February 2009 Archives



 |  February 11, 2009 2:17 PM

'Firaaq' Holds a Mirror to National Healing

The Current Discussion: The Academy Awards are coming, and an Indian movie, "Slumdog Millionaire," could win best picture. But what are we overlooking? What's the best non-Hollywood movie you saw this year?

Danny Boyle's film "Slumdog Millionaire" presents a lively, fast-paced image of the plucky lives of the millions who live in the urban slums of India. It is exaggerated, it is melodramatic, and the coincidences that build its plot are more Bollywood than Hollywood, but the larger truth that the movie represents is not far removed from reality.

But for a truly realistic view of what happens to vulnerable people in urban India during times of strife and turmoil, I would suggest Nandita Das's absorbing, gripping, shocking, and harrowing film, "Firaaq" -- an Urdu word which can mean 'separation' or 'quest.' "Firaaq" is set in 2002, around the ghastly events that took place in Godhra, in the Indian state of Gujarat, when the compartment of a train burned, killing 58 Hindus. In retaliatory violence, Hindu mobs subsequently killed hundreds of Muslims.

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Guest Voice  |  February 12, 2009 12:54 PM

Our New Russian Opportunity

By Anton Fedyashin

True to his word, President Obama has launched a new era in American foreign policy. Signals from the U.S. have been positive and encouraging. Henry Kissinger quietly visited Moscow in December. Vice President Joseph Biden spoke optimistically about cooperating with Russia at the international security conference in Munich. In his first press conference, the President mentioned non-proliferation negotiations and Russia's role in preventing other regimes in acquiring nuclear capability. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to visit Moscow in March to lay the groundwork for reestablishing the U.S.-Russia partnership. And finally, President Obama and President Medvedev will meet at the G-20 summit in April. There is a veritable thaw in the air and spring looks promising.

Moscow has welcomed this change, but has taken a wait-and-see attitude. Moscow responded by canceling plans to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad in exchange for slowdown of the missile defense shield deployment in Eastern Europe. However, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov snubbed Hilary Clinton's phone call a few weeks ago; he was busy traveling with President Medvedev in Central Asia. The Russians are expanding their influence in this region by offering Kyrgyzstan financial support. Meanwhile, Moscow has opened its airspace for the U.S. to fly non-military supplies to Afghanistan. Given the emphasis that President Obama has placed on the military operation there, Russia's cooperation will become increasingly important. Where should the State Department start to repair its relationship with its Eurasian ally? It will have to reevaluate its policy towards Russia's neighbors.

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Guest Voice  |  February 13, 2009 2:55 PM

What Pakistan Doesn't Need From America

By Shuja Nawaz

During the tumult of 2008, the talk in Washington and in Islamabad turned to the need for the United States to have a relationship with the people of Pakistan rather than with any single leader or party. Indeed, only by garnering the support of a majority of Pakistanis can the United States leap over the yawning mistrust between these two countries and help Pakistan's government become stable.

Two months into 2009, we are waiting for that change to occur. President Obama has rightly focused attention on Pakistan, sending his powerful and highly favored representative Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to take on the difficult job of resolving regional differences and restoring stability to an embattled country. Ambassador Holbrooke will need help from both Washington and Islamabad to get to the roots of regional problems.

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After Guantanamo  |  February 21, 2009 10:14 AM

Don't Let Terror Win in Our Courts

The real risk is that federal judges will do what al-Qaeda cannot: order that committed jihadists be released.

By Debra Burlingame

Two weeks ago, I was among a small group of USS Cole and 9/11 victims' families who met with President Obama at the White House. Despite President Obama's assurances that the safety and security of the American people is his number one priority, I left the meeting with little confidence that the President appreciates the grave consequences of shutting down Guantanamo or the complex problems associated with adjudicating detainee cases in the federal court system. Indeed, he told us that he is "not at all concerned" about the security issues of bringing the detainees to the U.S. His rationale for this is simple: whether detainees are held in a federal prison or a military facility, either location would present a "hard target" for future terrorist attacks aimed at freeing them. He believes the detainees will be forgotten by their fellow militants.

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After Guantanamo  |  February 21, 2009 10:20 AM

Give Our Justice System Credit in Detainee Proceedings

A smart counterterrorism policy would focus on incapacitating those who provide value-added to the al-Qaeda network - the leaders, financiers, and technological experts who cannot be easily replaced, and who can be prosecuted for conspiracy to commit terrorism, if not more.

