As I sit here on May 25, 2009 and reflect on the meaning of this day, just as I do quietly and privately on every Memorial Day, I remember the service and sacrifice of those who went before me, including my own family’s not insignificant contributions in both World Wars and in Korea. Compared to them, my own twenty years of service as a reservist seems insignificant if not trivial. Nonetheless on a day like today, I can’t but help being galled by the recent “road show” undertaken by the former Vice President Dick Cheney with its theatrical, if not alarmist claim, that the current administration has undermined the security of the United States. Mr. Cheney has suggested that Barack Obama would set the country on a course where other Americans will once again find themselves in harms way. I find this political grandstanding nothing less than preposterous, when one stops to consider that it is coming from a man, who when it was his time to serve his country in Vietnam, opted out as he had, in his own words, “other priorities”. In his pursuit of “other priorities”, Dick Cheney would benefit from multiple deferments from military service while other Americans were fighting and dying in Southeast Asia. Cheney’s assertion that Obama has embarked on a “reckless” course of action in seeking to close Guantanamo should be seen as a rather curious statement when one considers that it was Cheney and his Neocon fellow travelers who advocated for a war with Iraq, on the most dubious grounds, thereby engineering the most reckless undertaking in American history.
I can give the Bush Administration a pass for operating beyond the pale of accepted rules of engagement in the period immediately after the September 11 attacks owing to the gravity of the situation and the unknowable state of national security which resulted from those attacks. I can also understand how American intelligence officers at that time, in an effort to forestall another attack, could chose to employ interrogation techniques that can only be categorized as torture. That said, as time passed and the threat environment was revealed to be far less dangerous than had been anticipated the justification for torture and detainment without due process became harder to justify. It is impossible to deny that the existence of the Guantanamo facility along with the abuses at Abu Ghraib would become key factors in the recruitment of new adherents to the radical Muslim jihad and thereby create new and more multifaceted threats to be addressed.
In an address to American troops in Europe during World War II, General George S. Patton would state:” You don’t win wars by dying for your country, you win wars by getting the other guy to die for his.” The corollary line of logic to Patton’s advice for our time is that you don’t win wars by creating new enemies. At this point in time it is a forgone conclusion that the existence of Guantanamo works against our national security interests, as it is the single best recruitment tool presently available to Al Qaeda, thereby contributing to the pool of available enemy combatants. For those who have taken the time to listen to the debate, there is bi-partisan agreement on this fact as evidenced by the recent comments of Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) along with the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, all of whom have agreed that Guantanamo needs to be closed. The crux of the argument revolves around how to relocate the detainees so as not to compromise our security.
With general agreement on the need to deal with the Guantanamo detainees in some other fashion, what then is the motive behind the Cheney “road show” other than the former Vice Presidents seeming need to redeem himself in the eyes of the American public? As has been speculated by the talking classes, Cheney is still smarting from the fact that he and his Neocon clique were marginalized and took a back seat to Condoleezza Rice and the State Department after the 2004 election. Why is it that Cheney just can’t accept that his version of national security may be inapplicable at this point in time or that it is perhaps, less than well founded given the current threat environment? After all, for all of the claims that Bush and Cheney prevented another attack on U.S. soil, the fact of the matter is that this country suffered it’s worst terrorist attack on their watch. In reality Dick Cheney, with his advocating for War in Iraq and his championing of “enhanced interrogation” and unlimited detention may have done more to endanger the security of the country than Obama ever could by closing down Guantanamo. What will Mr. Cheney have to say if individuals who carry out the next terror attack on the United States admit to interrogators that their motive for joining the jihad was the invasion of Iraq, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, or the existence of Guantanamo?
Steven J. Gulitti
Memorial Day 2009