Commentary: Guantanamo closing becomes a battle of fear vs. faith

May 23, 2009 

This editorial appeared in The Lexington Herald-Leader.

On Thursday, the American people heard an appeal to fear, and an appeal to faith in the principles of the Constitution.

An appeal to fear, and an appeal to faith in this country's competence to identify and protect itself from security risks.

The appeal to competence and the rule of law came from President Barack Obama.

The appeal to fear came from former Vice President Dick Cheney, who is on tour denouncing the president and defending the actions of one of the most incompetent administrations in history.

The former vice president took the stage of a right-wing think tank moments after the president finished speaking from the National Archives, where the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence are enshrined.

The immediate dispute is over what to do with 240 detainees still imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The larger issue is how to retool our anti-terror strategy into something more effective than the Bush-Cheney plan that let Osama bin Laden escape and his allies expand their reach to within spitting distance of Pakistan's nukes, while turning thousands of innocent Afghans and Pakistanis into refugees and war victims.

One of the arguments cited by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others against changes at Guantanamo are findings by the Pentagon that 74 of the 534 prisoners already released are engaged in terrorism or militant activity.

The decisions to release most of those detainees would have been based on the Bush regime's best intelligence, secret proceedings and prisons, and torture, er, enhanced interrogation techniques that Cheney says work wonders.

So, if the one in seven recidivism rate is correct and a cause for worry, that's a reason to change, not cling to past practices.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Lexington Herald-Leader.

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