Unhappy with editorial page

By on January 30, 2009

I was disgusted with the direction of your editorial page in Thursday’s Herald—another lauding of our new president who has yet to prove himself, and that shoe-throwing cartoon above it putting down a man who just gave eight years of his life in service of his country.

What has happened already in Obama’s first day in office? He has gone from immediately closing Guantanamo to putting it off for a year. If he closes it, then he will close it in the time frame that President Bush was promising.

Obama was going to wave his magic wand and end the war in Iraq. Now he’s saying it may take until 2011—Bush said he’d have us out of there by 2010.

Seems your new God has extended, rather than shortened, the war, now that he actually sat down with the generals and found out what’s really going on. When, and if, we pull out of Iraq, your sons and daughters aren’t coming home. Obama wants them moved to Afghanistan, where the war and the tribes involved have the same problems and issues.

Here are some facts on Guantanamo: 40 percent of the prisoners are Yemeni. Two of them have been convicted through a military commission, and two are charged with war crimes for their part in the 9/11 attacks. Yemen has offered to take the rest and “rehabilitate” them.

Of the 354 prisoners that Yemen has “rehabilitated” so far, at least 23 of them were involved in the U.S. Embassy bombing in Yemen, which killed 17 service members. Several have broken out of Yemen prisons and joined Al-Qaeda. The Yemeni government, due to their lack of resources, is asking that the United States fund a new, more systematic program for rehabilitation, which the Bush administration estimated would cost (between) $10 million and $20 million (from the Washington Post, Nov. 18, 2008, which can be found online). In other words, Yemen is unable to control these prisoners without our help. Why then would we return them there?

Of 138 Saudis who were held at Guantanamo, all but 20 have been released. Ten of these are slated to be released to the Saudis, who say they will “rehabilitate” them—which in the past has meant freeing them to celebrity status. The other 10 are slated to go on trial for terrorist activity. Some prisoners have asked the United States not to transfer them back to their countries because they’re afraid of torture and execution.

Per a website, boards.history.com, by 2005, out of 775 detainees originally brought to Guantanamo, 70 percent had had a review, some were released outright, some transferred to other countries, some await a decision on what to do with them, as no one wants them. Obama talks about releasing detainees; Bush released 527.

In addition, Sunday’s newspapers reported that Ali al-Shiri, who was at Guantanamo for six years, has now resurfaced as a leader of a Yemeni branch of Al-Qaeda. According to the Pentagon, at least 18 former Guantanamo detainees have “returned to the fight,” and another 43 are suspected of resuming terrorist activities.

Obama infers that we’re making these people terrorists and anti-American by having them at Guantanamo. This is lopsided thinking. They’re there because of what they’ve done. Do prisoners in regular correction systems hate the system? Of course. But they’ve put themselves there.

Also in Sunday’s paper is the information that Abu Ghraib will reopen under Iraqi control. Well, I guess we have two possible solutions as to what to do with our remaining prisoners at Guantanamo. Send them all to Iraq. Or maybe we should simply put them in our maximum-security prisons. With the quirky patriotism that prisoners often have, I imagine they’d take care of any remaining problem terrorists we give them. A short time there, and the terrorist prisoners would be begging to go back to Guantanamo.

Mention Guantanamo in my home and Bill, formerly with U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam, erupts into a rage. He ran intelligence missions from Vietnam out of uniform. What, he says, people don’t understand is that the Geneva Convention covers captured soldiers who are in uniform. Enemy combatants not in uniform are considered spies. There wasn’t a single uniform on any of those at Guantanamo. When the war first started, who were we to recognize as the enemy? Was it unreasonable that some people were rounded up who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Have they been released? Yes, they have.

Had my husband been captured, he would have been tortured and probably killed. John McCain, in uniform, was captured and tortured and held for five years. Why are we asking such compassion for prisoners suspected of terrorist activity when their people behead civilians on the Internet? The Viet Cong and Al-Qaeda don’t differ in their lack of respect for human life.

Bill adds, “Our president’s first priority is to keep us safe. He must do what he must do to accomplish that. Guantanamo is about our safety.”

Obama’s going to again wave that wand and save the economy. No one asks how—their eyes just glaze over. How quickly you’ve forgotten that in the aftermath of 9/11, our economy took a nosedive, and Bush pulled us out. I didn’t hear of anyone who returned their two tax refunds.

Are you disgusted with the greed of some of the CEO’s of corporate America? Do you remember where the players of Enron are? In prison—put there by laws that Bush quickly enacted in order to arrest corporate greed.

Did George Bush personally come with you to the bank and push your hand to sign mortgage papers for a house you knew you couldn’t afford? Did he tell you to max out your credit cards?

I’ve often wondered if former presidents sit down before a fireplace and start to read through their stacks of mail. I visualize President Bush opening letters, tossing the nasty ones into the fire, and then coming to mine. I told him how I will have two lasting images of him: Standing on the rubble of the Twin Towers, telling the firemen, “I hear you,” and speaking before the nation in the days after the attacks, telling us we must not become complacent, and that he never would. He stuck to that. You never had to guess where he stood. And I ended with, “Don’t worry about how well you did. You did the best that you could.”

Faced with an unprecedented situation, moved in a matter of minutes from reading to schoolchildren to having to respond to a horrific attack, he did do the best he could. He does not deserve your tacky cartoons, or the selective amnesia of the nation he served. Obama and McCain both talked about what they would do in the future. Never once have they told us what they would have done if they’d been president then.

Put your shoes back on and quit denigrating our former President. A woman recently wrote tongue-in-cheek to the Chicago Tribune that Obama would save us a lot of jet fuel because he wouldn’t need to fly to foreign countries for meetings—he would just walk across the water. Adulation is a dangerous thing. Obama is, after all, just a man—just like George Bush before him.

Paula and Bill Coughlan

One Comment

  1. Sandy

    February 12, 2009 at 5:18 PM

    Thank you Paula! You always say what I can’t seem to put into words!