Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why Gitmo Should Remain Open: Exhibit One

Mas Selamat Kastari

The dude who's sneering at us from the 2003 photo to the right is Mas Selamat Kastari, the suspected Singapore leader of the radical Islamist group, Jemaah Islamiah. Jemaah Islamiah is blamed for attacks including the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 200 innocents.

Mas Selamat Kastari is also the alleged mastermind of a plot to hijack a plane and crash it into Singapore's Changi Airport.

Since the bombings, Mas Selamat has been in and out of custody.

In February 2003, tip-offs by the Singapore authorities had led Indonesian police to monitor
Mas Selamat’s movements after he arrived in Indonesia. They tracked him to Tanjung Pinang in Bintan, arresting him just after he arrived by ferry from Dumai in Riau.

After Mas Selamat was released in August 2005, the Singapore police made another request to their Indonesian counterparts to track him again.

In January 2006, they found him at a neighborhood mosque in Sengkaling, East Java. Mas Selamat was handed over to Singapore the following month.

But Mas Selamat escaped the maximum security Whitley Road Detention Centre in Singapore while on a toilet break on Feb 27, 2008. He was recaptured on April 1st. (No fooling!)

How to keep dangerous jokers like Mas Selamat locked up? A netizen from Singapore's Online Community, SgForums, suggests:
Build a high-security prison on an isolated island. It would have a natural barrier - the sea - so detainees will not be able to go far.
What a concept!

We already have such a perfect facility. Of course its international reputation has been defamed by the abuses of the Busheney abuses. I'm talking torture here.

But instead of ending Gitmo, we should be setting about mending it:
  • Internationalize it: staff it with a multi-national guards.

  • Make it transparent: subject facilities to un-announced visits by the International Red Cross or the like.

  • Humanize it: reasonable diet, sanitized quarters, etc.

  • Seal it: No visitors or internet privileges. (It's a prison!)

  • Assume indefinite custody: no "enhanced interrogation". Kid gloves counseling, maybe. But inmates might hope to talk their way out through open, on-site hearings attended by an attorney and presided over by some sort of judicial figure.
All this needs work and refinements. Many of my readers will find fault with this and call it a half-baked scheme, which it is.

But there seems to be a liberal stampede to raze Guantanamo and/or give it back to the Cubans. It's a resource we are going to need. We're going to be catching a lot of bad guys around the world, hopefully. Not just us, the USA, but all of the countries holding on to their stature as part of the global economy. I'm speaking of Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Columbia Phjiilipnes, Nigeria and others. These polities do not have stable politics or secure prisons. And American courts do not have jurisdiction over combatants or bombers caught overseas. Needed is a international destination-certain for these bad boys and girls to be sent to for protective custody. Gitmo will serve better for this purpose than the Hague.

We just have to internationalize the security and make treatment of inmates residents transparent to the International Red Cross, Amnesty International and other interested parties. Maybe the U.N. can provide a constabulary presence. (That's a detail.) Make Gitmo a secure, escape-proof resort. No golf or swimming, of course. Just an extended stay, until guests can convince their therapists that they are too mellow to raise hell.

Think of the possibilities. There are quite a number of terrorist perps in captivity around the world. Their captors are often unstable, failing states. Not wanting to risk prisoners escaping, their option might often be just to take 'em out back and shoot them. By opening up L'Hotel Guantanamo, think of the lives we could be saving!

So, I say I say mend Gitmo, don't end it.


  1. "Think of the lives we could be saving!" Vigil exhorts his readership. I recall Vigil opining against the death penalty in an earlier post, so I can appreciate the motivating conviction which prompts this post.
    I am thinking about the quality of life that would be "enjoyed" by Vigil's "terrorist perps", were we, as a nation, to commit to his proposal.
    I am not eager to throw yet more tax dollars down Middle Eastern, Asian, European - in truth, down World-Wide - toilets, collecting the worst of the worst among us, housing all of them in one place and "caring" for them for the remainder of their lives.
    Think of the pent-up fury and hostile rage that would fester if such a plan were to be implemented: an explosive firestorm of hate, plotting revenge, awaiting ignition. Oh yes, Vigil. Bring those "saved lives" on!

  2. There is such a place already, in The Hague. They have successfully detained quite a few international terrorists.

    As for us, we kept around a half million POWs under lock and key a few decades back, and some of them were pretty bad actors.

    There can be no rehabilitation of Gitmo in the eyes of the world. It needs to be closed. The only way we can possibly regain our credibility in the eyes of the world is to make a fresh start, all the way around.

  3. I like your presentation Vigil and see your point but Gitmo can't be mended.

    One of my problems with the idea is that say President Obama does everything you want, even internationalize the guards. But what happens if, or when, another president like Bush takes power? Pretty boy Romney in a debate down here in South Carolina during the primaries bragged he would expand Gitmo.

    My concern is that after another attack on the USA a reactionary president would easily kick all the international guards out and return it to a more than defacto concentration camp.

  4. I agree with every word you write Vigil. Your viewpoint is reasonable. Then again I do not see the world through rose colored glasses. I admire your courage in writing this brilliant piece. Be careful. You may lose some of the more wide-eyed liberal posters.

    This is a world of terrorism. The happy days of Ozzie and Harriet are, sadly, behind us. While I do not subscribe to torture I do believe that America needs to take whatever "humane" means necessary to protect our nation. A well maintained and well manned Gitmo, with all of the same safeguards as U.S. Federal Prisons would serve a most critical need.

    Speaking of which I have to wonder if some of the Wide-Eyes have even the slightest idea of goes in in Pelican Bay, and Maximum Security Prisons such as that? I know. Trust me I know. GITMO needs to be regulated. It is then another prison that houses the true scum of the earth. Those who will kill our children in order to advance their own evil cause need to be housed at the United States Federal Prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It has kind of a nice ring to it.

  5. You get it, M. Mike. Thanks for getting into it for me. Gitmo does not equal torture. Does not have to. In the eyes of the world it may up until now. But Obama will need a place to put some of these evil-doers, even the ones that Busheney have tortured. It would be better to house them outside of USA, under some kind of international supervision where US military can be at least a minority. After all, we have a major interest.

  6. I appreciate the responses of other friends here in this thread. I wish they would rethink their positions. For myself, I'd rather Obama hold fast to the idea of indefinite - but humane - custody for selective "guests", than see him tolerate any torture,past, present, or future.

  7. Hardin, Montana, in the Big Horn Country, with 10% unemployment, wants to rejoin the American dream by taking Gitmo inmates off Obama's hands.