You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

NORTH: The Gitmo quagmire

- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 10, 2009

COMMENTARY:

On April 29, in an East Room press conference, President Obama claimed, "We have rejected the false choice between our security and our ideals by closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay."

That simply isn't true. What he did do was to issue an executive order directing the facility be closed by January 2010 - little more than seven months from now. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama - in his naive exuberance to fulfill a pledge that had earned standing ovations and rave reviews from the mainstream media during the presidential campaign - really didn't have a plan. That's now coming back to haunt him.

On Wednesday, while Mr. Obama was holding a photo op at the White House with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Rep. David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, quietly deleted funds for closing Gitmo from the fiscal 2009 supplemental spending bill. The O-Team had requested $80 million this fiscal year and an equal amount next year to cover the expense of shuttering the detention facility and relocating the terrorists housed there.

Mr. Obey, one of the most powerful Democrats on Capitol Hill, justified eliminating the fiscal 2009 funds by noting, "I personally favor what the administration's talking about doing, but so far as we can tell, there is as yet no concrete program for that." Just in case the nice folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue didn't get the message, Mr. Obey added, "While I don't mind defending a concrete program, I'm not much interested in wasting my energy defending a theoretical program."

The theory of which Mr. Obey speaks is that someone on the O-Team actually has a plan for where to put the 241 terrorists currently detained at the facility. Thus far, no other nation has volunteered to unburden Mr. Obama of the problem he created for himself during last year's presidential campaign and by issuing his increasingly dubious executive order. Until now, there has been talk of moving some to high-security prisons in the United States, sending others to their "home countries" and simply releasing other detainees who are no longer considered to be "terrorists."

During debate this week in the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, suggested we should give the cold-blooded terrorists housed at Gitmo "the same due-process rights as American troops." No one in the so-called mainstream media bothered to call Mr. Schiff to account for equating Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Zubaydah - Sept. 11 conspirators all - with the men and women of our armed forces.

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. revealed to a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that "some of the detainees will be released," that others would be "put on trial" and that "some are going to be detained on a fairly extended basis" without disclosing where or how any of this will happen.

That got the attention of Maryland's Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, one of Guantanamo's harshest critics. She admonished Mr. Holder that she "would be very concerned" if she and other lawmakers were not consulted before detainees were brought to the United States.

Ms. Mikulski may not have to worry about it. While Mr. Holder was testifying, Republicans in the House of Representatives introduced legislation that aims to stop the world's most dangerous terrorists from being imported into the United States from Gitmo - or anywhere else. Dubbed the "Keep Terrorists Out of America Act," the bill would prevent the transfer or release of terrorists into the United States unless governors and state legislatures preapprove such relocation into their respective jurisdictions.

In announcing the legislation, House Republican Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio said: "There are still terrorists around the world who are committed to killing Americans and destroying our way of life. A number of those terrorists are being held at the prison in Guantanamo Bay right now. If the administration is allowed to proceed, they won't be there for long. In fact, they may be right here, in the United States."

Mr. Boehner then offered "every member of Congress an opportunity to stand with the American people by affirming their opposition to bringing these terrorists into our communities, and we hope they join us."

It remains to be seen how many Democrats will line up behind such a measure. To encourage the faint of heart, the House Republican Conference released a powerful online video reminding those on the left who the Gitmo detainees really are. After Sean Hannity aired it Thursday evening on Fox News Channel, the network's phone lines lit up and in-boxes were brimming. The video can be viewed at www.gop.gov/detainee. Meanwhile, the O-Team needs to remember an acronym Mr. Obama first came to know in his previous employ as a community organizer: NIMBY ("not in my backyard").

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel and the author of the New York Times best-seller, "American Heroes."