About a dozen retired generals and admirals, trying to add momentum to President Barack Obama’s effort to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison, are accusing former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz of scaremongering about the dangers of closing it.
“It’s up to all of us to say these arguments advanced by Cheney and his acolytes are nonsense and that really what they’re doing is undermining our national security by delaying the date at which Guantanamo is closed,” retired Brig. Gen. James Cullen, a former chief judge of the Army’s Court of Criminal Appeals, told POLITICO Tuesday.
“Some of the fear issues that are being raised in this are really unfortunate. It gets people excited about things they shouldn’t be excited about and impedes doing what is critical to this country. Get that damn symbol off the table,” said retired Gen. David Maddox, a former Army commander-in-chief for Europe. “We take a setback every time somebody, whether it’s the vice president or his daughter comes out and says the things that they say….We have to get out there again and just keep pounding.”
The former vice president and his daughter declined comment on the criticism.
The former military officers, whose Washington visit was organized by Human Rights First, argued rather bitterly that the Cheneys have exaggerated the risks of bringing Guantanamo prisoners from Cuba to the United States.
“Can you imagine getting a terrorist from Guantanamo convicted and put in a federal penitentiary in your town?” Maddox asked. “Have you ever checked who the hell’s in there already? Have any of them gotten out? The person who we’re putting in is probably a heck of lot less dangerous than most of them who are already in there.”
Administration officials recently acknowledged that Guantanamo may not be closed by Obama’s deadline of Jan. 22. But retired Army Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, said the president was smart to set a mark.
“It forces us to have an end state,” Taguba said. “It cannot be open in perpetuity because we’re having this so called long war against terrorism.”
The retired officers met Monday with Attorney General Eric Holder and planned to confer later with Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn.
Holder gave no indication of when the administration might settle on a U.S. site to relocate Guantanamo prisoners, the former military leaders said.
Obama announced the one-year-closure plan on his second full day in office. But the administration lost control of the legislative process in April when the Senate voted 90-6 against funding for the closure. Democrats joined Republicans, who argued that it was a foolish risk to bring suspected terrorists into the United States.
“Closing Guantanamo is of a strategic value,” Taguba said. “Seeing people in orange jumpsuits and whatever have you creates such an excitement for people to be jihadists and terrorists…It’s not helping us.”