Politics & Policy

Gitmo Commission Gambit

The flap over Sen. Dick Durbin’s vile comments behind them, Democrats are moving on to their next Guantanamo Bay gambit of pushing for an independent commission to investigate practices there. A common thread runs through Durbin’s comparisons and this call for a commission: an urge for national self-flagellation.

The underlying premise is that we have been bad, very bad, in daring to hold enemy combatants, never mind that doing so is intrinsic to the act of warfare. The 9/11 Commission did some worthy work, but it also created a politicized circus around its investigation thanks to its partisan Democrats and passive Republicans, on top of a press eager to give the Bush administration a black eye. Who can doubt that a similar constellation of forces will be in play here? Or that that is exactly what Nancy Pelosi is hoping for?

It is argued that a commission will help clear the country’s good name. Put aside that the portion of the foreign audience that hates us won’t be swayed by a commission’s findings one way or another. A commission will, in political terms, never clear the Bush administration of anything. The Robb-Silberman Commission cleared Bush officials of the charge that they pressured intelligence officials to hype intelligence about Iraq’s WMD. Democrats and swaths of the media dismissed the report for exactly that reason.

The Pentagon has investigated its detainee practices repeatedly. Air Force Lt. General Randall Schmidt’s investigation into Gitmo — it is his forthcoming report that Newsweek falsely said would contain the toilet-flushing incident — will just be the latest. There is no reason to believe that violations of the rules at the facility, including of the minute procedures for handling the Koran, haven’t resulted in discipline for the violators. And numerous congressional hearings have been held about the detentions there.

“Democrats should simply say

what they would do with the detainees,

and offer a congressional resolution

to that effect and vote on it.”

An independent commission is not just unnecessary, it’s a cop out. Democrats should simply say what they would do with the detainees, and offer a congressional resolution to that effect and vote on it. Do they oppose tough interrogation techniques for the 20th hijacker? Then they should put themselves on record against them, even if it’s only in a symbolic resolution. Do they think terrorists deserve Geneva Convention protections? That we should attempt (futilely) to try the detainees in the American courts and — failing that — release them? If they are such fans of “accountability,” Democrats shouldn’t blanch at putting such positions in black and white and voting on them.

Of course, they will do no such thing. They instead want to hide behind a commission that at best will duplicate investigative work that has already been done and at worst replicate the 9/11 Commission at its lowest, most politicized moments. The response to calls for such a commission should be simple: “Hell, no.”–The Editors

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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