Joe Scarborough: Hey, so, there’s news. I’m, I’m just so confused, and you know, I don’t usually get confused, but I’m so confused by all the news coming out of the White House. We, we hear an Associated Press report that there’s going to be an announcement that Gitmo is going to be closed down, and then we have a report that the White House is backing off of it. They were supposed be meeting today to discuss the closing down of Gitmo, and now we have a report that the Guantanamo meeting was cancelled after the report came out that the closure was near.
Thank God, THANK GOD, MSNBC got General Wesley Clark on their side. He’s going to tell us what’s really going on. General!
Thank you so much for being with us!
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Nice to be with you, Joe.
Joe Scarborough: What in the world’s going on? Are they going to shut this thing down or not?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think that- I, I never guess what’s going on in the White House. It’s unpredictable, but I do think it’s a, it’d be a very good thing to get the Guantanamo monkey off the back of the United States. I’d like to see it turned over to an international organization, someone who can process those people in accordance with international law and international standards, get the ones that aren’t terrorists home, the ones that are terrorists, get them prosecuted, lay the evidence out and take it off the backs of the United States and especially off the United States Armed Forces.
Joe Scarborough: So, who do we trust to do that?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think you can set up an organization. I think you could go to NATO to start with. I think you’d get a coalition of the willing. I think you’d get some Islamic countries in there so that they can’t duck the responsibility, so to speak, of, of the people that are there. I think it could all be put together, if there’s a will to do it.
Joe Scarborough: So, do we, do we take a lead role in it or, or do we just sit back and are we one among several countries that are all equals?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think we have to do our share, but our share shouldn’t be guarding. It shouldn’t be providing the facility. We should set some timelines to say there’s a goal to get it closed down and people transferred by a certain date. Our role’s more to provide evidence at this point, and of course we got to protect our classified information, but there’s a way to sanitize it and provide it out there so the other nations can make a judgment about their own citizens.
Joe Scarborough: Well, General, what would you, what would you say to people that say, ‘Well this is the equivalent of, of World War II, and we certainly wouldn’t allow Nazis that we captured, or, or suspected Nazis that we captured to be tried by an international tribunal, would hold them until the end of the war,’ which I think is sort of the reasoning of a lot of people in the White House?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think in World War II we made a lot of mistakes on people. I mean, we interned a lot of Japanese-Americans that were loyal citizens. Here, I think we’ve interned some people in Guantanamo who had nothing to do with terrorism. We know by going back to the reports, by listening to people. Some of these people were turned in by warlords in Afghanistan. Some of them were turned in to settle a family grudge. Some of them were turned in as, by the equivalent of bounty hunters in Afghanistan. And once they got into the system it was pretty hard for a lot of them to get out of it.
Joe Scarborough: And how long is-
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: They were-
Joe Scarborough: How long were some of these-
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: They were blindfolded and drugged and so forth.
Joe Scarborough: How long have some, have the, have some of these people been sitting down there now without a trial?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I couldn’t tell you in the individual cases. They’re- First of all, some of them have not finished Combatant Status Reviews, and then depending on the Combatant Status Review, they may have been brought to trial. It varies, but some of them have been in there since early 2002 is what I’m told. So, some of them may’ve been in there as much as five years.
Joe Scarborough: General, we’ve had a lot of people on the left and also some politicians suggesting that, that these detainees are being tortured. You had a Senator, who apologized for it later, but compared our troops to Nazis, Stalin, storm troopers in the Khmer Rouge for what they were doing down at Guantanamo Bay. Is there any evidence that we have tortured detainees down there, or is the bigger problem the fact that we’ve held them without a trial?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well I think, you know, in a war like this, intelligence is critical, and you’ve got to find ways to encourage people who have that information, to give it up and to share it. But I think the evidence that’s come out, at least in the public so far, is (clears throat) that we’ve, we’ve basically moved beyond the bound of what is considered permissible under the code of the Geneva Convention and under what U.S. troops and U.S. personnel would normally do. (clears throat) How far we’ve gone, we don’t know. We don’t, we know that some of the memoranda have been pretty outrageous – saying that torture doesn’t occur until it’s the pain equivalent a major organ loss, which was one definition propounded by the government at one point and apparently retracted. Joe, I really think we need to unpack the whole area, because the, the impression that the United States is abusing people is undercutting America’s ability to win the war against Islamic terrorists-
Joe Scarborough: Well, General-
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: And so, this is important issue.
