House Democrats take on Cheney over Guantánamo and Iraq

4.8.07

In an update from Congressional Quarterly, just two days after Vice President Dick Cheney shuffled out from under his rock to declare on CNN that he thought that proposals to close Guantánamo were a bad idea and that operational plans for Iraq were not the business of Congress, staff writer John Donnelly reports that “House Democrats plan to send members home for the August recess with fresh votes on legislation that would repudiate President Bush’s execution of the ‘global war on terror.’”

As part of measures to shave just $3.5 billion off the President’s insane request for $459.6 billion for Defense appropriations (that’s less than 1 percent of a figure so colossal that it matches the cumulative defense spending of the UK, France, Germany, Japan, China, Russia, Italy, Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea, Australia, Canada and Spain), the mildly emboldened Democrats indicated that they would put forward an amendment that would “require that US forces be fully trained and equipped before deploying to Iraq” (which rather begs the question of how shambolic the current process is), and another that “would close the Guantánamo prison in six months.”

On CNN, tilting at common sense and the increasing sway of public opinion, the advocate of the “Dark Side” in the “War on Terror” told Larry King that “we don’t get into the business of sharing operational plans –- we never have –- with the Congress.” He was speaking in defense of a former aide, Eric S. Edelman, currently an undersecretary of defense, who recently raised Democratic heckles when he replied to a request made by Senator Hillary Clinton for a briefing on withdrawal plans from Iraq by “accusing her of reinforcing ‘enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies’ by discussing a timetable for withdrawal,” although he failed to indicate whether the “we” he was referring to was a royal “we” or was meant to indicate himself and the President.

Cheney also spoke out about Guantánamo, telling King, “I think you need to have someplace to hold those individuals who have been captured during the global war on terror. I’m thinking of people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” and adding, for the benefit of those who have been on the moon for the last few years, “This is a man we captured in Pakistan. He’s the mastermind of 9/11.” Warming to his theme –- and refuting figures issued by the DoD’s Office for Detainee Affairs, showing that, at most, there are only 130 detainees that the administration wants to hold onto (80 to be tried before Military Commissions, and another 50 who are “too dangerous to risk release,” but not, bizarrely, dangerous enough to be charged with any crime) –- Cheney added, “There are hundreds of people like that, and if you closed Guantánamo, you’d have to find someplace else to put these folks.”

While Cheney’s opinion is backed by some of the House Representatives –- with Republican Conference Chairman Adam H. Putnam of Florida joining the NIMBYist tendency I highlighted here last week, and claiming that “any US town with a prison holding a terrorist would become a potential target for attack” –- Alcee L. Hastings, a Democratic Representative for Florida, and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, responded with a more measured view, pointing out that closing Guantánamo would be “an overdue way to restore the United States’ image overseas,” and explaining, “Pretty much everyone has agreed it has given America a black eye abroad.”

Let battle commence! Even a long-winded, bureaucratic battle –- one that would test the afflictions of an insomniac –- is probably better than nothing.

For more on Guantánamo, see my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed.

A combination of this article, and Update: House Democrats fail to act on Guantanamo, Iraq or domestic spying, was published on CounterPunch (as “Why Do We Need the Democrats? House Democrats Fail to Restrain Bush on Guantánamo, Iraq or Domestic Spying”).

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