On Fox News yesterday, Chris Wallace asked Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and phrased the question in the most Fox-like way possible. To his credit, the four-star general didn’t care.
WALLACE: Given that some of the prisoners that are left now are the worst of the worst, the most dangerous, and given that according to various estimates, the recidivism rate, the number of detainees who were released and returned to the battlefield, is up around 30 percent – do you worry that this White House is in too much of a hurry to close Gitmo?DEMPSEY: I’ve been in the group that believes that it’s in our national interests to quote – to close Guantanamo. It does create a psychological scar on our national values. Whether it should or not, it does.
He added that some of the remaining detainees must be locked up in the interest of national security, which would presumably mean imprisoning them in American super-max facilities, which already house plenty of dangerous terrorists.
Watching Dempsey, it was easy to note just how many notable military leaders – active and retired – who agree with President Obama about closing Guantanamo. Remember, the White House’s policy has somehow become a partisan political football in recent years, but Obama’s policy has been endorsed by, among others, Dempsey; Adm. Mike Mullen, Dempsey’s predecessor as chairman of the Joint Chiefs; former Secretary of State Colin Powell, himself a former Joint Chiefs chairman; former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was originally appointed by the Bush/Cheney administration; and even retired Gen. David Petraeus.
There was a point, not too terribly long ago, that Republicans stressed the importance of “listening to military advisers” on matters of national security. Why those same GOP voices reject their own maxim on Guantanamo is unclear.
What’s more, let’s not overlook the fact that the list of military leaders endorsing Guantanamo’s closure went up last night by one: retired Maj. Gen. Michael Lehnert said last night he too wants to see the facility closed.
And who’s Michael Lehnert?
He was the Marine who served as the first commander of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and he has a new piece in Politico.
Thirteen years ago this month, I arrived in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the commander, Joint Task Force 160, charged with constructing and operating a detention facility to hold Taliban and al Qaeda detainees. Today the detention facility at Guantanamo is a blight on our history, and it should be closed.I say this as one who helped to create it. […]History continues to judge our decisions – decisions made when we were angry and frightened. Who we are as a nation cannot be separated from what we do. It is hard to overstate how damaging the continued existence of the detention facility at Guantanamo has been. Repressive governments use it to deflect criticism of their own policies by charging hypocrisy. Violent extremists use it as a recruiting tool. It is a symbol for many around the world of torture, injustice, and illegitimacy.
It would appear Gen. Lehnert is just one more decorated military leader who’ll be ignored by Congress.