Joe Scarborough: And, and General, I certainly agree with you. I mean, the, the greatest thing I think that America exports are its ideas, and-
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: (chuckles)
Joe Scarborough: -and it certainly, it certainly undercuts us. I, I guess what, what I’m getting to is, based on published reports that, that, we’ve read – and obviously I can’t talk about the people I’ve talked to behind the scenes and neither can you, a lot of classified information that some, some may, may come your way – but, but I, I just want to clarify this point that is there evidence out there that our guys are – and our women – are torturing these detainees down at Gitmo? And I ask the question again, because I, I have not seen evidence of that.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: You know, I have followed it fairly closely, but I don’t see the- I, I hear reports about it. I can’t put my finger on a specific piece of evidence right now on the telephone, but I will tell you that there have been reports of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq who have been killed in detention.
Joe Scarborough: Yeah.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: And it’s simply unacceptable. In some cases, people have brought, been brought to trial, and other cases apparently they haven’t. And some- in the cases where they were brought to trial, apparently they were not convicted or they weren’t done anything other then admonished. I, I just don’t know, but I do know this, Joe, that the reputation of the United States is something that, that we tamper with at great risk to America’s safety.
Joe Scarborough: Right.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: We need to unpack this area. We need to get the truth out. Whatever published reports say, what we’ve got a pretty good idea is that there’s a lot that’s gone on behind the scenes. It, it leaks out around the margins. The latest one was over the weekend from this Major General Taguba, who had done the initial investigation of Abu Ghraib. We, we know it’s his impression that he should’ve investigated higher-ups, that he was, he was constrained in doing so. I’m sure there were some reasons why higher-ups thought they shouldn’t be included in that, but I think the American people deserve a full accounting of all this.
Joe Scarborough: I, I, I think you’re exactly right, and, and you have said before we’re not going to win this war on terror with, with solely military force, that it’s, it’s going to be again a war of ideas and a war of values, and we’re going to have to win the hearts and minds of some of, some of these people. What, what- John, did you have a question?
John Ridley: I did have a question. General, this is John Ridley. I, I’m curious-
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Hi, John.
John Ridley: -you know, with, with Guantanamo, there’s so much attention focused on it while these individuals are there, you get a sense that the military and the politicians are going to be at least a little bit more careful with the prisoners. If they shut down Guantanamo, is there a chance that a lot of these individuals are then going to be farmed out to some of these foreign secret prisons, which have no problem torturing these individuals and, and quite frankly, don’t care about any kind of rights whatsoever?
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I think there’s always a possibility that torture and abuse can go on somewhere. I think what we need to do is set up this international organization. I’d like to see it propped up as a subsidiary of NATO, because it has to have a security function to some degree. It gets a little bit off the plate of the United States if you can ask NATO to do it. And then, one of the things they would have to do is look at the onward designation of, of these people when they’re released and what kind of conditions they’ll be under. I’d ask the UN to take a look at it. I’d bring in the UN Human Rights Commission. Bring ’em all in! Make ’em all understand that the control of Is- of terrorists is a worldwide global responsibility. It’s not something that only the United States has to bear the burden of.
Joe Scarborough: Alright. General Wesley Clark, thank you so much for being with us, and it’s great to have you at MSNBC. We really appreciate your time.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Thanks so much, Joe. Great to be here with you.
Joe Scarborough: Thanks.