Friday, January 23, 2009


Sorry, the left is not at fault here, for a lot of reasons, not just the ones Atrios listed.

Freed by the U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief

The emergence of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen's capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen....

Right-wingers would respond to what Atrios says -- "[Obama] didn't let them go. Liberal bloggers didn't let them go. The ACLU didn't let them go" -- by saying that George W. Bush was under unreasonable pressure to let them go.

Boo hoo. This is, not, and during Bush's presidency was not, a dictatorship, much as he might have wished it to be.

Forget what lefties want, or what judges have demanded. If George W. Bush wanted these policies to stand, it was in his own self-interest to make sure the policies could stand up to legal scrutiny, as well as maintain the consent of the governed.

But this was perhaps George W. Bush #1 pathology as president: He simply didn't care whether anything he did actually worked -- by his definition or anyone else's. All that mattered to him, to paraphrase his own words in his 48,000 exit interviews, was that he made the tough decisions and never compromised his principles and so on and so on.

If he'd actually wanted dangerous jihadists removed from circulation, he would have made his detention policies as close to legally bulletproof as he could -- i.e., no torture, some form of due process, and a genuine effort to distinguish "the worst of the worst" from the falsely accused and the underlings.

But he didn't care. All he cared about was that the world knew he intended to be tough. Actually result just didn't matter. He wanted a fight with the courts and civil libertarians. That was more important to him than preserving the policies he said were vital to national security.

Bush's utter indifference to results (see also Iraq, the fight against Al Qaeda, Katrina, the economy) seems almost neurological -- I sometimes wonder if the writer who'd truly grasp his strangeness is not a political journalist or historian, but Oliver Sacks.

The left does not object, and the courts would not have objected, to a reasonable process for dealing with dangerous individuals. If Bush had actually wanted to deal with dangerous individual, rather than seeming to, a reasonable process is what he would have given us.


By the way, this 2007 Boston Globe article suggests that Bush administration release policy was based not so much on who seemed most suitable for release as on which countries were most willing to take detainees -- and what do you know, the Saudis, those great jihad-fighters, were especially eager. (Said Ali al-Shihri was released to Saudi Arabia.) Rehabilitation and monitoring of ex-Gitmo detainees by the Saudis, under the watchful eyes of Bush and Cheney -- what could possibly go wrong with that?


APOLOGIES: Link now added.

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