Obama’s Guantanamo Challenge

Outside, its buildings bear the signs of the blistering sun and the sea. Inside, cell walls and “feeding chairs” trace, however invisibly, the blood and bodily fluids of men. The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is more than a memento of one of America’s darkest periods of war and insecurity—it is a living, breathing testament to it.

Year after year, President Obama has promised to close it. As he enters the last year of his final term, he may have to fight the entire Congress to get it done. It would appear he is ready: Instead of erasing GTMO from prepared remarks in Manila after the Paris attacks, he used the tragedy to stress why the notorious prison should be shuttered, calling it “an enormous recruitment tool for an organization like ISIL.”

“It’s how they rationalize and justify their sick perpetration of violence on its people,” he said on November 19. “We can keep the American people safe by shutting down that operation.”

Col. Morris Davis (Ret.), a former prosecutor at GTMO who resigned over the use of evidence gleaned through the torture of detainees there, agrees the president is on solid ground with the national security argument.

“If you need proof of whether Guantanamo helps ISIS promote its brand among those who might be susceptible to its influence, just look at the murder videos they’ve recorded and released,” Davis told TAC. “The murder victims are dressed in orange jump suits for a reason: To make them look like the Guantanamo detainees shown in the iconic Camp X-Ray pictures.”

“ISIS has been able to rationalize its brutality in the eyes of some by packaging it as a tit-for-tat for Guantanamo.”

It remains to be seen whether Obama has the political grit to follow through. He’s going to need it, and a whole lot of sass and strategery to get past Republican demagogues who suggest all Muslims, much less the ones languishing at Guantanamo Bay, are suspect. It could be the test of his presidency.

Of the 107 detainees remaining at the prison today, 48 are cleared for repatriation elsewhere. Around 50 men haven’t been charged with anything, but are deemed too dangerous for release. Just days before the Paris attacks, Obama announced the Pentagon would be releasing a plan for closing the prison and transferring those men to high security prisons in the U.S. The plan is supposed to include a list of facilities that are up to the task. The federal supermax prison in Colorado—ironically considered “the Alcatraz of the Rockies”—already holds 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaui, and is a likely place for transfer.

Even before the attacks, this drew the usual hyperbole from critics. Aside from the fear of prisoners breaking out, there’s the relatively new bugaboo that other terrorists may try to break in.

“I will not sit idly by while the president uses political promises to imperil the people of Colorado by moving enemy combatants from Cuba, Guantanamo Bay, to my state of Colorado,” Republican Senator Cory Gardner told …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Purity, Piety and Place

Over the long weekend, I finished I.B. Singer’s short novel The Penitent, which I recommend to you. It’s told as a monologue by one Joseph Shapiro, a Holocaust survivor who comes to America, puts his religion and culture behind him, and becomes a success in business. When his marriage falls apart owing to his own infidelity, and his wife’s, he is filled with self-loathing, and returns to God, eventually moving to Jerusalem and living there as a Hasidic Jew.

It’s not a great novel by any stretch, and in fact it’s fairly one-dimensional. But there’s truth in it, and I find that the tortured quest for purity inside Joseph Shapiro’s soul gave me a certain insight into why radical Islam appeals to some people. Indeed, much of Shapiro’s critique of the modern world strikes me as spot on, but what sets him apart is a burning anger at it. There is a certain strength and integrity to Shapiro’s life, certainly much more than in his old, secular, dissolute life, but it is difficult to find within him a sense of serenity, and of love. He loves the Almighty, and boy, is he mad about it. Yet Shapiro is an interesting character study (at least to me) because he gets so much right, even as his anxious longing for purity makes him potentially monstrous (not that Singer portrays him as potentially monstrous; though I know nothing about Singer’s other work, my sense is that he sympathizes with his character).

As I’ve said, I can see more than a little Joseph Shapiro in myself, both for good and for evil. When I took Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations inventory — I strongly suggest that you go here and take the test — I found something very revealing, as I blogged about in 2011. First, an excerpt from Haidt’s explanation of Moral Foundations Theory:

Moral Foundations Theory was created to understand why morality varies so much across cultures yet still shows so many similarities and recurrent themes. In brief, the theory proposes that five innate and universally available psychological systems are the foundations of “intuitive ethics.” Each culture then constructs virtues, narratives, and institutions on top of these foundations, thereby creating the unique moralities we see around the world, and conflicting within nations too. The foundations are:

1) Harm/care, related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. This foundation underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
2) Fairness/reciprocity, related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. This foundation generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. [Note: In our original conception, Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, as we reformulate the theory in 2010 based on new data, we are likely to include several forms of fairness, and to emphasize proportionality, which is more strongly endorsed by conservatives]
3) Ingroup/loyalty, related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. This foundation underlies virtues …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Mormons & Gay Marriage

Perhaps you heard about the Mormon church issuing strict new rules governing its relationship to Mormons who are in same-sex marriages, and their children. Excerpt:

The new rules stipulate that children of parents in gay or lesbian relationships — be it marriage or just living together — can no longer receive blessings as infants or be baptized at about age 8. They can be baptized and serve missions once they turn 18, but only if they disavow the practice of same-sex relationships, no longer live with gay parents and get approval from their local leader and the highest leaders at church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

The church views these acts as promises to follow its doctrine that bind people to the faith.