By Jennifer Daskal

On his second full day in office, President Barack Obama signed an executive order committing to close the military detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, by January 2010. The attorney general-led review team is now underway, reviewing the detainees' files and determining what to do with the 245 men who remain there.
As an initial matter, the team needs to consider who the United States should be seeking to detain long-term, far from any battlefield, and on what grounds.

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After Guantanamo  |  February 21, 2009 10:22 AM

After Guantanamo, Charge Them or Release Them

The men who remain imprisoned at Guantanamo are there now more because of nationality than because of any evaluation of their actual danger to the United States. Citizens of powerful European countries were released long ago.

By Gitanjali Gutierrez

After meeting many men in Guantanamo, and breaking bread with my former clients after their release, I remain baffled by the Administration's continuing uncertainty about how to close the notorious prison facility. Have we as a people still not recognized in 2009 our gross mistakes at Guantanamo? Are we actually willing to squander the good will extended to the new Administration by perpetuating fear-mongering and continuing to suggest the need for "new" detention authorities? I hope, for the sake of our country, that the answer to these questions is a firm "no."

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After Guantanamo  |  February 21, 2009 10:30 AM

Detainees Should Remain in U.S. Custody

The main objective here must be the swiftest adjudication of all cases without providing enemy combatants access to civilian courts and the same rights afforded to American citizens.

By Kirk Lippold

In order to effectively deal with the closure of the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay, the Obama administration must complete several critical steps before it can claim any degree of success in this ill-advised and poorly conceived critical policy decision.

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After Guantanamo  |  February 21, 2009 10:34 AM

After Guantanamo, Trust the Justice System We Have

We don't need a new National Security Court to prosecute terrorists, because our existing system has been effectively prosecuting them for years.

By Joseph Margulies

On his second day in office, President Obama made good on his campaign pledge and ordered the prison at Guantánamo shut within a year. He also ordered the Attorney General to oversee a review of the facts in each case with an eye to deciding the fate of the remaining 245 prisoners.

The lion's share will be released, as they should be. For years, senior counter-terrorism officials with the military and CIA told the Bush Administration that the great majority of the prisoners were either innocent or insignificant, with no connection to al-Qaeda or terrorism. Many have already been cleared for release by the Bush Administration or a federal court, and it is now a matter of getting them off the base.

Most people in this first category--perhaps 150 or more--will be returned to their home countries. The remainder cannot go home because they would be tortured or killed; they must be resettled elsewhere. A number of countries say they will accept some prisoners, and the administration reports that negotiations are underway.

In diplomacy as in life, more success requires less hypocrisy. We cannot get other countries to accept prisoners unless we do the same. The best candidates are the Chinese Uighurs, a small group of anti-communist activists. All agree they are not enemy combatants; in fact, they are ardently pro-democracy with a large and supportive community in the United States.

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After Guantanamo  |  February 21, 2009 10:37 AM

Back to Rule of Law for Detainees

The Obama Administration can't just say it will follow the rule of law - the Bush administration said the same thing. It must actually do so.

By Pete Masciola

The United States should handle inmates upon the closure of detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay in accordance with the rule of law--which includes the Geneva Conventions. This is a simple answer, but abiding by the law would mark a revolutionary change in the government's handling of these issues.

President Obama, in his Executive Order on the review and disposition of individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay, requires his Administration to act "in a manner consistent with law and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States." Elsewhere, in describing "determination of other disposition" (as opposed to transfer or prosecution) the Executive Order requires the review process to "select lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, and the interests of justice, for the disposition of such individuals."

Actions speak louder than words. The former administration's mantra "the United States does not torture" rang hollow in the ears of most of the world. It is critical that the Obama Administration not only say it will follow the rule of law (the Bush administration said the same thing)--it must actually do so.

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After Guantanamo  |  February 21, 2009 10:39 AM

After Guantanamo: Review, Release, Prosecute and Build Resilience

The U.S. criminal justice system's record in international terrorism cases far outshines that of the Guantánamo military commissions.


By Sarah Mendelson

In 2007-2008, I convened a working group at CSIS to consider what ought to happen to those currently held at Guantánamo. Our non-partisan working group met 18 times over 8 months. We combined a range of expertise including former intelligence and military officers, as well as human rights and legal experts. I wrote the CSIS report, "Closing Guantánamo: From Bumper Sticker to Blueprint" after months of discussion, and we released it in September 2008.

