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June 09, 2005

Bush Open To Closing Gitmo? [Say Anything]

Bush Open to Possibly Closing Gitmo Camp

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Wednesday left open the possibility that the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be shut down.

"We're exploring all alternatives as to how best to do the main objective, which is to protect America," Bush told Fox News Channel's Neil Cavuto in an interview.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he did not know of anyone in the administration who was considering closing Guantanamo.

I'm not sure that the President's words support the idea that he's open to closing Gitmo at this point. Here's the entire exchange from his interview with Cavuto:

[Additional comments by Dave at Garfield Ridge]

CAVUTO: Speaking of civil liberties, one of your predecessors, Jimmy Carter, was very critical of our operations at Guantanamo Bay (search), saying they should be shut down, that abuses there, if proven true, are dragging our name through the mud globally. What do you make of that?

BUSH: Well, I first of all want to assure the American people that these prisoners are being treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. I say in accordance with because these weren't normal, you know, military-type fighters. They had no uniforms. They had no, you know, government structure. These were terrorists, swept up off the battlefield in a place like Afghanistan, for example.

And it's in our nation's interest that we learn a lot about those people that are still in detention, because we're still trying to find out how to better protect our country.

Secondly, that anytime there's an allegation of abuse, we investigate. That's what transparent societies do. We've got a press corps that's constantly asking tough questions about prisoner treatment, for example. You just asked one. And that's what open societies do, they answer the questions by saying...

CAVUTO: But now President Carter has said, sir, shut it down. Joe Biden said shut it down. Do you think it should be shut down?

BUSH: Well, you know, we're exploring all alternatives as to how best to do the main objective, which is to protect America. What we don't want to do is let somebody out that comes back and harms us.

And so we're looking at all alternatives and have been. And when there have been questions of abuse and allegations like the Koran, the Pentagon went through a full investigation and then released the data for everybody to see.

And I will tell you that we treat these prisoners in accordance with international standards. And that's what the American people expect. When somebody put out that Amnesty International report, they asked me about it. I said it's just absurd to equate Gitmo and Guantanamo with a Soviet gulag. It's just not even close.

Clearly the President is open to exploring other options for detention, but I'm not sure I'd say he's necessarily open to closing Gitmo itself.

One thing a lot of these "close Gitmo now" people are missing is the fact that, while the President might be open to closing that particular detention center down he is nowhere near admitting that the people detained there should be let go. He recognizes the fact that these people are dangerous and should not be running around loose in the world. And he's right. So what does it matter if they're detained in Guantanamo Bay or Fairbanks, Alaska? They'll still be detained, and the bleeding hearts will still be angry about it.

[Crossposted at Say Anything]

[Dave at Garfield Ridge] I made similar comments over at my site yesterday, although I concentrated more on the Public Relations 101 behind these comments:

Because as anyone trained in press relations knows, you never answer "never." You always answer in a positive tone. Even if Gitmo were to be closed tomorrow, you wouldn't say that until you're ready to close Gitmo. Likewise, if Gitmo were to never close, you don't say that, either-- because if it closed for whatever reason, good or bad, the press could hang your quote from your neck.

Hence, the constantly mealy-mouth statements out of this, and any, White House: "exploring alternatives" is synonymous with "we're not going to answer the question you want us to answer because you'll just hold it against us."

Of course, never underestimate the power of the press to hold *every* answer against the White House, thus this latest instance of making a mountain out of a molehill.

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posted by Ace at 10:26 AM

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