On January 13, 2008,
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, the detention facility that holds hundreds of enemy combatants,
including some of the worst of the worst terrorists.
Mullen is the seventeenth chairman in a line beginning
with the appointment of General of the Army Omar N. Bradley in 1949, and which
included, like Bradley, other combat-tested military
While at Guantanamo,
Mullen—a subordinate of the Commander-in-Chief, President George W.
Bush—gratuitously opined that “I’d like to see [the Guantanamo detention facility] shut
Predictably, the national and international press had a field day
reporting that the highest-ranking military officer in the United States wanted Guantanamo closed, which would necessarily
mean that its enemy combatants detainees would be brought to the continental
Most Americans have not the slightest idea about the Chairman’s job
description. By statute, he is the principal military advisor
to the President of the United States, relaying advice the Chairman obtains from other members of the
Joint Chiefs and senior military commanders.
general (in the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps) or Navy Admiral, the Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs has no military command, no legislative power, no judicial
standing, no diplomatic status, and no political policy role.
Department of Defense Directive 5100.1, the Chairman’s responsibilities are
virtually all administrative. A close reading of that lengthy
directive, despite its broad language, does not suggest a command, legislative,
judicial, diplomatic, or political policy role for the Chairman of the Joint
Yet questions about the status and future of Guantanamo fall into all of those
categories. For example: Could the military defend
Guantanamo?; Shall Congress
legislate termination of the facility?; Do the courts have jurisdiction over
what occurs there?; Are State Department concerns to be
considered?; Is there a separation of powers issue, arising
out of shared executive/Commander-in-Chief and legislative foreign and national
put the point bluntly, none of these questions, and the many others like them,
are any business of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Admiral Mullen, whatever his other powers and responsibilities as
Chairman, unarguably went overboard in offering his gratuitous dictum
about a subject that rightly, and statutorily, falls within the purview of
was bad enough, but Mullen’s insubordination was compounded by the implications
inherent in his taking a giant step beyond his pay grade.
The Associated Press reported that although Mullen acknowledged that
“a closure decision was not his to make,” and that some of the detainees are
“high security risks,” still “he favors closing the prison . . . as soon as
possible because he believes negative publicity worldwide about treatment of
terrorist suspects has been ‘pretty damaging’ to the image of the United
States. More than anything else it’s been the image—how Gitmo
has become around the world, in terms of representing the United States. I believe
that from the standpoint of how it reflects on us that it’s been pretty
These statements reflect several highly undesirable qualities in
First, Mullen uncritically accepts as a given the “negative
publicity,” without regard to its propagandistic falsity and without any
acknowledgment that the Guantanamo detention facility has been, and continues to be, a crucial
component of our war with Islamic terrorism.
Equally, his reference to “worldwide” necessarily embraces the media
(often state- controlled) of countries that are our enemies in this
war. It is difficult to believe that the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs is concerned with “negative publicity” emanating from theocracies
like Iran, one-party states like Egypt, dictatorships like North Korea, and
virtually every nation in Africa—to name but a few “worldwide”
Mullen’s uncritical concern with the “treatment of terrorist
suspects” is unworthy of comment, except to observe that the detainees are
treated no worse than state and federal inmates within the United States, and in some respects even
“Pretty damaging to the image of the United
States.” That Mullen would care about
our “image” in the eyes of those seeking to destroy us, and those watching from
the sidelines, bespeaks of a man lacking independent judgment and concerned more
with the feelings of others rather than one rooted in reality and an
understanding of America’s nobility and strengths.
Indeed, Mullen’s concern with our worldwide image ignores the grave
consequences of closing Guantanamo and dumping its flotsam and jetsam onto American shores and into our
criminal justice system. In short, doing so would turn enemy
combatant terrorists into mere felony defendants, making them the subjects of
solicitude from the hard-left ACLU to the four-and-a-half justice liberal bloc
on the Supreme Court.
Once it would have been hard to believe that a Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff could carry the water for anti-American terrorists.
Indeed, it was unimaginable that General of the Army Omar N. Bradley,
when visiting a stockade holding German POWs, would have recommended that they
be put into the United States
criminal justice system—a system that would have afforded the SS and other Nazis the
protection of the United States Constitution.
Yet that danger is what we face now, and Admiral Mike Mullen,
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United
States, has aided and abetted