Kudos to the Washington Post this morning for the reasonableness of its editorial on the combatant detentions at Guantanamo Bay.
Mind you, I don’t agree with the Post’s bottom line — which is that, regardless of the reality that Gitmo has been unfairly maligned it should be closed because of what it has come to symbolize. Nor do I think it would be wise to extend the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts to Bagram in Afghanistan as the editorial implies (on the theory that such an extension dramatically improved conditions at Gitmo — and thus suggesting that the core issue here is privileges for prisoners rather than national security needs). All that aside, though, how often do you see something like the below from a Bush critic? If this were the tenor of all our debates, we might actually be able to arrive at acceptable compromises.
Some of those who demand that Guantanamo be closed insist that all its detainees either be tried or quickly freed. This is wrongheaded and, for some Europeans, hypocritical. In fighting their own wars against terrorists, Britain and other countries have relied on preventive detention to hold dangerous militants who cannot immediately be charged. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has publicly acknowledged that existing legal categories for detention don’t necessarily address the problem of stateless extremists who may be planning major attacks but haven’t yet committed a specific crime. That doesn’t mean that the current system of detention in Guantanamo is acceptable. But, as we argued in a previous editorial, the United States needs a way to hold some suspects without charge for a limited period under procedures regulated by law and U.S. courts.