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Bill Revere Sez: Suspend American Ideals – Or Else!!!!

Reported by Alex - January 25, 2009 -

Bill “Revere” O’Reilly has a new warning for us (Talking points 1/23/09). According to our watchdog on horseback,

"Just hours after President Obama announced that he was going to shut down Guantanamo Bay, the Feds confirmed that a released Gitmo inmate, 35-year old Said Ali al-Shahiri , had resumed terrorist activities in Yemen. Now if this isn’t a warning, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know what is. Obama tells the world "no more Gitmo", and a guy the Bush administration let go in 2007 is now a MAJOR al Qaeda terrorist AGAIN. So we can add this guy to a list of 61 former Gitmo detainees who have returned to being terrorists after they've been released - that, according to the Defense Department. That's 11 percent of those who have been let go returning to the terror war. Despite that, Barack Obama says this (plays clip): "As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

O'Reilly continues: “With all due respect, the President is wrong. During the civil War, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus because he wanted the Union to win the conflict. He suspended our ideals in order to win…"

Well Bill, with all due respect – and by now that’s not very much – YOU are the one who is wrong, or at the very least fudging the factoids. with video.

Let’s start with your statement that 61 Gitmo detainees (plus al-Shahiri) have returned to terrorist activities, based on a recent report by the Department of Defense. Now, with a little digging, I’m sure you could have unearthed the same interesting facts that I did. First: so far, the Pentagon has not issued any statistics or correlating evidence to back up their claim; when pressed, a spokesperson stated that out of 61 of those who have “returned to the fight,” eighteen have been confirmed as having returned to terrorism, while the other 43 are “suspected of participating in terrorist activities.” What constitutes “terrorist activities” is not spelled out. While Mark Denbeaux, who has represented some of the detainees, says that “returning to the fight” has remained undefined and might include engaging in propaganda, a Pentagon spokesman denies this .

Now let’s look at some numbers. According to an article in Newsweek, out of approximately 520 detainees released from Guantanamo, the recidivism rate is 12%, compared to a rate of up to 67% in state prisons in the US. (These stats might provide for some interesting arguments, which I will leave to the readers). 240 detainees remain at Guantanamo, with a hard core of 50 or 60 deemed highly dangerous. This group may never come to trial - thanks to the Bush/Cheney policy of “enhanced interrogation” (read “torture”) which may render the evidence against them inadmissible – and are likely to remain in prison indefinitely. An unnamed Obama advisor, asked if they are likely to be released at some time in the future, stated, “That’s not going to happen”. Hear that, Bill? The guys who are the most likely to return to “active duty” are likely to stay in prison forever. Bang goes your insinuation that closing Guantanamo is somehow going to leave terrorists roaming free or that President Obama is somehow soft on terrorism.

Now let’s look at Bildo’s Lincoln analogy, a rightwing “greatest hit” trotted out any time an objection is raised to the unlawful detention of foreign terror suspects. Lincoln did indeed suspend habeas corpus, an act permitted by the Constitution in times of rebellion: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." Technically Lincoln was not within his rights to do so as this is a power reserved to Congress – and his action was found to be unconstitutional, a finding which he ignored. But the salient point is that Lincoln suspended habeas corpus at a time when he believed that “Every department of the Government was paralyzed by treason” and that Congress "had not anticipated and so had not provided for the emergency." And when he ended the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, he issued a full explanation for his actions and granted amnesty to those prisoners he felt were no longer dangerous. WWLD (What Would Lincoln Do) if he were alive today? This writer suspects his position would be a lot closer to Obama’s or that of the founders when, as President Obama proclaimed, they “faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man” (go here for a good article discussing this line from the President’s speech in historical context). The Revolution was fought so that we could claim and maintain rights which derive from the self evident truth that “all men are created equal”, not “some men are more equal than others.” Likewise, Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus was in the service of equality and the dream of America as the "shining city on the hill", a beacon to all - not "do as we say, not as we do."

At the end of this segment O’Reilly threw red meat to the faithful: “Mr. Obama is playing to his far-left base” on the issue of Guantanamo. Well, according to recent polls roughly half of all Americans want Guantanamo closed. Are half the US population - including 32% of Republicans - “far left”???? Uh oh, better get that light up in the belfry QUICK!!!