Joint Chiefs Chairman: Close Guantanamo

Admiral Mike Mullen wants to close the prison facility at Guantanimo because of its propaganda value to the enemy.

Joint Chiefs Chairman: Close Guantanamo In this photo released by the Department of Defense, Col. Bruce Vargo, center, joint detention group commander, gives a tour of a detainee recreation area at Camp Six, Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Cuba, to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, commander, Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Sunday Jan. 13, 2008. Mullen said Sunday he favors closing the prison as soon as possible because he believes negative publicity worldwide about treatment of terrorist suspects has been The chief of the U.S. military said he favors closing the prison here as soon as possible because he believes negative publicity worldwide about treatment of terrorist suspects has been “pretty damaging” to the image of the United States. “I’d like to see it shut down,” Adm. Mike Mullen said Sunday in an interview with three reporters who toured the detention center with him on his first visit since becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last October.

His visit came two days after the sixth anniversary of the prison’s opening in January 2002. He stressed that a closure decision was not his to make and that he understands there are numerous complex legal questions the administration believes would have to be settled first, such as where to move prisoners.

The admiral also noted that some of Guantanamo Bay’s prisoners are deemed high security threats. During a tour of Camp Six, which is a high-security facility holding about 100 prisoners, Mullen got a firsthand look at some of the cells; one prisoner glared at Mullen through his narrow cell window as U.S. officers explained to the Joint Chiefs chairman how they maintain almost-constant watch over each prisoner.

Mullen, whose previous visit was in December 2005 as head of the U.S. Navy, noted that President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates also have spoken publicly in favor of closing the prison. But Mullen said he is unaware of any active discussion in the administration about how to do it. “I’m not aware that there is any immediate consideration to closing Guantanamo Bay,” Mullen said.

Asked why he thinks Guantanamo Bay, commonly dubbed Gitmo, should be closed, and the prisoners perhaps moved to U.S. soil, Mullen said, “More than anything else it’s been the image — how Gitmo has become around the world, in terms of representing the United States.” Critics have charged that detainees have been mistreated in some cases and that the legal conditions of their detentions are not consistent with the rule of law. “I believe that from the standpoint of how it reflects on us that it’s been pretty damaging,” Mullen said, speaking in a small boat that ferried him to and from the detention facilities across a glistening bay.

Why, oh why, does the military hate America and want to see the terrorists win?

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Terrorism, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DC Loser says:

    Well, maybe he wants to keep his job under the next CINC, President Obama or Rodham 🙂

  2. just me says:

    While I think he is right that Guantonamo has propaganda value at this point, I am not sure I want to haul the current prisoners to the US either.

  3. Hmm. Potential terrorists know they will be hauled to a prison where they might be stuck forever? Yeah, to many people it’s seen as “negative propoganda” if your enemy seems like a hardass.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Serious question. Is the propaganda value in Guantanamo or in that we’re holding the prisoners? If the former, the admiral may well be right. If the latter, we may as well keep the Guantanamo detention facility operating because it’s the best of bad alternatives.

  5. By all means, let’s allow perception to be reality.

  6. Wayne says:

    And how many Generals think we should keep it open? MSM can always find someone with one opinion or another. Of course the MSM gets to choose which to report. I won’t go into the Navy angle except that they have always been more concern with image than the Army.

  7. legion says:

    Potential terrorists know they will be hauled to a prison where they might be stuck forever?

    I have a bigger problem with the fact that many Americans are worried that they can be hauled off to a prison forever.

    Also, while I applaud the Admiral’s courage in talking about this on the record, he’s completely off-base. It’s not Gitmo that’s the propaganda bonus for the bad guys, it’s what we do to human beings only suspected of terrorism at Gitmo that degrades our nation.

  8. DC Loser says:

    And how many Generals think we should keep it open? MSM can always find someone with one opinion or another. Of course the MSM gets to choose which to report. I won’t go into the Navy angle except that they have always been more concern with image than the Army.

    Yeah, Wayne, the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s opinion doesn’t mean much, right? He’s just another admiral.

  9. […] Outside the Beltway comes the news that “[t]he chief of the US military said he favors closing the prison here as […]

  10. Wayne says:

    DC Loser

    Yes he is just another Admiral who happens to be in a high advisor role. His opinion should be taken into account but I will bet good money that that opinion isn’t even shared among some of the other members of Joint Chiefs of Staff. For James to infer that the Admiral speaks for the whole military is asinine. The Admiral isn’t even in the Command structure at this point.

  11. Beldar says:

    With due respect to the general (and to our host, who I gather may agree with him):

    Our enemies will always find something upon which they can focus their propaganda. It’s not as if they will cease their propaganda if we close the prison at Gitmo.

    The fiction that we can end, script, or even much affect our enemies’ propaganda about us is a terribly weak reason for doing anything, one that I respectfully submit is entitled to virtually no weight in the making of American policy decisions.

  12. Tano says:

    With all due respect Beldar, the issue isn’t the fact that the enemy generates whatever propaganda that they can dream up, the issue is that some of that propaganda finds traction with its intended audience because it manages to tap into the real concerns that the audience has.

    It may be very difficult for many Americans to imagine what it must be like to be a citizen of a weak and powerless country, and to look upon the seemingly infinitly powerful US – and to hope that the good things America sometimes project are really true, but to always have, as an existential defense mechanism, the fear that the superpower is nothing other than yet another hegemonic empire on the prowl.

    It is most assuredly in our interests to do whatever we can, without compromising our real interests, to assuage that concern. So, no, we do not have to react to whatever propaganda our enemies put out, but we would be foolish to ignore those instances where their propaganda seems to find traction. Seems to me that the admiral has, probably correctly, noticed such a case.

  13. Anon says:

    Beldar, it sounds like you think we should give no weight to appearances. I think that whether or not we do, and how much we do, really depends on the cost/benefit. For example, using DU ammunition does give some propaganda value to anti-American sentiment, but the amount of propaganda value is small, in my opinion, relative to the benefit.

    In the case of Guantanamo, it doesn’t seem to me that there is a whole lot of need to keep it open, but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

  14. DC Loser says:

    When Peter Pace was trotted out to support administration policies, you all were very respectful for his high position and thoughtful opinions. What’s changed now?

  15. Wayne says:

    DC loser
    Actually as I said, I do respect the Admirals rank and listen to his opinion. I just happen to disagree with it. My issue is how the MSM cover it and how people ignore other high officials few. The MSM will find that one soldier or general who has an opinion that fits the MSM position and put him on front page while the majority opinion of soldiers and Generals opinions get little or no press time. Almost anyone in the military that dealt with the press can attest to that.

  16. andrew says:

    Appeasing anti-Americanism will only make it worse in the long run.