Obama on Stephanopoulos

It is so refreshing and encouraging to hear someone as intelligent and thoughtful and apparently focused on figuring out the right thing to do and how to get it done (as opposed to rhetoric) to make America better.

The interview with Stephanopoulos is still in progress, but Obama continues to come across as a combination of gracious but firm, intelligent but willing to listen and learn, and just plain solid. An example is his reply on Guantanamo. He admitted that it will be more difficult than most people understand. Personally, I have mixed feelings on closing Guantanomo vs. reforming how it is run - there are some very bad and dangerous people in there whose life goal is hurting America. And the right has jumped on this as an example of Obama’s “lefty” approach, closing the place and putting dangerous terrorists in U.S. prison populations and creating all manner of new risks. Obama acknowledged it will be difficult and there is a balance to be kept of maintaining our principles of justice while still ensuring very dangerous people aren’t released and that, while he is committed 100% to closing Guantanomo, he will make sure that our security is not compromised.

And I believe him. I suppose that is the difference. And it is a honeymoon period - he hasn’t had to do anything yet. But I, someone who in general thinks of 90% of those in Washington as power craving game playing politicians whose #1 thought is always “how does this benefit ME”, Jeff the cynic, believe this guy will make a difference, is sincere, and what he says is what he believes and means. He’ll make mistakes, I may be getting completely fooled, but as I listen I continue to be convinced that this guy isn’t just another Washington politician.

We’ll see.

This is pretty much how we in the UK felt about Tony Blair.

Whether they entered that way or not, most of the people there now are probably hostile to America because of the way we’ve treated them. If your grounds is that they’d be a threat to the US, then no one can ever leave. And really, “very dangerous people?” These aren’t supervillains. They aren’t any more dangerous than the general population of the US. They’re human beings most of which are just poorly trained to fire rockets and machine guns. The only difference is that they don’t like us much, which you know goes for most of the world at this point. I’m sure there’s some biochemist in France or something that thinks we’re dicks, but we aren’t storming his house and throwing him in prison.

The only choice is to let people go as they are deemed not high value or turn Gitmo into a life long luxury resort.

Boy this thread title brought up an unpleasant mental image.

On a side note, the concept of people who are simultaneously too dangerous to be released, yet we also we don’t have enough information to put them on trial under military legal standards, is a pretty interesting paradox. It’s almost enough to make me think the government is full of shit.




Well, some have been put on trial, and some we just don’t know what to do with. Not saying this is the situation for all, but there are a few reports here and there (that aren’t from biased blogs on one side or the other) that discuss some of the dilemma. From various sources we’ve gone from about 800 to about 250 there. There was an article in Der Spiegel (sp?) not long ago about the problem of many not wanting to be returned to their home country, about some home nations refusing to take them, and some prisoners lying about their home country to avoid being sent back.

Here’s a short article:


I’m still hopeful that Obama, unlike Blair isn’t an undercover Orwellian.

You mean military tribunals where they can’t see the evidence against them or the evidence resulted from torture? Gotcha.

Figuring how where to return them to is a problem, sure, but that has nothing to do with “we’re think they’re guilty but we can’t put them on trial or let them out” thing that dominates the coverage of the place, and is why people insist it needs to stay open.

I’m no fan of what went on down there, but actually I was talking about some of the trials of folks like the 9/11 guys that have occurred in the recent past and were public.

Jason, one of the practical problems is where do you put them when you shut this down? Some are people who have actually been caught doing bad things (like the terrorists who did the Cole bombing, who were released back to their home country, which let them escape.) Let’s assume you stop doing the bad stuff and only have people you catch in actual terrorist activities, say, someone who is a leader and coordinator. I doubt you want to put him in Leavenworth, KS.

And we’re on the same side here - I posted that I was pleased that I believed Obama understands the issue and doesn’t oversimplify it like many on the two extremes do, and thus will do it right. He was firm on that - he said there are issues, there are some really bad people there, but he was 100% committed to closing it down.

I have no idea why you think this is complicated.

The “neat” thing about Gitmo that Bush found was that because it was legally offshore somewhere, and through a tortured reading of the law, he could declare that the courts have no jurisdiction over it. Now that the Supreme Court has shot that down, they either have to convict the people there or let them go.

The convicted people are easy; they go to a SuperMax somewhere like McVeigh. Why wouldn’t you put a convicted terrorist there?

The clearly innocent people are also easy; no reason their source countries wouldn’t take them back. Then there’s the people we think aren’t innocent, but we can’t convict them because we don’t have a shred of evidence:

Beyond the high-value prisoners, why are so many detainees still at Guantanamo? Pentagon officials say there are three basic reasons: 1) the home country has a poor record of keeping track of those repatriated, declining to make a significant commitment to keep the detainees in custody, detention or on a watch list; 2) they could subjected to torture or execution on return; and 3) the detainees are essentially stateless, that the home country refuses to take them back.

They give the game away here:

I don’t believe the government actually cares about 2) for a goddamn second.

