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Friday, June 16, 2006

Gitmo from your PR

Dean Esmay has an interesting post up regarding the doings at Guantanamo Bay. Key grafs:

This being an odd kind of war, the question has always been open--in this free, liberal, tolerant democratic society of ours--as to what we should do about captured enemies. Histrionics aside, the truth is that we are talking about approximately 500 people rounded up instead of simply killed. Since we know with reasonable certainty that some of them are terrorists who will attempt to kill others if they are released, while others may be harmless, it's always been hard to know what exactly to do about them.

I'm comfortable that, after going back and forth with legal wranglings for a few years, the administration has seen fit to (A) ask the Supreme Court what the most appropriate final disposition of these prisoners should be, and (B) they will close the prison probably within the next year or two. That's a thousand times better than the treatment of prisoners in the Taliban's Afghanistan or Saddam's Iraq. It's a million times better than anyone captured by Al Qaeda.

There are those who behave as if those at Guantanamo Bay were a bunch of innocents rounded up merely so sadistic members of the U.S. military could torture them. But to believe that requires not only a profound lack of respect for the United States and its military, but for America in general. It's also more than a little naive: do you think that if our military were so evil, they would even have bothered to put them in a special prison in Cuba? Why? Whatever for? Why not capture them, torture them manically, keep them totally hidden until they were no longer useful, then shoot them in the head and dump them in a mass grave?

Honestly, if that's how you think the American military works, why would we even be having this discussion? These people would be dead, and you'd never know they existed at all. They'd meet the fate of a Christian in the Taliban's Afghanistan: simply liquidated with no one in the outside world ever noticing or caring.

I mostly agree.

However, in my mind it's not so much the actual goings on at Gitmo that are the problem, it's the bad PR the US is getting.

Obviously some of this is due to the reflexive anti-Americanism of many Europeans, Middle Easterners and leftists in general, but that said, the Bush administration has done an absolutely horrible job communicating the necessary involvement of certain strategies and tactics in a global war on terror. I'm not saying the Bushies haven't tried, just that they've done a really bad job of it.

For instance, who, exactly are the people being held at Gitmo? Maybe a list was released at some point, but if so, I don't remember. And that's my point: If I were running the PR for the GWOT, I would counter every absurd Amnesty International "gulag" statement, every handwringing op-ed, with a list of exactly where these guys were found and what they were doing when they were captured. There's no getting around the fact that it's anathema to many people, myself included, that the US government is holding people prisoner for an extremely long time period without formally charging them. Constantly explaining who and what these people are would go a long way towards reducing the unease shared by a lot of folks who aren't reflexively anti-American or anti-Bush. And quite frankly, if this entails revealing some details the administration would rather not be made public, too bad. In my mind, this is more important.

Because in this day and age we shouldn't downplay PR as a necessary component of warfare. If it weren't important, the Army wouldn't have a battalion devoted to psychological operations. The fact is that it's perhaps more important in this war, an assymetrical war that has no clearcut end, than in any other war this country has ever fought.

In what is at its essence a war of ideologies, we can't underestimate the necessity of winning hearts and minds.

Anonymous fmragtops said...

I dunno, Cranky. I don't think it would matter how much, or how good of PR there is out there. The people that conatantly make these absurd "gulag" statements are so hell bent on destroying Bush, they completely dismiss facts for the sake of sound bites and sloganeering.

These are the same people that scream one liners like, "Saddam had no ties to Bin Laden" when there are reports of the two associating in the early ninties, and "there were no WMDs in Iraq" when there have been small amounts of WMDs found, and reports of Russian Special Forces removing weapons from Iraq. There is just no reasoning with people like that.

Blogger elendil said...

I can tell you who they are. Try this pdf. It's a study based on defense documents of the makeup of the prisoners.


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