We are dealing with two ugly realities that mainstream opinion wants to wish away: (a) we are, as President Obama has taken to repeating, "a nation at war," and (b) the enemy, which means Americans mortal harm, is animated by an ideology firmly rooted in fundamentalist Islam.Contrary to Norm Geras, "innocent until proven guilty" isn't the rule of the law of war. The terrorists were sent to Git'mo primarily so we could learn more about Al Qaeda, not to be prosecuted.
Unpleasant fact (a) has a corollary: you cannot convert what is in essence a national-security challenge into a mere criminal-justice issue. That is, it never has been and it never will be the case that every enemy operative in a war is going to be a person we will have sufficient evidence to convict in court. In war, it is necessary to detain people who are suspected of being enemy operatives, not always provable enemy operatives in a courtroom.
The objective in peacetime is to maximize due process and put all burdens of proof on the government before liberty and privacy are infringed -- we’d rather see government lose than an innocent be done an injustice. By contrast, the objective in wartime is to defeat the enemy -- which calls for recognition that some injustices will be done for the greater good of safeguarding the nation. The excruciating weight of these injustices is why we resist warfare if we can do so responsibly; but once in it, our security requires that we make winning it our priority.
Certainly, releasing all detainees would be a disaster. As Matthew Waxman says, "The big question is what to do with any detainees who are too dangerous or heinous to send home but who cannot be effectively prosecuted." And moving some detainees to Kansas is crazy. Our Arab allies may have a better understanding of the issue than the President:
U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, said he had been told by officials from Muslim countries that they would no longer send officers to the Army Command and General Staff College if the detainees came to Fort Leavenworth.See also Stephanie Hessler's outline of the options for dealing with the Git'mo detainees in the current Weekly Standard.
“We’ve already heard from students from Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia that they will leave, or be pulled by their governments, if the detainees from Guantanamo are moved there,” Brownback said. "It’s where these relationships are built with foreign officers, particularly in the Islamic world. This really hurts us."
(via Campaign Spot, reader Doug J.)