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Guantanamo Bay should be kept open and managed with international participation.

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GITMO International

Guantanamo Bay should be kept open and managed with international participation.

As White House efforts to manage the financial bailout seemingly spin out-of-control, another crisis of major proportions is brewing behind the scenes.  In a surprise move announced last week, the Obama administration revealed that it is seriously considering releasing terrorists currently held at Guantanamo Bay into the United States.   

The announcement comes as the administration struggles with what to do with detainees housed at the facility after President Barack Obama’s decision in late January to close the prison within a year.  Nearly two months after the president’s choice, the administration has yet to present Congress with a credible plan that closes the prison and ensures the safety of American lives.  As the clock ticks down on the president’s self-imposed deadline, the administration is seemingly being forced to address the Guantanamo issue on an ad hoc basis, driven by liberal public opinion and increasing European demands.  

The reality is there was no operational need to close Guantanamo Bay.  In just the last month, a review ordered by the administration determined that the current facility is consistent with the requirements of the Geneva Convention.  It has also emerged in press reports that several former Guantanamo detainees have reengaged in terrorism, becoming top al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen and Afghanistan.

By rushing to announce the closure without first developing a plan, an exit strategy if you will, the Obama administration has transformed Guantanamo Bay from an issue into a serious problem.  As with the Bush administration, this administration will not return detainees to their homeland if they face the possibility of torture or murder.  The administration is also being forced to confront the fact that some of the detainees’ homelands do not have the training programs, resources or ability to track and monitor them once they are released.    

In recent days, European perfidy on Guantanamo has reached new levels, with continued calls to close the prison and new demands for information and guarantees that make it increasingly unlikely that prisoners will be housed on European Union soil.  The fact is European nations have benefitted from America holding terrorists at Guantanamo that have targeted the continent, which makes the frequent high-minded pronouncements combined with little effort to help mitigate the risks all the more galling.          

Though I am critical of the administration’s handling of its self-made crisis at Guantanamo Bay, I believe that Republicans should look to make constructive suggestions as well.  In reviewing the issue, what has emerged is that the prison itself is not the problem, it is the faulty, often unsubstantiated, perception of the facility that is the real problem.  It also cannot be ignored that our European allies and other global partners benefit from the safety of having the dangerous, trained terrorists formerly known as enemy combatants incarcerated at Guantanamo.  

That is why I believe Guantanamo Bay should be kept open and managed with international participation.  Just as there is global benefit and risk associated with the final disposition of Guantanamo detainees, the president is right that this should be a collective effort and not a burden of America alone.  

I believe that it is appropriate for our NATO allies and coalition partners to join us in the administration of the Guantanamo facility.  This will allow America to share the cost and responsibility of ensuring the security of countries around the world from terrorism.  It will also help our nation build international consensus with respect to the conditions of confinement at the facility as well as spread the burden of staffing and maintaining the facility among our allies.   

Even if some in the administration cannot bring themselves to utter the word terrorism, the threat posed by jihadism to America, our forces abroad and our allies is still considerable, and the real life danger posed by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is no less.  If global public opinion is important enough for the administration to shape U.S. policy, the administration should demand our allies come forward to help us resolve these important and challenges issues.

I urge President Obama and the secretaries of State and Defense, Hilary Clinton and Robert Gates, to immediately begin discussion with our allies about facilitating joint administration of prisoner confinement at Guantanamo going forward.  I will also turn to my colleagues on Capitol Hill to determine whether a common consensus can be developed to pave the way for such an arrangement.  There are some important practical and legal obstacles that would need to be resolved, but I believe it is a workable concept that could be agreed to on a bipartisan and international basis.  

The original decision to close Guantanamo Bay was a solution that begged a problem.  Rather than solving the dilemma, the administration’s decision risks metastasizing it to the rest of the world.  Now is the chance to begin a dialogue that leads to realistic solutions that ensure the safety of America and our allies and that recognizes the threat of terrorism is global and knows no borders. 

Written By

Congressman Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan) is the top Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

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