Bush Admin.: Saudi "Reintegration" of Gitmo Detainees "a very, very good program"

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Since the attempted Christmas Day "underwear bombing," Republicans have been pushing a bizarre form of revisionist history. In that version of history, somehow Barack Obama never said the words (in his inaugural address, no less), "Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred." Also, in the Dick Cheney/Frank Wolf version of history, somehow it wasn't the Bush Administration that released - to "art therapy," no less - at least one of the leaders in the "crotch bomber" plot. I'm sure those same revisionists also have forgotten this too, so here's a reminder, from December 2007 (when Bush was president, Cheney was vice president, and Wolf was very quiet):
The Defense Department considered more than 90 percent of the transferred detainees to be terrorist threats to the United States and its allies, but sent them home as part of an agreement that Saudi Arabia would mitigate the threat, according to Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.

"Our goal is to transfer out as many individuals from Guantanamo Bay as we can," said Sandra L. Hodgkinson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs. "The Saudis have developed a reconciliation program to address the needs of their population, and we strongly appreciate them finding a way to mitigate the threats that these people pose. We believe this is a very, very good program."
Let's repeat that: the Bush Administration thought that transferring terrorists (90% of them were considered to be "terrorist threats to the United States and its allies") from Guantanamo Bay back to Saudi Arabia -- where they were "treated like a VIP...given a monthly stipend and a job, housed and fed, even promised help in finding a wife" - was a "very, very good program." And perhaps it was "very, very good," as the Bush/Cheney Administration claimed. But then, why do Dick Cheney and Frank Wolf have their underwear (staying with the theme) in a bunch over this all of a sudden, now that the Democrats are in power? Hmmmmm.

But wait, there's more:
Critics are concerned that the arrangement will simply return some extremists to the streets. Defense officials say about 30 of the nearly 480 detainees released from Guantanamo have again taken up terrorist activities.


Under an unpublicized agreement between Riyadh and the Bush administration, the Saudis are preparing to repatriate half of the approximately 20 of their citizens who remain at Guantanamo. They have promised that all will participate in the reintegration program, Saudi and U.S. officials said.


U.S. officials have become more comfortable with the program over time, and say the reintegration program has enabled the reduction of Guantanamo's prison population to its lowest point since April 2002, with just more than 300 detainees in custody, down from a peak of 680. The nationalities most represented now are 90 Yemenis, 50 Afghans and 20 Saudis.

The Saudis have briefed the CIA, FBI and Defense Department on the program, and U.S. officials have visited the reintegration facility in Riyadh. Saudi officials said officials of several European nations have inquired about the program and want to determine whether it could work in their countries.

President Bush has said he wants to close the prison, though there has been much internal disagreement on what to do with the captives, some of whom are acknowledged terrorists. But "even as Congress and the administration can't reach agreement [on closing Guantanamo], the numbers are declining," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
That's right, the Bush Administration's policy was to return Gitmo detainees to Saudi Arabia's "reintegration" program, and that's exactly what they were in the process of doing when they left office - emptying Gitmo of these people and sending them back for "VIP" treatment in Saudi Arabia.

Again, perhaps the Saudi VIP/art therapy program for former Gitmo detainees really works great; for argument's sake, let's stipulate that it does. Even so, Bush "Defense officials say about 30 of the nearly 480 detainees released from Guantanamo have again taken up terrorist activities." That's not a bad success rate (450/480=94%), but it's certainly not 100%. Yet somehow it was perfectly fine with Republicans as long as Bush was in the White House. But now that Obama's in there, and now that there's been an attempted terrorist attack (note that there were also attempted terrorist attacks, including the "shoe bomber," during the Bush Administration) the Republicans are shocked - shocked! - and angry - angry!!! - at what's going on. Can we say "utter hypocrisy?" How about "shameless, utter hypocrisy and phony outrage?" Yep, that sounds like Dick Cheney/Eric Cantor/Frank Wolf Republicans to me.

P.S. Speaking of Frank Wolf, I recommend that you watch his latest "get off my lawn" tirade in this video. I particularly recommend that you tune in at about the 2-minute mark. I'll have more to say about Wolf's wild-eyed irresponsibility in coming days.