Thursday, January 5, 2012

Guantanamo, NIMBY, and "Mission Accomplished"

I was going through recent analytics and found that someone read an old 2009 post of mine, A bad case of NIMBY regarding Guantanamo. Technically it's not strictly business-related, other than the fact that citizens of a particular locality often exhibit NIMBY (not in my backyard) behavior regarding necessary items. We want oil prices to be as low as possible - but don't put that oil refinery next to my house. We in California want to enforce a "three strikes" law - but you'd better not put the prison in my town. And in the case of Guantanamo, we think that the detention of prisoners outside of the United States is unconstitutional - but don't bring them into the United States.

It's now 2012, and the Guantanamo Bay detention area is still open. And in order to keep it open, we may participate in some strange behaviors, according to Dagblog.

Section 1021 of the [National Defense Authorization] Act mandates that the time during which the Executive may hold prisoners without trial in the War on Terror is limited to the period of continuing military hostilities authorized by the 2001 AUMF. In other words, this and later Administrations never have to try prisoners, so long as they are always at war.

But, if I may paraphase a 20th century president, it depends upon what the definition of "war" is. For some people, the Iraq War ended up May 1, 2003, when President Bush stood in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner. For others, the Iraq War ended in August 2010, when Operation Iraqi Freedom officially ended. For others, the Iraq War ended in December 2010, when the last US troops left Iraq.

Or did they?

NPR's Ted Koppel (huh?), working for NBC (double huh?), noted a few exceptions:

[President Obama] did make the campaign promise to get all the troops out, and all the troops will be out, save 157 who will be guarding the embassy, and a few hundred U.S. military trainers.

Oh, and a few more exceptions.

TED KOPPEL, BYLINE: I realize you can't go into it in any detail, but I would assume that there is a healthy CIA mission here. I would assume that JSOC may still be active in this country, the Joint Special Operations. You've got FBI here. You've got DEA here. Can you give me sort of a menu of who all falls under your control?

JAMES JEFFREY: You're actually doing pretty well, were I authorized to talk about half of this stuff...

But if the Iraq War is over, then why are Iraqi detainees still being held at Guantanamo? Well, paraphrasing our favorite 20th century president, it depends upon what the definition of "Iraqi" is. Bush (and Obama) have used a special definition:

The Guantanamo detention facility, which is operated by a joint task force of the various US military branches, was set up by the George W Bush administration to hold suspected members of al-Qaeda and others picked up on battlefields in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere who were not members of a state sponsored army.

That non-state quality, the Bush administration argued, exempted the US government from providing protections of prisoners of war guaranteed under the Geneva Conventions. In addition, military prosecutors also defend the need for secrecy.

During his 2008 run for the presidency, Barack Obama pledged to close Guantanamo to help restore America's standing in the human rights community.

Yet in the face of resistance to his ideas of moving prisoners into the domestic court system - objections came from both New York City and Congress - Obama has not only backed down from the pledge, but also in December signed into law a controversial new provision that allows the military to take into custody anyone determined to be a member of al-Qaeda or 'associated forces.'

These, um, fluid definitions of terms such as "war" and "Iraqi" may seem troubling to people with common sense, but the truth is that these term re-definitions happen all the time. For a century now, the United States government has been devoted to breaking up monopoly companies, and has spent untold amounts of money going after companies such as AT&T. So, at least within the enforcement arm of the government, monopolies should always be pursued and broken up - with the exception of Major League Baseball.

On January 5, 1915, the Federal League sued Major League Baseball under federal antitrust law for interfering with their attempts to hire players that were between contracts (meaning not bound by the Reserve Clause) from the American and National League. The judge hearing the case was Kenesaw Mountain Landis...who was known for his strict adherence to the letter of the law. Landis, however, just so happened to also be a huge Chicago Cubs fan. He understood that the Federal League had a legitimate case. However, ruling in favor of the FL would harm his Cubs, so he took the case under advisement rather than issue a ruling immediately.

Landis, of course, eventually became the first Commissioner of Major League Baseball. And what are the chances of getting that antitrust exemption removed today? Members of Congress in California, Florida, New York, Texas, Illinois, and numerous other states would probably object to it.

Even if baseball games in the Congresspersons' own backyards threaten public safety.
blog comments powered by Disqus