28 March 2007

Listening To The Wrong People On Gitmo

The Denver Post, citing the New York Times as its source, argues that Guantamo Bay remains open because President Bush has relied on two of the least well regarded members of his administration for advice.

President Bush should have listened to Robert Gates in January as the newly appointed defense secretary repeatedly urged that the American prison in Cuba be shut down as quickly as possible. The facility holds nearly 400 detainees, suspected in some way of being complicit with terrorists.

Gates argued the prison had such a tainted reputation abroad that any legal proceedings held there would be seen as compromised. It was a view supported by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other officials who discussed moving Guantanamo detainees to U.S. military brigs. . . .

[I]n the end, objections by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Vice President Dick Cheney carried the day . . . and the prison remains open.

Why is it so hard for President Bush to realize that he should listen to his own Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State, rather than to his disgraced Vice President and Attorney General, in matters of national security?

Alberto Gonzales has lost the support of almost every Democrat in Congress (he did't have support from many of them in the first place), and a number of Republicans in Congress, because documents disclosed by the Justice Department make clear that he lied to Congress about the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys. The Inspector General of the Justice Department has revealed that while Gonzales has been AG, the Justice Department routinely broke the law by spying on American citizens even though their powers to do so legally were greatly expanded by the PATRIOT Act. Even his staunchest supporter, Colorado's own Ken Salazar, has been forced to start to come to terms with the fact that his friend is a crook.

Dick Cheney is one of the least popular men in the United States today. According to a CBS News/New York Times Poll taken March 7-11, 2007 of 1,362 registered voters, just 18% have a favorable opinion of the Vice President, while 48% have an unfavorable opinion of him. His Chief of Staff, Scotter Libby, is a convicted felon. There is a strong implication that Libby leaked a covert agent's identity at the behest of his boss. Cheney has been the strong voice in the administration for torture and against the rule of law, from the beginning. He's offered to resign, but the President, unwisely, didn't take him up on the offer.

President Bush is not innocent. The better angels of his administration have repeatedly and resolutely urged him to do the right thing. He received a bold warning that an attack on Americans by Osama bin Laden was coming and did nothing. The CIA and State Department told him that the aftermath of the Iraq invasion would turn out as it in fact has turned out. His generals told him that they didn't have enough troops at the beginning of the Iraq War to conduct it properly. High officials in the administration have told him that his regime of torture and extralegal detention to fight a "war on terrorism" was wrong and perhaps even made him a war criminal. He has remained determined in the face of advisors giving him the chance to do the right things, to instead harm our country.

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