Commentary Magazine


Obama Sends Terrorists to Sub-Gitmo Hell

Among the unfortunate things about the ObamaCare ruling is that it’s taking oxygen away from some important stories. None more important than Eli Lake’s sensational scoop at the Daily Beast on the wretched facilities in Somalia where America is sending alleged terrorists caught in the expanded U.S. war on terror in that country. When Barack Obama came to office he described Guantanamo Bay as a “misguided experiment,” owing to the facility’s supposedly harsh conditions. He has since decreed that the United States will no longer accept new prisoners there (he was unable to close the facility altogether); Obama also shuttered CIA black site prisons in Europe. But if Gitmo was a “misguided experiment” and CIA sites beneath American standards of humane treatment, what on earth is this?

Overcrowded, underfunded, and reeking of urine, the Bosaso Central Prison could make even the most dedicated insurgent regret ever getting into the terrorism business. Many inmates don’t have shoes, and instead of uniforms, they wear filthy T-shirts and ankle-length garments wrapped around their waists that resemble sarongs (called ma-awis in Somali). When I visited earlier this year, the warden, Shura Sayeed Mohammed, told me he had 393 prisoners in a place designed to hold no more than 300. He said that since 2009, he had received 16 inmates captured by Americans.

Something tells me Bosaso’s inmates wouldn’t mind a transfer to Club Gitmo, where prisoners fatten up on halal chow, play pick-up basketball, take finance courses, and write poetry. As Lake explains, “Obama’s plan to get America out of the international jailer business means that developing-world prisons have picked up the slack.” So we’ve gone from the evil “Cheneyist” standard to the failed-state model, in which, according to Lake’s source, “guys end up with skin disease that spreads very quickly. It’s like a heat rash, they start bleeding, it passes onto the other prisoners.” And Lake was denied access to inmates associated with the al-Shabab terrorist group because, in the warden’s words, those men constitute a “virus” and “if we let them mix with the rest of the public, they can transmit the virus to the rest of the population.”

Far be it from me to shed a tear for terrorists rotting away in hellholes like Bosaso. The point is the president’s campaign against Gitmo was rooted in superficial moral vanity, not a deep morality. If he was so concerned about the treatment of captured terrorists it’s hard to see how he could sleep at night after having outsourced terrorist detention to Somalia. The same goes, of course, for his attendant war on waterboarding and enhanced interrogation. Under George W. Bush, the United States waterboarded three terrorists, all of whom gave up life-saving intelligence and then ended the enhanced interrogation program. Obama, on the other hand, made anti-enhanced-interrogation pronouncements, changed the definition of enemy combatant to any 18-year-old male in a given geographical area, and proceeded to incinerate scores of nameless such men in ramped up drone strikes in Muslim lands. Again, no one should have any illusions about the war on terror being a gruesome business. But it would be nice if one of Bush’s full-time amateur accusers pointed out Obama’s gargantuan moral hypocrisy and asked the president to comment on the nature of his post-Gitmo redemption plan for America.