Former Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay yesterday, calling it “a major problem for America’s perception” and charging, “if it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo — not tomorrow, this afternoon.”
Later, on CNN’s Late Edition, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) expressed his disagreement with Powell about closing Guantanamo, saying “most of our prisoners would love to be in a facility more like Guantanamo and less like the state prisons that people are in in the United States.”
Pressed by host Wolf Blitzer to address the fact that “detainees are being held, by and large, without charges, without any evidence,” which is “causing a smear on the U.S. reputation,” Huckabee said it didn’t matter because hypothetically, “if we let somebody out” they could “come and fly an airliner into one of our skyscrapers.” Watch it:
Huckabee’s fearmongering over the prospect of closing Guantanamo is ignorant of the facts. Critics of the current military commission system are not arguing we should let the prisoners go. Instead, the criticism is aimed at creating a constitutional legal system that would provide for the conviction of terrorists.
The lawless environment at Guantanamo has dangerously tarnished the reputation of the United States abroad. As Powell noted, bad actors and “authoritarian figures” around the world are “using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds.”
The Center for American Progress has urged shifting detainee operations to Fort Leavenworth, KS, and prosecuting the remaining detainees in general courts-martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
BLITZER: Let’s talk a little bit about what the former secretary of state General Colin Powell said earlier today on “Meet the Press” when asked about the status of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, whether suspected terrorists should be housed there. Listen to what General Powell said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: If it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo. Not tomorrow, but this afternoon. Every morning I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds. And so essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America’s justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, you agree with Secretary Powell?
HUCKABEE: I know it’s become a symbol of what’s wrong. I visited Guantanamo just about a year ago. My sense was, because I visited every single prison in the Arkansas prison system, and I can tell you most of our prisoners would love to be in a facility more like Guantanamo and less like the state prisons that people are in in the United States.
It’s more symbolic than it is a substantive issue, because people perceive of mistreatment when, in fact, there are extraordinary means being taken to make sure these detainees are being given, really, every consideration.
BLITZER: But the argument isn’t so much the physical condition as to the legal system that they face. These suspected terrorists, these detainees are being held, by and large, without charges, without any evidence. They’re just being kept there indefinitely. And that’s causing a smear on the U.S. reputation.
HUCKABEE: I understand that. But I’ll tell you, if we let somebody out and it turns out that they come and fly an airliner into one of our skyscrapers, we’re going to be asking, how come we didn’t stop them? We had them detained.
There’s not a perfect solution. The perfect solution is to get people to quit being terrorists. And that’s not something we can easily control. If we’re going to make a mistake right now, let’s make it on the side of protecting the American people. That’s the number one role and responsibility that an American president has right now.