Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pledge To America- #1

The GOP has released its "Threat Pledge To America: The New Republican Agenda." It is more vague than the "Contract On For America" because in 1994, the move was more of a shot in the dark, the GOP believing that it probably would not gain a majority in either chamber. Now, with a takeover in the House likely and one in the Senate a real possibility, the Republican Party must be cautious, lest it be held to any promises it makes.

Nonetheless, the Pledge contains a few curious, if not completely surprising, elements. In the subsection "Keep Terrorists Out of America," under the section "To Keep Our Nation Secure at Home and Abroad," we read

We will prevent the government from importing terrorists onto American soil. We will hold President Obama and his administration responsible for any Guantanamo Bay detainees they release who return to fight against our troops or who have become involved in any terrorist plots or activities.

First, terminology: kudos are deserved because of the use of the term "terrorist" rather than the generic term "terror" which has become so popular in the mainstream media. If "terrorism" is the topic (as it is), terrorism, not "terror," should be discussed. Unfortunately (though homey), the GOP does employ the generic "American" (soil); why it would consider importing terrorists to Canada, Latin America, or South America as important as "importing" them to the U.S.A., I haven't a clue. But language has implications, and "terrorism" is precisely accurate; "American" not so.

Enough semantics, which really is much more than semantics. The GOP decries the hypothetical release by the Obama Administration of Guantanamo Bay detainees "who have become involved in any terrorist plots or activities." One may respond: it's hardly hypothetical- it already has occured!

And apparently it has. The New York Times reported in January

Administration officials said Wednesday that a classified Pentagon report concludes that of some 560 detainees transferred abroad from the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, about one in five has engaged in, or is suspected of engaging in, terrorism or militant activity.

The finding comes amid reports that one former Guantánamo detainee released in 2007 under the administration of President George W. Bush is now involved with a branch of Al Qaeda based in Yemen, a group that President Obama has said sponsored the attempt to bomb an American airliner on Christmas Day.

Mr. Obama announced Tuesday that he was suspending the transfers of additional detainees from Guantánamo to Yemen, even though he said he remained committed to his plan, now delayed, to close the prison.

A Pentagon report released last May found that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners who had been transferred had engaged in terrorism or militant activity or was suspected of doing so.

The report was vague, with only 29 detainees identified by name. Still, one searches the Republican document in vain to find any reference to the 534 Guantanamo Bay prisoners or to the 490 released by the administration of George W. Bush, not incidentally a Republican. (President Obama had, by that time in May, released 40 detainees.)

In the mid-range, perhaps the GOP is referring to the threat of Republican Representative Daniel Issa of California to increase staff radically and issue subpoenas liberally if he becomes chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2011. But if he were to do so, embarassing questions might be asked about the Republican acquiesence in- nay, support for- releasing suspected terrorists in the Bush administration. Meanwhile, this threat is not about terrorists, Guantanamo Bay, or even Barack Obama. It is about appearing tough: "We will hold President Obama and his administration responsible"- unlike, presumably, President George W. Bush, who was held responsible for nothing by the GOP or by the current, timid Administration.

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Overwrought Reaction

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