  1. is basically “we think they’re guilty but can’t prove it, will you please lock them up forever?” which is the stupidity that got us into this situation - 90% of them will follow the pattern seen so far of being completely innocent, and the other 10% will be bin Laden’s janitor or something.

  2. is the only difficulty which actually is one.

I suspect the reason it’s “so hard” is the government is still playing cute with 1). Remember that until Obama is in office and cleans out the stack of lying shits he’s installed you can’t believe a word they say.

…and therefore we should detain people without charges? I think you’re missing some steps there. Hypothetically if they’re so goddamn guilty we could prosecute them ourselves and then lock them up.

Jason, I’m not sure why you are creating an argument with me - I was quoting what Obama said and agree with him. He stated that once he was able to see the details, he saw that there were complications that makes it more challenging than some suspect in closing it down, but he was committed to resolve those and close it down. So you think Obama is full of shit?

No argument from me that some things have been done at Gitmo that shouldn’t have been done, that it’s wrong to hold people forever without charges. They’ve effectively declared Gitmao a POW camp and taken the stance that it’s not a prison, therefore they can use it as you would a POW camp (i.e. you don’t need formal charges, etc.) But I assume there are still going to be people in there amongst the couple of hundred remaining who are genuine bad guys, and there will be some time required to get everything together for a trial, and you’ll have to do something with them in the meantime (it is not unusual for a murder suspect to be held, admittedly with charges, for over a year before trial.) To me the only real complication is where you keep the folks who you intend to bring to trial until they’ve had the trial.

So, for example, let’s say you capture an Al Quaeda #2 (there are apparently a LOT of Al Quaeda #2s from all the reports of how many we have captured, killed, etc. ;) ) Someone who really is involved in setting up terrorist attacks around the world. You certainly want to interrogate that person and see how much information you can get from him. No, not waterboard him, etc. but legitimate effective interrogation. Where do you keep him while you do that? I don’t believe you can simply toss him into Retrieve Prison in Angleton Texas during that part of the process.

While that is likely not the situation for most of the couple hundred or so down there, I would guess that such situations are the complications to which Obama referred. Send him an email telling him he’s full of shit if you disagree with him. ;)

I think Obama’s playing nice with the “reasonable” Washington establishment that fell for all of Bush’s shit on this. It’s not actually complicated at all, for the reasons I pointed out.

In a high-security prison? What’s so complicated about it? They didn’t invent a new prison system for Manuel Noriega.

On point one - no offense, but I’m gonna take Obama at face value at what he knows over your analysis, assume he knows details you don’t, and assume he is telling the truth - he certainly wasn’t worried about playing nice on other issues. No matter - he is shutting it down.

On putting them in high security prisons: I’m not knowledgable enough about the prison system to know the issues of putting someone like a high ranking Al Qaeda leader in there, but I did hear Pelosi say in an interview that there were problems with that approach. I just don’t know. I do know that even in high security prisons they can’t control things well enough to prevent inmates from getting drugs, getting stabbed, etc.

That attitude worked well with Bush. I actually had the same attitude right after 9/11. I remember I was in class that morning after it happened and everyone was using it as a way to criticize Bush. I naively said maybe we should give him a chance first because we have to provide at least enough trust for him to attempt to do his job as commander in chief with all the resources he has to bring to the situation. This was well before Iraq of course.

On putting them in high security prisons: I’m not knowledgable enough about the prison system to know the issues of putting someone like a high ranking Al Qaeda leader in there, but I did hear Pelosi say in an interview that there were problems with that approach. I just don’t know. I do know that even in high security prisons they can’t control things well enough to prevent inmates from getting drugs, getting stabbed, etc.

If high security prisons work for FBI agents that sell sensitive information, why wouldn’t they work for Al Qaeda? Again, these are just human beings we’re talking about, not Magneto. I swear, it seems like all rational thought goes out the window when people even feel a bit threatened.

Really? I thought you were all up in arms about him bending over for the US in terms of one-way intelligence sharing, US control of UK military deployments, and US management of UK nuclear weapons policy. Or was all that outrage only from the conservatives, or only after some years after his initial ascension to power?

There were many of us on the left thinking that here was a socialist who could finally appeal to the British middle class and unite the country under a set of clear, left-of-centre, rational and reasonable policies.

Then he took power, and apparently we’d elected a consummate liar who changed his entire philosophy based on the way the political wind was blowing.

Mind you, Barack Obama doesn’t have the same relationship with the media that New Labour had, which in retrospect should have been the clue that the apparatus was going to be sordidly manipulative. I still hope that he (Obama) is the real deal.

My understanding is that it’s nowhere near that simple, unfortunately. There have already been numerous cases already in which the source countries have refused to take back people detained for terrorism, even if they were found innocent or never actually charged for lack of evidence.

So if they’re innocent, yet their home countries won’t take them back…we should give them amnesty, right? What’s the normal approach for kidnapping people on what turns out to be false pretenses?