The Wall Street Journal notes today that if Barack Obama wins the Presidency, we can look forward to startling revelations about the Guantanamo Bay Prison--not about claims of atrocities and torture, but rather, as campaign rhetoric gives way to the sobering responsibilities of dealing with the threat of terrorism, that the place isn't so bad after all. The New York Times began the process yesterday, just in time to avoid helping the Republicans in the election, but early enough to provide plausible deniability against charges of sitting on a story until after the election. As the Journal describes the story:
In their 1,600-word dispatch "Next President Will Face Test on Detainees," reporters William Glaberson and Margot Williams discover that, gee whiz, many of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay really are dangerous terrorists. The Times reviewed "thousands of pages" of evidence that the government has so far made public and concludes that perhaps the reality is more complicated than the critics claim.
Lo and behold, detainees are implicated in such terror attacks as the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. Those with "serious terrorism credentials" include al Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and the so-called "Dirty 30," Osama bin Laden's cadre of bodyguards. The Times didn't mention Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11, though he's awaiting a war-crimes tribunal at Gitmo too.
Both Barack Obama and John McCain have pledged to put Guantanamo out of business, but, as the Times explains, "the review of the government's public files underscores the challenges of fulfilling that promise. The next president will have to contend with sobering intelligence claims against many of the remaining detainees." Now they tell us.
Well, now, I haven't been so surprised since the non-partisan Alaska State Personnel Board report cleared Sarah Palin of charges of ethics violation in connection with her firing of state's public safety commissioner. That report, released Monday, received a fraction of the publicity given the findings of a partisan legislative probe, led by Alaska's Democrats, and came too late to prevent the sullying of Governor Palin's reputation as a government reformer.
We can expect a lot of this. The mainstream media and commentators on the Left somehow forgot during the last eight years that the much-maligned policy of "extraordinary rendition"--the transport of terrorist suspects arrested abroad by the FBI or CIA to other countries for interrogation or trial--was employed throughout the Clinton Administration; only to become an instant human rights abuse when the practice was continued by President George W. Bush. Should an Obama Administration take the terrorist threat seriously, those same critics will now ignore the use of extraordinary rendition, or even find the policy to be innocuous, and even helpful to national security.
On the other hand, if John McCain is our next President, extraordinary rendition will continue to be a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention and the U.S. Constitution, and a war crime deserving of trial before the International Court of Justice.
Back to the subject of Gitmo. As the New York Times article suggests, the prison serves a useful function, and members of Congress are not exactly clamoring to have a replacement prison located in their districts. Whether our next President is John McCain or Barack Obama, don't be surprised to see Gitmo stick around at least four more years.