To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Sunday, January 03, 2010


Brennan: Some Guantanamo detainees will go to Yemen

Washington (CNN) - The United States still intends to send some Yemeni detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility back to Yemen despite a terrorist threat there, President Barack Obama's terrorism czar said Sunday.


Closing the Guantanamo facility is necessary because al Qaeda and others have used it as a propaganda tool against the United States, Brennan said.

Some time back, I read a blog post by this man in which he said that he was going to stop worrying about things he could not help. I think that was in the context of Obama's election but I can't find it. Anyway, I decided to pretty much adopt that point of view, but sometimes I cannot stand the stupid.

Let's announce, in a news medium that's read all over the world, that we undertake major policy decisions in response to al Quaeda propaganda. I believe that is the definitive exposition of the idea that "the terrorists have won".


theolderepublicke said...

I think whether this statement means "the terrorists have won" depends on what propaganda is being used. One reason, for example, that Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson (and sometimes Kennedy) supported desegregation, an end to Jim Crow, and enforceable voting rights was because of Soviet propaganda that pointed out the very real contradiction between what the United States professed and what it practiced.

Now, I don't know all the in's and out's of the argument for closing Guantanamo, I don't know the logistics (as I understand it, and from the article you linked to, many of the prisoners are being transferred to the mainland and are not being released), and I also don't know the in's and out's of what propaganda al-Qaeda is using.

But I imagine the reference to propaganda follows this line of argument: Guantanamo holds prisoners that the US took in battle and that the US has (allegedly) tortured; these prisoners' access to due process has been minimal (although not absent altogether); al-Qaeda propagandists might try to claim, on the basis of these allegations, that the US simply invades Muslim countries and imprisons people indefinitely because they dare to oppose the invaders. The idea is that Guantanamo makes the US look bad to the rest of the world. (Maybe the rest of the world doesn't understand or finds it easy to judge because it has the luxury of not having to shoulder the responsibilities that the US shoulders. But that in itself doesn't change the perception.)

I think I do understand what you mean in your post when you suggest that citing al-Qaeda propaganda as a reason to close Guantanamo is conceding a "victory" of sorts to the terrorists. Whatever else comes of the closure, I suppose al-Qaeda propagandists can spin it so as to make it seem the US caved in. (And for what it's worth, maybe the closure will make us all less safe.)

Still, I hesitate to call the reasoning "stupid."

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I think the terrorists have won when they can demonstrate that we will do what they want.

If those presidents did support desgregation and so forth b/c of Soviet propaganda, they could also defensibly say that they were doing those things because it was the right thing to do. I don't think they ever said that they were doing them b/c the Soviets told them to. Maybe they were, but they didn't give the Soviets the satisfaction of saying so.

We can't turn all those people loose. Look at the two that we did, who were in on the Christmas Day plot. Moving them elsewhere is just a boondoggle, and we're probably not going to do that either.

The fact is that we are a flea in al Qaeda's socks, and nothing we ever do will placate them. Remember when Iraq moved into Kuwait, the Saudis were worried, and they asked us to establish a presence there? The gripe then was that we were polluting the holy land of Mecca and Medina with our infidel presence, and I remember the rationale put forth that we had to do something about Hussein so we could get out of there and quit provoking al Qaeda. Well, that didn't work, did it? We left Saudi Arabia and they switched over to another complaint. Throwing Israel to the wolves might please them, but I wouldn't count on that either.

theolderepublicke said...

Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

I was misleading when I said Truman et al. supported desegregation, etc., because of Soviet propaganda. It's my understanding that they cited Jim Crow as one way that weakened the US in the Cold War, in an attempt to get people who might otherwise stand in the way of reform to back it. But in my view they did believe that undoing Jim Crow was the right thing to do.

You are probably right that nothing the US does would please al-Qaeda. And you are definitely right that placating al-Qaeda oughtn't be our goal anyway.

I do, however, believe that closing Guantanamo is the right thing to do, even if it's not the safe thing to do. Sometimes what is prudent and what is right aren't always the same thing, at least in the short term. If we want to do what is, in my opinion, the "right" thing, we have to pay the cost of being less safe. If we want to be (relatively) safer, we have to pay the cost of doing morally questionable things. It's a good thing I'm not empowered to make those decisions. (When I taught, I used to tell my students that historians make poor politicians, and if I ever ran for office, they should vote against me.)

In all honesty I confess to not having enough facts to make an altogether informed decision. And I guess I'll have to live with the knowledge that reasonable people who probably know more about the issue than I do disagree with me.