Saturday, May 28, 2005

Tom Friedman is back to being squishy

In an open letter of sorts to the President, Friedman says we should shut down Guantanamo because it’s an embarrassment and it’s hurting us:

I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo
prison open than if we shut it down. So, please, Mr. President, just shut it
I’m not sure how he comes to the conclusion that more Americans are dying. Has he done an accurate cost/benefit assessment between the negative perception of the abuse allegations and the intelligence we have been able to get? It’s doubtful. Friedman seems more worried about our reputation:

If you want to appreciate how corrosive Guantánamo has become for America's
standing abroad, don't read the Arab press. Don't read the Pakistani press.
Don't read the Afghan press. Hop over here to London or go online and just read
the British press! See what our closest allies are saying about Gitmo. And when
you get done with that, read the Australian press and the Canadian press and the
German press.
Don’t forget the NY Times, Tom.

Google the words "Guantánamo Bay and Australia" and what comes up is an Australian ABC radio report that begins: "New claims have emerged that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay are being tortured by their American captors, and the claims say that Australians David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib are among the victims."
Sure, and Google the word Halliburton and you’ll get a smorgasbord of Mother Jones grade vitriol about corruption and conspiracy. Should we quit using Halliburton to do valuable work for us because of mostly baseless allegations?

Friedman says that Guantánamo is serving as a recruitment tool for the terrorists, and he’s certainly right, but as we’ve seen with the Koran flushing story, anything will be used as a recruitment tool against us, whether its truth or fiction, major or minute. In that sense, the only way to take away those recruitment talking points is to withdraw from the war on terror completely – but then the terrorists would be flushed with victory and emboldened to take even more aggressive action everywhere, including the U.S. Also, showing such weakness would provide a recruitment tool more valuable than all that negative press rolled together. No, better to let them scream jihad as much as they want while we keep methodically plowing away at the al Qaeda leadership and keep rebuilding Iraq.
Why care? It's not because I am queasy about the war on terrorism. It is because
I want to win the war on terrorism.
I’m sure he does want to win the war, but war is a nasty business and I’m afraid he is quite queasy to that fact. Surely perception is as major element in this war, and if the U.S. is perceived as resolute despite shrill cries of prisoner abuse, shrieks of jihad and car bombs, it will completely go against what the terrorists are trying to do.

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