I have to say, I did not agree with Sen. McCain during the 2008 campaign when he took the Guantánamo issue off the table by endorsing candidate Obama’s call to close it. The U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is an ideal place to hold military tribunals for jihadists captured on the battlefield. And it would still be the ideal place to hold Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year old Nigerian jihadist, who tried to blow up his inbound jet in Detroit on Christmas Day.
Claims that detainees were being mistreated there were false. Capt. Pete Hegseth of Veterans for Freedom served at Guantánamo during the time that Newsweek and other liberal sources were spreading false claims that U.S. guards had “defiled” copies of the Koran. These false reports circulated throughout the world and sparked riots among Muslims.
Capt. Hegseth served a year at “Gitmo” with the New Jersey National Guard. He supervised guards at the detention facilities. He set the record straight. The only time their Korans were besmirched was when the detainees themselves threw human waste on their guards. Gitmo was never Abu Ghraib. No photos of abuse by guards ever came out of Gitmo, because there was none.
But if, after all is said and done, sensible voices in Congress do not prevail, then I have a recommendation for where the detainees should be held and tried. Adak was an important naval installation throughout the Cold War. It’s an island in the central Aleutians, that thousand-mile chain off Alaska.
Adak has many facilities that were in use by the Navy that could be retrofitted now for detainee trials and long-term detention. Adak’s climate is severe. It’s cold. It’s overcast much of the time. During some snowstorms, “whiteout” conditions prevail. Then, it’s dangerous for any personnel to venture outside of buildings unescorted.
A number of U.S. Senators are pressing the administration for the names of political appointees to the U.S. Justice Department who previously served as counsel to the Guantánamo detainees. We deserve to know who those public officials are. We deserve to be assured that none of these lawyers are involved in the decision to close Gitmo or to give civilian trials to jihadists.
This is not suggested in spite. As Lincoln said, “I shall do nothing in malice.” The business he was in was too weighty for that. That should be our watchword, too.
For our military guards and their families, there is this consolation. Many of the Navy families who spent two-year tours on Adak recall their time there with fondness. The severe weather conditions and the remoteness of the island station bred a real fellowship among the hardy folk who called Adak home. We owe these self-sacrificing Americans our respect and our gratitude. Adak would not be a punishment assignment for them.
Adak’s primary virtue is its remoteness. As with Gitmo, the American people would not have to worry about any escapes. It’s five hours behind Washington. One of the most pressing concerns is that jihadists whom we are holding should not be permitted to inflame other prisoners among our U.S. prisoner population.
Finally, we do not want any jihadists to attack U.S. prisons, even on a suicide mission, because this administration unwisely brought them to the mainland. Adak, like Gitmo, could be secured from such attacks.
Once again, we should not close Gitmo. But, if the Obama administration takes this unnecessary and expensive step, Adak, would be a good alternative.