Barack Obama
Terrorism and Security, Government & Politics, War & Conflict

Responding to reports that Obama is dealing with the practical problems of translating campaign promises into real-world policy-making, far-left purist Glenn Greenwald has another in his long series of screedsabout torture and Guantanemo Bay up today.  But within the usual nest of multiple updates is a highly revealing line that gives dead away the problem with Greenwald’s intellectually dishonest approach to this issue:

There’s absolutely no good reason for Obama not to close Guantanamo immediately and simply try the detainees in our already-extant courts of law.  That’s how we’ve convicted all sorts of accused terrorists in the past.

Let’s take as assumed all of Greenwald’s key factual premises, add a few points that Greenwald omits, and note what Greenwald, in his ideological extremism, refuses to talk about:First, let’s highlight Greenwald’s factual premises and take them as assumed to be true:

1.  That treatment in violation of Geneva Conventions and certainly in violation of criminal procedure governing interrogations has occured.

2. That the alternative to Guantanemo Bay is trial in standard U.S. courts under standard criminal laws and procedures.

And now let’s add some important and relevant points that Greenwald consistently omits from his posts in spite of their length and purported thoroughness:

1. In addition to rules about treatment during interrogation, standard criminal trials have complex and detailed standards governing chain of evidence and territorial jurisdiction.  Since soldiers on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan are not trained or equipped to ensure proper chain of evidence, use of criminal trials would ensure that most detainees would be acquitted even in cases where torture is not an issue.

2. The response to acquittal in a criminal trial is outright release of the defendant.

3. Many of those already released from Guantanemo have returned to the field in the service of al-Qaeda with the explicit intention of killing people in large numbers.

What these points add up to is what Glenn Greenwald apparently doesn’t want to talk about.  Specifically, that his purist approach limiting the U.S. response to global terrorist networks to the use of criminal trials would result in the outright release of many, if not most of the defendants.  Many of those defendants would then dedicate themselves to killing as many Americans as possible, with nuclear or biological weapons, if possible.

Why does Greenwald refuse to discuss the implications of the plan of action that he angrily at at length insists is the only way forward that is even worth of discussion?

Let’s be clear: Torture is a travesty against American values that is wrong regardless of whether it is effective or not and regardless of whether our refusal to use torture is reciprocated when American servicemen are captured.  I am not endorsing torture.  But Obama’s recent moderation of his plan to close Gitmo seems to me a responsible acknowledgment that there are potentially dangerous implications to simply opening the doors and letting Gitmo prisoners to go free because the Bush administration grievously mishandled their interrogation.  Obama’s call for the creation of some alternative process that would balance the deeply conflicting interests that we have in the current situation is laudable.  Greenwald’s demagoguery and extremism is contemptible.

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