Monday, October 12, 2009

Canada should help clean up Guantanamo

Updated below (Tuesday a.m.).

Blast you, Lindsay Stewart, making me blog when I want a quiet Monday...a brief post on the issue of Guantanamo and what to do.

Am in total disagreement with the notion that this is America's mess, screw them and they should be left to clean it up on their own. Of course it's their mess and they bear primary and ultimate responsibility for what they've done in breaking international laws, for torturing. And they should get their house in order. And sure, Obama should have it all wrapped up by now, I mean, he's been in the job for less than a year and it's such a simple legal and political problem, right? The entrenched national security forces in the U.S. that Obama is fighting on this one are an awesome force, he needs help from those in the world that disagree with them.

For the rest of the world to sit back and point and do the "you go first" thing, it's difficult to see the merit in supporting that position and how it advances the cause of closing that gulag. And it appears that many other nations in the world don't see it either because they've started resettling prisoners in the absence of American action to take them on their own shores. Why are they doing this then? They're not looking at American domestic politics and pointing fingers back at Obama. They're right. International support for resettling can feed into pushing the domestic American opposition into moving on this:
The Obama administration has secured commitments from nearly a dozen countries willing to accept detainees from Guantanamo Bay and is increasingly confident about its ability to transfer a large majority of the prisoners who have been cleared for release, according to U.S. and foreign officials.

Six European Union countries -- Britain, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain -- have accepted or publicly agreed to take detainees. Four E.U. countries have privately told the administration that they are committed to resettling detainees, and five other E.U. nations are considering taking some, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Two E.U. countries will soon send delegations to the U.S. military prison in Cuba to assess detainees held there.

The administration's progress in resettling the approximately 80 detainees cleared for release so far could ease the politics and logistics of moving terrorism suspects to American soil. Some lawmakers fiercely oppose bringing any detainees to the United States, but a substantially reduced detainee population could bolster the administration's effort to secure a prison location in this country.
Congress has blocked the administration from resettling any detainees in the United States, a move that administration and some European officials feared would lead other countries, particularly in the European Union, to refuse to help close the military prison. But the issue has proved relatively unproblematic, officials said.
Unproblematic...probably an overstatement. But clearly it's been quite the problem with us.

Guantanamo Bay should be closed, the Obama administration wants to close it and Canada should be right there helping to close it. It's an historic affront to the rule of law. It's so clear an example in recent history. Here comes the idealism, caveat reador...I want my government to be on the right side of history in saying no to that place. If this means taking prisoners that even American domestic opposition prevents from being resettled on American shores, so be it. Take the high road and do the right thing. Exercise Canadian leadership on the world stage. Help. Do not be isolationist.

The Harper government may not be punished electorally for their refusal to act on Guantanamo. That's their operative motivation here and on most issues. Playing to their base as they are, playing to Canadians' collective shoulder shrugging. And how sad that is to see political strategy deployed on one of the major issues of our time. But they're on the wrong side of this. Other nations are getting why it is a necessity to act, it's not always a pure motivation, but they're doing it, nevertheless. And we, typically, are missing history's boat on this one.

Update (Tuesday a.m.): Responding to Lindsay....

Going to repeat myself here, but I still think this guy, who is saying things like this to the world, deserves our help:
On my first day in office, I prohibited -- without exception or equivocation -- the use of torture by the United States of America. (Applause.) I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed, and we are doing the hard work of forging a framework to combat extremism within the rule of law. Every nation must know: America will live its values, and we will lead by example.
And I think we will have to agree to disagree on American acceptance of detainees on its own soil as a pre-condition for other nations taking detainees. I'm not convinced that won't happen anyway. There's a long way to go, of course, with 80 of 240 having been cleared for release/resettlement now, and 40 having been approved for trial, but at least one of the detainees is seeking to resettle in New York. Don't laugh. It's a start and there may be more.

Is the U.S. getting off scot free here? There has been an investigation launched by Attorney General Holder ( I know, I know, it's not nearly enough) of CIA abuses and while it's theoretically limited to CIA abusers, the book is not closed on how that one ends yet. I'm not happy either that the torture claims have not been pursued. But I'm not willing to say Canada should do nothing because those claims are not being pursued as fully as we would like.

As for the conditions that are suggested be placed on acceptance of detainees...

The International Court? That would be nice. Since the U.S. is not a signatory to it and doesn't submit to its jurisdiction, bit of a problem for Obama to overcome there. (And since Steve and the gang are turning their backs on the International Criminal Court and its principles, any suggestion from us that it be used might not be received so well.)

Paying monies to countries to take detainees as a condition of resettlement...think that or other inducements are already happening.

Access to the U.S. justice system for civil suits by detainees? I'm not sure that's precluded now. But you can't force the civil justice system to accept cases and dictate to judges what suits will and won't be allowed though. A better suggestion might be a compensation regime for torture victims, wrongly held detainees, something of that nature. I would agree with that.