04 June 2009

Sen. Tom Coburn On Gitmo, North Korea, Iran, Israel, &c.

These are my (mostly) unedited notes from the just-concluded conference call with Senator Coburn. As much as possible I tried to quote word-for-word but my slow typing sometimes required me to paraphrase.

Notes from the Senator's statement:
  • I've stayed in several prisons, of my own volition, over the years and this is the nicest one. Unique in its position and mission. Don't know where in the world you could locate a prison and accomplish the same purposes.
  • Well run facility. Individuals are being detained in the appropriate manner by high standards. 6000 calories a day. every opportunity to practice religious beliefs and access to medical care.
  • We could contain them elsewhere, the issue is people getting into and making a political statement where the individuals are contained--especially if we moved them to the US. Other terrorists would be able to go there and demonstrate and blow themselves and make statements. In Leavenworth, for instance, there is a rail yard nearby and a school house nearby with many military children. How do you strengthen a facility to keep that from taking place? Guantanamo is the right place.
  • Cost: it will cost hundreds of millions to replicate Gitmo elsewhere in the United States. Frankly, this is an expense we cannot afford at this time. We need to stop needless spending.
  • This would actually slow down the military courts and tribunals if we moved them. It's all set up at Gitmo. You will have to replicate that system with secure video for interviewing witnesses from around the world and handling documents of a classified nature and handling the detainees in a secure way. It would slow down the administration of justice.
  • Obama says they want to close Gitmo because of its "image around the world." it's really the fact that we're detaining them at all--it isn't Gitmo, per se, its that you're detaining them at all. Europe thinks they should have already been tried. If we move them but don't try them, the European objection remains. The Muslim world doesn't think we should be detaining them at all.
  • Move them and the reason for objection remains--you just have a different prison name used as a rallying point.
  • It is not in the best interest of the United States or best global interest to close Gitmo. They continue to fight in prison and if their released we know they'll fight on the battlefield.

Q&A Notes:
  • Will they be confined in solitary or spread their radical jihadism? Geneva convention prohibits holding them near a prison population. This is a fertile ground for them to spread the gospel of terrorism. They'd have to be placed in solitary confinement--worse than Gitmo.
  • On the Gallup poll showing Americans in favor of Gitmo: Americans want them to be held and not allowed back into the battle. Thinks Obama admin should look at the poll and say, "This is what the American people want even if it's not what the Europeans or Muslim world wants. Needs to remember Americans are his constituency and not the world."
  • The Europeans have made such an issue of Gitmo but are unwilling to take the detainees. It's unfair criticism. If you're going to criticize, then what's your solution? Alright, if you're so mad about it, then let's move them to Paris. France took one detainee with some fanfare but it still leaves a lot. These guys want to continue to fight and continue to fight in prison. They are not "rehabilitated." Finally, the administration is backing off of this line.
  • I don't know what they can come up with--certainly not within their time frame--to be able to get funding and move the detainees elsewhere. They needed to get the military commission going much faster if they were going to hit that timeline, but they just barely got it going 3 weeks ago.
  • It's irresponsible for the administration to be trying to move detainees to the US or elsewhere when they have a safe, humane place now.
  • 2 State solution does not provide Israel with a reliable partner--they cannot get security. We've seen what happened when Israel pulled out of Gaza--chaos--and would likely happen again if they pulled out of the West Bank. We need to engage with Jordan and Egypt. The Palestinians may not get what they want--a state--but they would get increased prosperity and security and some chance for political participation--certainly better than what they have now and what they would probably get if, indeed, Israel pulled out of the West Bank.
  • President Obama is a liberal. I hate to state the obvious, but he is. He's probably the most, without question, most fully liberal who has been elected President in a long time--certainly a generation--and you're seeing that expressed in his foreign policy. To harang Israel, our best, democratic ally in a dangerous part of the world, is a mistake from a security perspective. And to suggest that it is OK for Iran to have a nuke program is the height of insecurity for the US and the world and will lead to a new nuke arms race in the Middle East. It has the risk of breaking into a new hot war in the Middle East. It is the height of irresponsibility on the security agenda. Look at the other thing, North Korea is trying two American citizens and preparing a missile which could reach American soil. They have shot a missile over Japan. Has the Obama administration done anything to slow this down or stop it? I've pleaded with them and we'll put it up in the FTA to reestablish N. Korea as a terrorist state. In the shadow of all of these provocative, aggressive acts, the Obama administration has done nothing. We're getting what you always get when appease your foes. The World is safest when America stands strong against these things.
  • No matter what you call the War on Terror, it continues. They still want to fight in Gitmo and they are still fighting elsewhere in the world.
  • I think the Obama administration cares about these things--Iran, N. Korea--but they are naive about it. They think the Bush admin talked to tough and that we just need to have a dialogue to get past our differences. I think it's naive and totally denies history and I think it's dangerous.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.