re·cid·i·vism (rĭ-sĭd'ə-vĭz'əm) noun
A slipping from a higher or better condition to a lower or poorer one:
President Obama is expected to give a speech today on national security issues and address the release of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Former Vice President Cheney is planning to follow with a speech of his own to argue against Obama's position. Meanwhile, the Pentagon released a report today that states 1 out of 7 released detainees returns to terrorist activity. The same article goes on to say that recidivism among prisoners in the United States is close to 68% within the first 3 years after being released.
I haven't read the actual report (I'm not sure if it's available to the public) and don't know the details, but the NY Times article implies that the Pentagon is exaggerating the detainee issue and is inflating the numbers of individuals that have returned to terrorist activities after being released. "Officials" said that "they believed that Defense Department employees, some of them holdovers from the Bush administration, were acting to protect their jobs." An exaggeration of a threat in order to achieve one's own personal agenda... now, why does that sound familiar?
The whole detainee issue is reminiscent of the post-9/11 rhetoric that came out of the Bush administration, suggesting that any choice other than Republican leadership would be a threat to our national security. The cries from the right about Gitmo have grown since Obama took office and have reached the point where Cheney is stating outright that the US is less safe now that Obama is president. Cheney making a controversial claim without providing any evidence to back it up is all too familiar as well. I would accuse him of recidivism, but that implies that he had a "better or higher condition" to fall from.
Despite my problems with the rhetoric coming from the right, I agree that the Guantanamo detainee issue is an important one. I don't think anyone wants to release a Gitmo prisoner that will only take up arms against us afterward. Some people have said that Guantanamo has been used by terrorist organizations as a propaganda tool and that shutting it down will diminish their recruiting abilities. This is a valid point, but I personally don't think it's the most important. I'm more concerned with the slippery slope we found ourselves on when we became involved in Guantanamo, Abu Gharib, SeeEyeAye black sites, and condoning extraordinary torture tactics. As trite as it may sound, shutting down Guantanamo is about protecting the values and ideals that make our country great.
Of course, we've trampled on those values and ideals in the past. In fact, the very existence of Guantanamo is a legacy of the Spanish-American War. A war which began under tenuous circumstances and is now largely thought to have been caused by fear mongering, xenophobia and yellow journalism. It's difficult to watch as the US relives these past mistakes.
I hope that Obama is able to make a strong case in his speech today and provides some sort of plan on what will be done with the detainees. There is a lot ambiguity surrounding the issue. Legal, moral, and otherwise. But maybe we can draw from our own experiences with recidivism before condemning the Guantanamo prisoners to do the same.