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After Guantanamo  |  February 21, 2009 10:41 AM

Closing Guantanamo Will Damage the War Effort

Turning our war on terror into an insulting and deadly game of catch-and-release.

By David B. Rivkin, Jr. & Lee A. Casey


The Washington Post asks, "How should the U.S. handle inmates upon the closure of detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay?"

There is no good answer to this question. All of the options are bad. And this, above, all, vindicates the Bush Administration's original decision - following the practice of the Clinton and many previous Administrations in handling Haitian and Cuban migrants and refugees - to house captured enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay. It was, in fact, almost the perfect place to hold al-Qaeda and Taliban captives. It is a secure facility, located far from the active battlefields, away from civilian populations likely to be al-Qaeda targets, and does not present "host country" diplomatic issues. The decision to close the base was a triumph of ideology and propaganda over good sense and, in the long run, it is almost certain to damage the war effort.

That said, the alternatives to Guantanamo are as follows:

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After Guantanamo  |  February 21, 2009 10:44 AM

After Guantanamo, Back to America's Ideals

Those who say that America's existing courts can't handle terrorism prosecutions are wrong.

By Anthony D. Romero

In his inaugural speech, President Obama pledged to reject the "false choice between our safety and our ideals." Now that he's taken the historic step of ordering the closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison, that pledge will be tested as President Obama decides how to handle the detainees imprisoned there. It's clear that only an unqualified return to America's established system of justice for detaining and prosecuting suspects can restore America's values and the rule of law.

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After Guantanamo  |  February 21, 2009 10:46 AM

For Real Change, Overhaul U.S. Detention Policy

It's true that we cannot kill or capture our way to victory. Yet military detention, carefully calibrated to complement broader national security and counterterrorism policies, is necessary.

By Charles Stimson

Closing Guantanamo or merely moving its detainees to the United States, without addressing the underlying questions regarding U.S. detention policy, is just changing the zip code without confronting the broader challenges of the terrorist threat.

The Obama administration has an opportunity to build on the legal and policy underpinnings already laid down on how to incapacitate terrorists and hold them accountable. Besides closing Guantanamo responsibly, determining which detainees can be safely transferred, and deciding how to prosecute key terrorists without giving away national security secrets, the administration must figure out how to deal with future captures. That means they must develop a comprehensive detainment policy.

Military detention of some future captures, which is consistent with long historical practice, is a necessary and lawful tool. It's true that we cannot kill or capture our way to victory, as Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have said. Yet military detention, carefully calibrated to complement broader national security and counterterrorism policies, is necessary.

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After Guantanamo  |  February 21, 2009 10:08 AM

After Guantanamo, Obama's Decisions Grow More Complex

A Congressionally authorized detention framework is preferable to indefinite detention based solely on the President's constitutional authorities.

By John Bellinger

I have long urged closure of Guantanamo and was disappointed that the Bush Administration was unable to shut the facility while in office. But shuttering Guantanamo will be very difficult, and both domestic and international critics need to acknowledge the complexities, rather than simply assign blame. Our allies also should acknowledge that, however unpopular Guantanamo may be with their populations, nevertheless they are benefiting from the detention by the United States of many dangerous individuals who pose a threat to the international community as a whole, and that other governments have an obligation to help with their detention, prosecution, and resettlement, as appropriate.

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After Guantanamo  |  February 21, 2009 10:40 AM

Military Commissions Are America's Best Option

Many critics acknowledge that there is a need for a court with evidentiary flexibility that accommodates national security while trying dangerous, stateless terrorists in a manner consistent with justice. They call them "national security courts." They already exist. We call them military commissions.

By Lawrence Morris

Thoughtful people have debated the best forum in which to bring to justice some of the accused terrorists currently detained under the law of armed conflict at Guantanamo Bay. Nearly all observers, including scholars and critics who disagree with the current military commissions, can agree on some fundamentals:

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After Guantanamo  |  February 26, 2009 3:06 PM

Americans Expect Better: Guantanamo's Flawed Military Commissions

By Pete Masciola

Colonel Lawrence Morris's contribution to PostGlobal's panel on the future of the Guantanamo detainees ("Military Commissions Are America's Best Option") paints a reasonable and even rosy picture of the current military commission system, with constitutional rights for defendants and a free and open flow of evidence to defense counsel, all legitimated by a long-standing Constitutional tradition. Would that it were so. Unfortunately, the reality is entirely otherwise.

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PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.