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Purposeful Ambiguity January 30, 2009

Posted by neoavatara in History, World Politics.
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The Jack Bauer Exception?  Maybe Obama is a '24' fan after all...

The Jack Bauer Exception? Maybe Obama is a '24' fan after all...

Liberal commentators were giddy with President Obama’s executive order closing Guantanamo Bay with the year.

Of course, they missed the loopholes.  The Wall Street Journal Opinion page has an interesting piece on it this week.  The media extolled Obama’s Presidential Order limiting interrogations to the Army Field Manual, which is much more restrictive in what it allows.  What they missed was the small print.  In what is being called the  ‘Jack Bauer Exception’ (from Fox’s 24), the unfine print of Mr. Obama’s order creates a committee to study whether the Field Manual techniques are too limiting “when employed by departments or agencies outside the military.” The Attorney General, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Director of National Intelligence-designate Dennis Blair will report back and offer “additional or different guidance for other departments or agencies.”

So when Mr. Obama claimed “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals” in his inaugural address, he was being a hypocrite.  He is left with similar bad choices that were presented to his predecessor.  In the face of real dangers, are we going to handle the terrorists with kid’s gloves?  These kind of covert operations are always difficult.  Richard Clarke, the antiterrorism guru (and no friend of President Bush), tells a story in his memoir “Against All Enemies”.  In 1993, White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler was horrified by Mr. Clarke’s proposal for “extraordinary rendition,” where our spooks turn over prisoners to foreign countries like Egypt so they can do the interrogating.  President Clinton, in his usual noncommittal way, was relunctant to order the rendition, until Vice President Al Gore sided with Clarke.  High ideals are important, and should never be forgotten; but the reality of the world sometimes imposes on the flighty rhetoric.

The Wall Street Journal goes on to describe the difficulty with the Guantanmo Bay facility.

First, Obama has no where to send the prisoners.  It is clear that most Americans don’t want the prisoners near them.  A trial balloon suggesting moving the prisoners to Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas was shot down by the Democratic Governor there; everyone knows that they will become a terrorist target the instant that these prisoners show up.

And a recent Gallup poll shows the division:  45% of Americans don’t want the Gitmo facility closed, another 20% are not sure.  Although I myself am in favor of closing the facility, it shows that there may actually be a majority favoring keeping Gitmo.  The liberal media doesn’t tell you that.

Then came the report that a significant number of released prisoners from Gitmo have returned to the battlefield.  Some, like Peter Bergen of CNN, doubt the report, but others seem to have confirmed the results.  You can debate the report; but you can’t debate that the military has serious reservations about closing the facility.

Ultimately, the Obama adminstration may have to come to a clear reality:  you can’t try these people in U.S. Courts.  No Miranda rights, questionable interrogation, detained without a speedy trial…the A.C.L.U. would have a field day.  Only military tribunals will work.  So ultimately, the Obama people may end up exactly where the Bush administration did:  an imperfect system for an ugly conflict.

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