Opinion » Ted Rall

Closing Guantanamo

Obama needs Travelocity


Guantanamo is complicated. Everyone says so. Everyone is wrong.

Mainstream media pundits don't get it. They suggest a lame hodgepodge of solutions: a few repatriations here, a few extraordinary renditions there, maybe convincing some allies to take the victims of our stupid "war on terrorism." Immoral and idiotic.

All of the detainees can, should and must be released. Here. In the United States.

I don't find myself saying this very often, but President Barack Obama is finally talking about doing something right. Granted, he let five years pass before he took the problem seriously. Still, better late than never.

"Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe," he told a news conference. "It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us, in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed."

When Obama became president, there were 245 prisoners at Gitmo. Now there are 166. Officials worry that the experience may have radicalized them. How could it not?

The horrors are just beginning to come out. A Spanish investigation found soldiers have abused Gitmo prisoners with "blows to [the] testicles," "detention underground in total darkness for three weeks with deprivation of food and sleep" and waterboarding.

Few Americans are aware of how the vast majority got there. Mostly, they were sold like slaves: Afghan warlords and Pakistani tribesmen sold anyone they could find to the CIA and the U.S. military for bounties. Hundreds shipped to America's new gulag were at the wrong place at the wrong time. As for the rest, the majority were never a threat to America. Their jihad was against the governments of China, Pakistan and Yemen.

The 166 survivors can be classified into four categories:

Eighty-six have been cleared for transfer or release but can't be sent back home because they might be tortured or killed.

The Obama administration considers 47 too dangerous to release, but cannot prosecute them because there isn't enough evidence. Twenty-four are prosecutable but no one can say when a trial might take place.

Six have been charged and three convicted in the kangaroo court military commission system invented by George W. Bush's legal team to prosecute "unlawful combatants."

All 166 should be offered the choice of a ticket home or permanent residency in the United States. Under the American system of justice, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. These guys clearly can't be proven guilty, and the three that were found guilty obviously didn't get a fair trial.

Would some of these ex-Gitmo victims join the fight against the United States? Maybe. After all, 60 percent of American ex-cons reoffend.

Still, you've got to think that in a country full of cameras, with overfunded intelligence agencies and countless domestic police, it shouldn't be too hard to set up the former prisoners with jobs, phone taps, GPS trackers and two or three agents each to follow them around.

Can you imagine how pissed off the al-Qaida guys would be?