TSR: "I don't think America should be so gunshy from taking some of these prisoners onto U.S. soil."
June 05, 2009
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Another look at the Cairo speech, this time focusing on the implications of closing Guantanamo Bay and whether any of our allies will be willing to take the prisoners. Candy Crowley looks at the political implications. Michael asks why we are so afraid to take the prisoners onto American soil yet expect our friends to take that risk for us. Also, should America weigh in on the Iranian elections?
WOLF BLITZER: When he addressed the Muslim world, President Obama said he'll make good on his pledge to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The sticking point, what to do with the prisoners held there. The U.S. wants its allies to take some of them to help out. The president spoke about that at a news conference earlier today with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In terms of the issue of Guantanamo, look, this is a very difficult issue. It's difficult in my country, it's difficult internationally. We have a facility that contains some people who are very difficult to deal with. Some of them probably should not have been detained in those facilities in the first place. They should have been processed and tried and convicted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Alright, you get the point of what the president's saying. Let's talk about this and more with CNN's Michael Ware and our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley.
Michael, why is it so hard for the allies to come in and help out the U.S. and take some of these guys?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's actually a good question. And one wonders. Now clearly it's in everyone's shared interest to take on the issue of these international terrorists. Because we have seen all throughout Europe, there have been a variety of al Qaeda or Islamic militant cells that have been disrupted, that have been intercepted and that have been jailed from Britain to Spain to France to Italy. Now, each country has been dealing with those cases as their own and rightly so. Now it's about perhaps sharing the burden of the spillover of Gitmo. One would think that there's some way, some accord that could be found given the commonality of the interests of the west in battling these terrorist cells and these organizations.
However, I would say another thing, too: I don't think America should be so gunshy from taking some of these prisoners onto U.S. soil. I mean for these prisoners, that would mean taking them into the belly of their beast, into the heart of their enemy, they're American prisoners, hold them on American soil, maximum security, put the living fear into them of knowing that there is no escape and that they're not going anywhere. I don't think America, its public or its security infrastructure has anything to fear from holding these men on true American soil, Wolf?
BLITZER: You know Candy, as we were listening to the president at that news conference in Germany today, I don't know if it's fair to say that he was squirming, but this is a really, really complicated issue for him. It's one thing to make a commitment, close Guantanamo as a candidate, even to make that commitment early in his presidency on January 21, but it's another thing to actually deliver.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's in the details. And the fact is he also set his own kind of deadline, 2010. Doesn't sound, the way he's talking right now, that he's going to be able to do it.
BLITZER: And the deadline he set is January 21 or January 22, 2010, although yesterday he said early 2010.
CROWLEY: Right, so it begins to march on. But the fact is if he wants allies to take some of these terrorists, he's going to have to come home and do some diplomacy. Already on Capitol Hill, they're working on something that would limit where the president could put some of the most dangerous prisoners. So the diplomacy has to start here, because the allies are saying, well wait a second, you won't take them on your soil and you want us to take them? So I think the diplomacy for him has to start back here and I think it will take him longer than January of 2010.
BLITZER: Establishing a dialogue, Michael, with Iran is also a very, very sensitive issue. I want you to listen to this exchange that President Obama had today with Tom Brokaw on the "Today Show." Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, TODAY SHOW: What do you think Iranian President Ahmadinejad could learn from your visit to Buchenwald?
OBAMA: He should make his own visit. I was very explicit yesterday. I have no patience for people who would deny history. And, you know, the history of the holocaust is not something speculative.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As you know Michael, there are elections in Iran next week and the Iranian President Ahmadinejad running for re-election, facing a stiff challenge right now. Anything the U.S., for example, does could affect that election outcome. So this is really sensitive ground for the president of the United States.
WARE: Absolutely. And the best advice for the United States in terms of the Iranian election of course, Wolf, would be to be hands off, as it is. Let the natural events take their course in Iran. And I think that we're going to see that happen next week. Obviously America is not playing a hand.
But we saw as President Obama chastised President Ahmadinejad on the issue of holocaust denial, we saw that in Iran just this week, from one of his most fierce candidates in this presidential election, President Ahmadinejad caught the same kind of flak. And let's be honest, arguing this ridiculous point with the Iranian president over holocaust denial is truly a side show. A side show to the real interests at stake in the Iranian election and truly a side show to America's real interest. America needs to get Iran talking, but it needs to be from a position of strength.
America needs to be able to provide some leverage and with Iran's interests vested so deeply inside Iraq, with their interest vested so deeply inside Lebanon, where we're also seeing an election, and with their interest so deeply invested in Hamas and the Palestinian issue, President Obama really does need to find some traction with which he can bind the Iranians and force them to come to the table. Because at this point, the Iranians can sit there and go, well, what's the point? Go ahead and make me. And short of sanctions which we don't yet have international community approval for, there's not much of a stick with which President Obama can beat the Iranians to either come to the table or once they're there. Wolf.
BLITZER: Candy, what if anything should we make of the fact that in his carefully crafted address, nearly a one-hour speech yesterday, the president avoided using the word terrorist, said extremists throughout that speech. Yet today in his news conference in Germany, all of a sudden he's speaking about extremists and terrorists. What do we make of it?
CROWLEY: I think it's tough to visit a concentration camp and sort of couch your language about anything. I think this is as simple a parent's advice which is, I always said to my kids, look, there is the language you might speak in the football locker room and then there is the language you speak to your grandmother with. And I think this is the art of diplomacy here and he is here, he has now moved on, he's going to go to the 65th anniversary of D-day. It is a different situation and a different place, and I have not seen him shy away from that word, but certainly in the audience yesterday, it was better -- extremist was a better word. If you put flash words in that immediately turn people off, they're not listening to you and I suspect that's why they put that in the speech.
BLITZER: Michael is that how you read it as well?
WARE: Yeah, indeed I did. I thought it was a sage move on the president's part and his speechmakers to defer from using the word terrorist because it is so inflammatory and given that there's so many other terms to use which are equally accurate, be they militants, be they insurgents, these semantics can be very, very important. Even if the Arab street's middle of the road, you know, constituency does not favor these militants, by using a word such as terrorist, you're still risking showing a red rag to a bull. It's unnecessary provocation that does not gain you anything. So I really do believe that it was a wise move on the part of the president to steer away from that world, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Michael, thanks very much, Candy, thanks very much to you as well.