Of all the many disappointments President Obama has inflicted on progressives in this country, one of the most visible is the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay. That dismay was heightened for many when he authorized the resumption of military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay (this was apparently quite a relief for Republicans).
I understand this disappointment, and everything I’ve read indicates to me that Guantanamo is not an ideal situation. But one of the big problems in my opinion is that those opposed to Guantanamo generally leave it at that – they are opposed to Guantanamo. Rarely is a specific alternative put forth. This leaves fear mongers on the right plenty of room to bring the public to a near panic at the thought of doing anything differently. I was hoping to hear some ideas about what could be done instead.
It seems to me that the biggest problem is that these detainees have to go somewhere, and just because they can’t be convicted in the US doesn’t mean that they won’t be arrested and conceivably tortured or otherwise ill-treated in their home countries. This is a grave dilemma, especially for a group of people like the Uighurs. repatriating them would be illegal and immoral – putting them right into the hands of Chinese authorities known to mistreat Uighur separatists. Then there is the issue of where else to put them – no other country particularly wants to accept them either. Efforts to get countries to accept them tend to invoke a very strong NIMBY response (though Bermuda and Palau both deserve a tip of the hat for their efforts at helping us resolve this problem).
Lastly, there is the real problem that some released prisoners have been known to later re-involve themselves in terrorism.
We can’t solve the problem of Guantanamo until we answer these very real questions – what to do with prisoners who can’t be convicted in US courts, but at the same time can’t, either for their safety or ours, be released anywhere else.