Monday, June 13, 2005

Another Crack in the Armor? Republican Senator Breaks Ranks on Guantanamo

In the latest example of a Senate Republican speaking out against the Bush Administration, Mel Martinez (R-FL) said June 10 that the Bush administration should consider closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Separately, Martinez expressed disappointment with the lack of progress in Iraq.

Martinez, speaking at the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors/Florida Press Association convention, is the first high-profile Republican to suggest an end to Guantanamo, which houses "terror suspects" -- some reportedly detained when they were as young as 14 -- captured as a result of the Bush Administration's "war on terror."

"It's become an icon for bad stories, and at some point you wonder the cost-benefit ratio," the Associated Press reported Martinez saying. "How much do you get out of having that facility there? Is it serving all the purposes you thought it would serve when initially you began it, or can this be done some other way a little better?"


Martinez, who strongly supported the Iraq war, said: "I am discouraged by how long it has taken for us to begin to draw down some forces."

He discussed writing condolence letters to the families of Floridians killed in Iraq. "It brings home the importance of the decision to send men and women to go to war," he said.


Maybe it is just coincidence that Martinez is taking a position counter to the Bush Administration on Guantanamo, at about the same time that Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) spoke out against the FDA, and just a few weeks after seven Republican senators helped reach a compromise on Democratic filibusters of judicial nominees, going against Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), who was threatening to end the two-century practice of filibusters at the behest of the administration.

Or maybe some Republicans sense that the Bush ship is sinking -- and that they should look out for their own careers, and not the president's agenda with blinders on.

Consider that the Republicans in "Group of 14" include liberal Republicans Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Olympia Snowe of Maine, as well as former (and possibly future) presidential candidate John McCain of Arizona, and possible 2008 candidates Mike DeWine of Ohio and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Oh sure, some of the above may be positioning themselves against Frist for the 2008 race. But when you factor in Martinez and Grassley, you have nine Republican senators, out of 55, who have taken a public stance against the administration in less than a month. When was the last time you can say that's happened, since Bush entered office?


Bush isn't that popular of late. Listen to Tim Russert rattle off poll numbers on the June 12 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

RUSSERT: Let's look at the latest polls on George W. Bush's second term. Approve, 43 percent. Disapprove, 55 percent. On the economy, approve 40 percent. Disapprove, 58 percent. On Social Security, approve, 34 percent. Disapprove, 62 percent. On Iraq, approve, 41 percent. Disapprove, 58 percent. And this one, handling the war on terror, which always had been George Bush's strongest issue, approve, 50 percent. Disapprove, 49 percent.

In spite of the administration's best efforts, Americans aren't buying what the Bush administraiton is selling. (Where were these people last November ...)

But will Bush change course? The Meet the Press roundtable was convinced it wouldn't. Consider the reaction from Judy Woodruff, formerly of CNN:

WOODRUFF: But this is a president who is supremely confident from everything we are given to believe about his leadership, about his policies. ... He's sticking to Social Security, he's sticking to the tax cuts. He hasn't backed down on a single thing. Yes, there was a mild compromise on federal judges, but this is a president who believes if he hangs in there long enough and toughs it out that he's going to prevail, that courting the base, the Republican conservative base, is going to stand him in good stead. I think that there are enough Republicans now that are worried about where this administration is headed, who are worried about their own prospects in '06 and '08, that the White House must be hearing this from them. We know there's some small evidence of that, but, you know, how much longer can they do, as David just said, sit there and -- essentially with blinders on?


Blogger Michael said...

When I first heard about the plan to build a prison/detention/interrogaton center for terrorists it was close enough to 9/11 that I was still in the "give our President the benefit of the doubt" mode.

But even back then I couldn't understand what the long-term outcome of such a camp could be. I imagined that the military would be "arresting" or capturing angry, dangerous fighter sorts of people and then throwing them in a cage on Cuba.

I didn't really have a problem with that but the confusing part was then what? I couldn't think of any scenerio where we could ever safely release any of these people. If they were really raving freedom-haters, or even if they were just freedom-dislikers, a stay in a US "interrogation" center was hardly going to make them happily rehabilitated world citizens.

So what is to be done after we finish beating the Taliban out of them? If we release them they will be hailed as heroes to their comrades and, if they didn't hate us before being detained, they surely would have reason to after. I mean, hell, even I would be fighting mad if I was bundled off and locked up in an offshore CIA prison camp for years.

So, are we going to just keep them there until they finally become so geriatric they forget who they are; or are we going to line them all up in front of a firing squad? Because those are the only two options folks. If any of those characters ever get off Cuba they will almost certainly be more of a threat than they were before they got there.

So, when I first heard about all this I was still hoping that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld had some sort of ingenious long-term plan that was just too clever to understand.

So much for the benefit of the doubt.

5:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott McClellan: "The individuals who are at Guantanamo Bay are dangerous terrorists who seek to do harm to the American people. At present, there's no plan to close Gitmo. The president says we review all of our options on a continuous basis."

Time Magazine: "Mr Qahtani had apparently been forced to bark like a dog, stand for prolonged periods, had his facial hair shaved off and pictures of scantily clad women hung round his neck."

Chuck Hagel [R]: "If in fact we are treating prisoners this way, it's not only wrong, it's dangerous and very dumb and very short-sighted. This is not how you win the people of the world over to our side, especially the Muslim world."

5:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firing sqad sounds fine by me. Whats the confusuion?

6:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The American Dissident always contributes intelligent, well reasoned points to JABBS.
Then on the other end of the spectrum, we have the individual who suggests simply shooting the detainees. The problem is most of them have not been given due process or even had been afforded a hearing. "So what we kills some innocent people in da process. After all they's only A-RABs! The only good A-RAB is a dead A-RAB! Them ghoul-damned, blasted towel-headed Muslims, theys only deserve what theys get. Look what theys done to us on 9-11."
Sorry, that is just not the way of American justice. It is not the type of example we want to set to for the world. Standing by our principals of due process and respect for all is what gives us our moral authority in the world.
That authority transforms into respect and power.
I sadly have been forced to watch that authority slip at the hands of Bush Administration policies. The U.S. is a more hated and dangerous nation as a result.
Closing the prisons would be a step in the right direction.
It is scary to hear Bush and Cheney
attempt faulty comparisons between what happened on 9-11 and the merit of the prison facilities. To me, they sound about as rational as the hillbilly example above.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

As a follow-up I discovered that this topic is discussed with specific examples here if you're interested:
and on BBC News

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the Hillbilly: Kill em all and let God sort them out. Subhumans don't deserve due process.

1:23 PM  

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