Scott Gordon, president of FairMormon, a volunteer organization that supports the church, said he understood why some would find the changes jarring and consider them meanspirited toward children.

But, he said, he believes the rules are intended to protect gay couples and their families by allowing the children to mature and make the difficult decision at 18 about whether to become fully invested in a religion that holds as a root tenet that their parents’ lifestyle is a sin.

“The idea of family is not just a peripheral issue in the Mormon Church. It’s core doctrine. It’s a central idea that we can be sealed together as a family and live together eternally,” Mr. Gordon said. “That only works with heterosexual couples.”

I don’t know enough about LDS theology to comment on the internal consistency here — and if you aren’t Mormon, you probably don’t either. And there’s an interesting point in that, one addressed in this terrific column by Jacob Hess, a member of the Latter-Day Saints church, explaining why the LDS see homosexuality the way it does. Hess helpfully describes what’s going on in the conflict between orthodox Mormons and LDS dissenters, as well as non-Mormons who agree with the dissenters, as a clash of irreconcilable narratives. Excerpt:

Welcome to what I call the ‘story wars.’ Front and center in American society, an endlessly fascinating, increasingly intense conflict is unfolding between fundamentally divergent narratives—one woven around the primacy of heterosexual marriage, and the other woven around the celebration of different forms of sexuality and relationships.

Given the sensitivity of these questions, any critique or disagreement can understandably be experienced as a rejection of people themselves, as opposed to a rejection of the particular stories they carry about their identity. In this way, Mormon leaders are taken to be questioning who people are—making it easy to brand Mormonism itself as ‘obviously hateful.’

If that’s what I believed was happening around the new policy on gay couples, I would come to the same conclusion. But I don’t, because I don’t see identity the same way as my friends who identify as gay.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints relish what they call the “restored gospel,” precisely for the new narrative it introduces about who we are and where humanity comes …read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Thankful Nation: Thankfulness at the Unclaimed Baggage Center

Lost bags make their way to the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Ala. Items are unpacked and sorted and through this process, lost items find a new home. Unclaimed items are reclaimed for good. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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#GivingTuesday: Four ways to do a world of good (that won’t cost you a cent)

#GivingTuesday invites you to think of yourself as a philanthropist, even if you’re not a millionaire. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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University president rebukes ‘self-absorbed, narcissistic’ students

A chapel sermon on love left a student at Oklahoma Wesleyan University feeling “offended” and “victimized.” But instead of capitulating to the offended young scholar, OWU President Everett Piper pushed back with a blistering rebuke of what he called “self-absorbed and narcissistic” students. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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Captain Higgins for Christmas

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You remember Capt. Clay Higgins, right? He’s the St. Landry Parish (Louisiana) sheriff’s deputy who has become a cult figure through his Crimestoppers TV spots. He comes across as an Old West figure, in the best possible way. Here he is addressing a grocery store thief. And here he is putting the smackdown on a fugitive named Bullethead.

It is impossible to improve on Capt. Higgins. Don’t believe me? Here is a message from his wife.
Well, Capt. Higgins now has a line of t-shirts and other swag that he’s selling to raise money for a shelter for homeless people and domestic abuse people in St. Landry. Watch that video from the website. Capt. Higgins is like a Cajun cross between John Wayne and Coach Eric Taylor. I know what I want for Christmas:

…read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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Paris climate change meetings: Best estimate for progress? Zero

International climate negotiations began Monday in Paris, aiming to finalize commitments from all countries to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions. …read more

Via:: Fox Opines

      

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The “Broad Coalition” and the War on ISIS

The New York Times reports on the “broad coalition” in the war on ISIS that mostly includes token members:

The president has sought to evoke the sort of grand coalition the United States led in World War II. But when it comes to the war part of the war against the Islamic State, the 65-member coalition begins to shrink rapidly down to a coalition of just a handful.

The administration’s desire to cast the war as having the support of dozens of nations is understandable, but after a while it becomes difficult to take seriously. Obama would prefer it if the public didn’t realize that the air war is being waged mostly by the U.S. and that contributions to the war from allies and clients are limited or non-existent. As long as the war can be spun as something that the U.S. is doing in concert with lots of other nations, it seems less like an example of being expected to take care of other nations’ security problems at our expense. It makes the campaign seem like something that has broad international backing when the real support for it in Iraq and Syria is shallow in the extreme.

The more that the war on ISIS appears to be primarily U.S.-run and U.S.-fought, the more that it begins to resemble the last big unnecessary war that the U.S. fought in Iraq. The conspicuous lack of tangible support from regional states (many of which are too busy smashing Yemen to be bothered with ISIS) makes it hard to miss that the U.S. is assuming responsibility for regional security problems while most of the governments in that part of the world do little or nothing. The Obama administration also likes to pride itself on its multilateralism, and so they boast about anything that bolsters its reputation for securing international cooperation even when the commitments made by most other states are minimal. The official line about a “65-member coalition” obscures all of this, and that is why there has been such an emphasis on it.

…read more

Via:: American Conservative

      

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