to have figured this out. The media keeps telling us how unnaturally brilliant Obama is. So what’s the plan?

The top military official involved in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden said Tuesday that the Obama administration has no clear plan for handling suspected terrorist leaders if they are caught alive outside a war zone.

Vice Adm. William H. McRaven told a Senate panel that contingency plans for detaining terrorism suspects are developed on an ad hoc basis and approved by the White House, but that there are no set rules. “That is always a difficult issue for us,” he testified. “No two cases seem to be alike.”

Whatever the administration is doing, for political reasons it has taken moving captured terrorists to Gitmo off the table. Panetta suggested it and got shot down. So we’re capturing terrorists in fewer numbers, and releasing those we do capture in greater numbers. The political reasons for all this are, of course, of Obama’s own making. He demagogued Gitmo while campaigning, making it untenable for him to use the facility for future captures. His attorney general is leading the charge to treat these captured transnational war criminals with the full due process afforded American citizens accused of ordinary crimes. Obama’s preferred sidestep seems to be to just kill terrorists where our forces find them, which is fine as far as it goes, but does mean we will over time learn less about the terrorists, their networks and operations, because we are no longer using Gitmo to interrogate them. So, thanks to Obama’s unserious politics as a candidate, we may be going slowly blind the longer we fight the war.

But hey, he made the gutsy call to get bin Laden!