Posted Wednesday, May 21, 2008, at 11:15 AM
In case you missed what in most news cycles would've been headline news, Defense Secretary
of the Senate appropriations committee yesterday that efforts to close Guantanamo were "at a standstill." CNN quotes Gates testifying: "The brutally frank answer is that we're stuck."
Why? Gates says there are about 70 detainees who the DoD has cleared for release, but their home countries won't take them back, or would take back but then release them (presumably against the DoD's wishes). Other detainees are "ineligible for prosecution" for reasons Gates didn't detail (I have a few guesses). And there's a core (of fewer than a hundred, sounds like) who "can't" be prosecuted but whom Gates sounds very certain are bad guys. He'd like to continue detaining these folks somewhere other than Gitmo, but apparently the Pentagon is having a hard time persuading a state to let them bring these guys into the continental United States.
Could be that the DoD would have more success placing the detainees it is ready to release with home country hosts if we hadn't spent so much time calling these guys the worst of the worst (or otherwise generally making it clear we didn't much care what other countries think). Could also be there'd be more prosecutions if there'd been less abuse. And could especially be that there are federal facilities inside the United States that are under federal control, usable as prisons even if the states would rather not have these guys in their back yards. But recognizing that things are now far worse than they needed to have been doesn't exactly tell us what should happen next. Given the past mistakes (to put it kindly), none of the solutions ahead is going to be ideal.
Gates has been widely credited with being the non-Rumsfeld, and seems genuine in his desire (public and private) to close Gitmo down. But given this bleak testimony, it's hard to imagine any of this getting fixed anytime before 2009.