August 30, 2005,
The U.S. government is preparing to return 68 percent of enemy fighters from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to their home countries, primarily Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Fraught with shortcomings, this risky scheme reeks of capitulation to Bushophobes.
Politically, this decision bolsters the "Gitmo=Dachau" position. Unable to face the brickbats of left-wing journalists and activists here and abroad, the administration seems to be lobbing this hot potato halfway around the planet.
Politics aside, this tactic potentially threatens U.S. safety. Thankfully, Guantanamo is incredibly secure. This Navy base overflows with well-armed guards and well-trained GIs. Any al Qaeda assassin who slithered from his cell soon would be neutralized. If he happened to reach the compound's periphery, he would be greeted by barbed wire and watchtowers. If he snuck through, he could swim to freedom. Haiti is about 100 miles southeast across the shark-choked Windward Passage. Good luck, Abdul.
Because they are not surrounded by water, Afghan, Saudi, and Yemeni prisons cannot be as impregnable as Guantanamo. Since they are accessible by land in countries rife with Islamo-fascists, don't be surprised if al Qaeda troops attempt to liberate their jailed colleagues so that they can resume the hard work of mass murder. The victimized government would surely fret with ours about what these un-caged beasts might do next. Even a failed jailbreak likely would find allied and even U.S. soldiers in the crossfire.
Common escapes are a less dramatic possibility. Inmates sometimes flee U.S. penitentiaries. Do we really believe Afghan, Saudi, and Yemeni jailers can incarcerate these professional killers better than America did our own in 2001? Back then, according to the latest statistics in the 2002 Corrections Yearbook, 63 federal inmates escaped. The Washington Post reported August 5 that Afghanistan's slammers are inadequate. So, U.S. taxpayers will build a suitable prison there and train its guards.
It is hardly encouraging that Yemen's prisons are not as hermetically sealed as a Fort Knox vault. Ten key suspects in al Qaeda's October 12, 2000, attack on the U. S. S. Cole escaped from Aden's supposedly well-guarded central-intelligence building on April 11, 2003. These fugitives included Jamal Ahmed Mohammed Ali al-Badawi and Fahd Muhammad Ahmad al-Quso, two top organizers of the terrorist operation that killed 17 American sailors and injured 40 more. In May 2003, a Manhattan grand jury slapped al-Badawi and al-Quso with a 50-count federal indictment for their crimes. Fortunately, all of these men were recaptured in March 2004. Who knows how much damage they did while at large for roughly 11 months.
Also worrisome, in June 2002, Yemeni al Qaeda agent Walid Abdullah Habib fled a prison in Yemen. If American officials insist on repatriating Guantanamo's Yemeni detainees, they first should send a locksmith there to tighten things up.
Meanwhile, Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Saudi King Abdullah, and Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh are all mortal, and al Qaedists dream of abbreviating their lives. If Allah forbid they succeed, less pro-American successors could grant amnesty to Gitmo alumni.
Guantanamo's 510 detainees are worth keeping for their current and prospective intelligence value.
"We have and we are today still getting information that is relevant, that is actionable, and is supporting our service members in the field in the global war on terrorism," Army general and Southern Command chief Bantz Craddock told the Senate Armed Services Committee July 13.
While some inmates may seem fresh out of information today, who knows what they could reveal tomorrow? Imagine that the FBI caught a terrorist in March 2006 named Mustafa al-Fissi carrying detailed diagrams of the San Onofre, California, and Seabrook, New Hampshire, atomic energy plants. Today, no Gitmo interrogator could ask detainees about the still-undetected al-Fissi. Next March, however, one or more Gitmoites might be persuaded to sing about al-Fissi, his contacts, his bankers, etc. Sending these intelligence sources beyond U.S. control will, at best, delay our ability to connect these dots. If our foreign friends limit access to transferred Guantanameros, FBI agents might stare at al-Fissi without knowing what some of his terrorist brethren know about him.
Even from a human-rights standpoint, those who bellyached about Gitmo's raw, naked cruelty now balk at exporting its detainees. As nasty as "Bush's dungeon" supposedly is, these critics now concede that any Afghan, Saudi, or Yemeni hoosegow is unlikely to be as comfortable for bin Laden's boys as our facility on a breeze-swept Caribbean island.
The detainees' Middle Easte destinations "are not countries with stellar human rights records," the Washington Post editorialized August 6. "Saudi Arabia's is absolutely dreadful. Shifting the indefinite detention of enemy fighters from Guantanamo could, therefore, end up meaning worse treatment for the detainees."
Indeed, once departed, Gitmo's current guests probably can kiss goodbye such conveniences as volleyball courts, extensive medical and dental care, and an 800-volume book collection from which, the Washington Times's Rowan Scarborough reported August 8, "a staff of three librarians load up a book cart and go cell to cell."
The administration should repatriate anyone at Guantanamo who it deems innocent of Islamo-fascism. That aside, President Bush should refute his opponents by explaining, in detail, that Gitmoites want Americans and our "infidel" allies dead in huge numbers and are trained and eager to slaughter us. They remain prospective and often current intelligence assets. Also, at least twelve of them already have engaged in terrorism after going home.
Arguing convincingly to keep Guantanamo full until America wins this war makes far more political and strategic sense for President Bush than does trying to satisfy his unappeasable detractors.
Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Arlington, Va.