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Club Gitmo might stay open for business after all

Congress takes steps to thwart the imperial will, in a struggle Obama has never bothered to spend much political capital on.

At least one element of Barack Obama’s insane and destructive agenda has run into trouble in the lame-duck Congress. ¬†As Fox News reports, terrorists eager to be routed back to the battlefield via the “detention” systems in their home countries might have to wait a bit longer:

President Obama‚??s plan to close the federal prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba hit a major snag Monday as lawmakers finalizing the annual defense policy bill rejected steps to shut down the facility.

The final defense bill will not have a provision giving the president the power to transfer terror suspects to the U.S.  if Congress signs off on the plan, said Sen. Carl Levin.

“Our language … (on Guantanamo) … will not be in,” Levin said.

Levin backed the authority for Obama to transfer the suspects and enthusiastically heralded it in May as the ‚??path to close Guantanamo.‚?Ě

The House and Senate are expected to vote and overwhelmingly approve the sweeping policy bill in the coming days, sending it to Obama.

The president has pushed to close the post-9/11 prison since his inauguration in January 2009. He has faced strong resistance from Republicans and some Democrats in Congress who don’t want terror suspects housed in U.S. facilities and have warned of suspects returning to the fight when they are transferred back to their home countries.

Here’s a glimpse of the stern punishment these detainees face after they’re sprung from Gitmo:

The U.S. has released a number of prisoners over the last few weeks.

Saudi national Muhammad al-Zahrani was allowed to return to his country Nov. 22 after five prisoners were released a few days prior.

The board cleared him for release in October, citing a number of factors including his willingness to participate in the Saudi rehabilitation program.

Al-Zahrani was the 13th prisoner to leave Guantanamo Bay this year and the seventh in just the past couple of weeks. Officials have said more prisoners will be released in the coming weeks as part of a renewed effort to close the site. Seventy three are already cleared for release.

There’ll be a lot of disappointed rehabilitation program coordinators out there if Guantanamo Bay stays open, not to mention the corrections officials who were doubtless eager to welcome terrorist detainees into the Muslim community thriving within stateside U.S. prisons. ¬†In what turned out to be the sunset days of his tenure as Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel admitted that released Gitmo prisoners were indeed back on the battlefield fighting U.S. troops – evidently at least 30 of them have signed up for lively rehabilitation programs offered by ISIS, al-Qaeda, and similar humanitarian programs, but Hagel wouldn’t offer a firm number. ¬†Instead we got this word salad, quoted by The Blaze:

‚??Well, we know that some of the detainees that have come out of Guantanamo have gone back to the fight, to the battlefield,‚?Ě he replied. ‚??We‚??re aware of that.‚?Ě

At the same time, Hagel said he still believes it‚??s best for the U.S. to close down Guantanamo Bay and reach agreements to have other countries host prisoners taken in the war against terrorism. Hagel said those commitments are needed because it‚??s an ‚??imperfect‚?Ě and ‚??dangerous‚?Ě world.

‚??This is why we pay so much attention to getting commitments from host countries in securing those commitments and doing everything we can within our power to assure that those commitments, not to allow those detainees to go beyond what is required in order to secure them in these different host countries that take them,‚?Ě he said.

Hagel then acknowledged again, ‚??But we do know that some have joined the fight.‚?Ě

The Obama Administration pays a lot of attention to getting secure commitments from host countries, you see, but these chaps somehow keep popping up at ISIS morning roll call anyway. ¬†And that’s why it’s a great idea to close Gitmo and throw the other 140-odd detainees out there! ¬†Sounds like the latest variation on the “we did everything right on paper, so quit asking us why it all went kablooey in practice” song-and-dance.

The New York Times reported in September that the kinda-open, sorta-closed limbo status of the Guantanamo facility has left it in poor condition due to lack of maintenance funding:

More than 12 years after the Bush administration sent the first prisoners here, tensions are mounting over whether Mr. Obama can close the prison before leaving office, according to interviews with two dozen administration, congressional and military officials. A split is emerging between State Department officials, who appear eager to move toward Mr. Obama‚??s goal, and some Pentagon officials, who say they share that ambition but seem warier than their counterparts about releasing low-level detainees.

Legal pressures are also building as the war in Afghanistan approaches its official end, and the judiciary grows uncomfortable with the military‚??s practice of force-feeding hunger strikers. And military officials here, faced with decaying infrastructure and aging inmates, are taking steps they say are necessary to keep Guant√°namo operating ‚?? but may also help institutionalize it.

Parts of the wartime penal colony, intended to keep detainees only temporarily, are fraying. The unit that houses the most notorious detainees is built on unstable ground ‚?? a floor is described as buckling ‚?? and will need replacement for any long-term use. In the kitchen building, temperatures soar to 110 degrees at midday, steel supports are corroded, and workers must cover dry goods with plastic tarps during storms because of a leaky roof. In the troops‚?? quarters, some guards are required to live six to a small shack, with poor ventilation and no attached bathrooms.

The quality of the medical facilities has also raised concerns because Congress has prohibited sending even critically ill detainees to the United States. After Latin American countries declined to take a detainee if an emergency arises, Pentagon lawyers concluded that it was lawful not to evacuate a prisoner for urgent medical treatment, according to an internal Pentagon document acquired by The New York Times in a Freedom of Information lawsuit.

To better prepare for a medical crisis, the military has instead ordered specialized doctors to be prepared on short notice to fly in with equipment. Still, there are limits to what medical personnel can do without quick access to sophisticated hospital resources.

The poor dears!  Say, does anyone know what sort of access to sophisticated hospital resources ISIS and the Taliban provide to their prisoners?  Can I get a round number on how many beheadings and forced religious conversions have been performed at Guantanamo Bay?

Also, the¬†Times¬†mentioned that “legal pressures are building as the war in Afghanistan approaches its official end, and the judiciary grows uncomfortable with military’s practice of force-feeding hunger strikers.” ¬†Well, Obama quietly reversed that whole “war in Afghanistan approaches its official end” thing a couple of weeks ago, so we may yet need a place to store high-value Taliban detainees. ¬†Putting them in Afghan prisons doesn’t¬†always work out well.

Closing Guantanamo Bay is an old Obama campaign promise that still lingers unfulfilled, puzzling his worshipers, who don’t understand why he couldn’t just wave his magic pen and close it instantly the minute George Bush was out of office. ¬† Now that he’s assuming dictatorial powers on matters such as immigration, the faithful will be even more confused if Congress can keep the camp running.

Closing it would give a tiny little jolt of energy to the anti-American, and especially anti-Bush, faction of the Democrat Party, which loves to view Guantanamo Bay as a symbol of arrogance, cruelty, and the futility of fighting terrorism – on few other topics are you likely to hear the “fighting terrorists only creates more of them” canard come out so quickly. ¬†As the¬†New York Times¬†took pains to observe in the article linked above, ISIS is fond of making its Western captives wear orange jumpsuits in their beheading snuff films, supposedly to stoke resentment toward Gitmo, the symbol of American evil. ¬†Aren’t the¬†losers¬†in a war normally expected to capitulate to the demands of the victors? ¬†And won’t these jokers still be wearing orange jumpsuits if we shuffle them to stateside prisons? ¬†I hear orange is the new black when it comes to incarceration style.

Is this going to be an issue where congressional Republicans, with the help of security-minded Democrats, actually manage to thwart the imperial will?  Does Obama really care enough about this issue to spend significant political capital on it?

Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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