Transcript: Hearing Q&A with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on closing Guantanamo – July 24, 2013

Partial transcript of  Q&A with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on “Closing Guantanamo: The National Security, Fiscal and Human Rights Implications.” The hearing was held before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on July 24, 2013.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.):
…Where in the range of hard military power, soft economic power, and diplomatic persuasions you think the example that America presents to the world stands in the assets that we bring to bear to support and defend our interests around the world?

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton (Ret.), former Commanding General of the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team in Iraq from 2003-2004:
…Human Rights First has stenciled on their wall a quote from one of my favorite Presidents, Dwight Eisenhower: “Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of Americans.”

Do we want America to be represented by a young man with a M-4 carbine or do we want America to be represented by a man who flew back with me from Africa who had just built a very large industrial chicken farm in an African country? I’ll tell you that as a soldier, I would far better want representation by a man who knows how to bring agricultural expertise than my sons and daughter with rifles overseas.

So we are far better served by our economic prowess and by our diplomatic prowess than by our extraordinarily fine military.

Frank Gaffney, Founder and President of the Center for Security Policy:
Senator, I’m not sure whether I qualify as one of your candidates for answering this but if I may, I would just offer that the idealism that you described and the General just referred to is certainly commendable and I think it’s something that we should strive for.

And yet, it has to be tempered by certain realism, and that is when you are confronting people who are not moved by our example and may be affected by our power, I think you need to be able to bring both to bear.

And in this case…to the extent that an enemy like the one we confront today actually perceives weakness not as dissuasive or exemplary or desirable but as an inducement of violence against us, the dangers of making a miscalculation here, not because it’s the way we would like things to be but because it is the way our enemy perceives and responds to these things, submission is their goal. Our submission is their goal, and I guarantee you they will perceive closure of Gitmo as evidence of accomplishing it.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.):
I just have to react to that because I have to disagree. George Washington led armies that left bloody footprints in the snows of Valley Forge with no certainty that their enterprise would succeed and that pledging their lives and fortunes and sacred honor would not put them at the end of a rope. And yet, they did not torture Hessians when they caught them, they did not force-feed them.

You can go on and on through World War II. The example of Britain in the shadow of Hitler’s Nazism, throwing out of their secure intelligence facility somebody who had the nerve to lay hands on one of their prisoners, partly because they knew it was bad practice in intelligence-gathering, partly because it wasn’t who they were. And we are still proud of the way Britain stood up against the Nazi menace even before we got into the war when they stood alone, and Winston Churchill is going to be a figure in history because of that. And I think the fact that over and over again they refused to use those techniques is actually a measure of their strength.

And you could just as easily make the argument that we are strengthening Al Qaeda and our enemies by treating them as if they were more dangerous than Nazi Germany, more dangerous than the opponents of our American revolution, and require us to veer from standards of decency and conduct that have characterized this nation since its inception.


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