Monday, July 27, 2009


One of Barack Obama's earliest moves as president was to issue a promise that the prison camp at Guantanmo Bay would be closed by January 22, 2010. People of conscience in this country and around the world breathed a sigh of relief at the news. The news since then, however, hasn't been as promising. We've just learned that neither of the two commissions studying ways to make this happen, one of which is reviewing each detainee's record, didn't meet the July 22, 2009 deadline set by the President. Furthermore, the 111th Congress has been pushing back against the camp closure, introducing bills that would forbid such a move based on highly inflammatory and outright false claims.

An editorial in today's Los Angeles Times took on the issue:

Last week, the administration announced that two task forces convened by the president -- one examining the status of the remaining 240 Guantanamo detainees, the other studying interrogation policy -- wouldn’t meet their July 22 deadline for recommendations. Delay in the federal government isn't unusual, and Obama has been multi-tasking since the day he was inaugurated. Still, dilatory decision-making on Guantanamo threatens to give new meaning to the axiom that "justice delayed is justice denied."

Unlike Bush, Obama is committed to cooperating with Capitol Hill. But Congress isn't reciprocating. This week, Senate Democratic leaders sidelined the most serious threat to Obama's policy on Guantanamo, an amendment by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) to a defense authorization bill that would have kept the facility open and prohibited the transfer of detainees to the United States. But House Democratic leaders continue to oppose providing funds for the closure that the administration is seeking.

In defending his amendment, Inhofe cited polls showing that "most Americans do not want to close Gitmo, and certainly do not want these terrorist detainees to be transferred to the United States." What he didn't say was that those apprehensions have been fed by nonsensical claims that Obama would free dangerous terrorists to run loose in the streets. In fact, prisoners not sent to other countries probably would be held in "supermax" institutions that already hold hundreds of convicted terrorists and from which no one has escaped.

President Obama has already backed down on the issue of relocating any of the prisoners to the US, no matter how innocent or how non-threatening they might be. The Uighers, who never had any ill will towards the US, were shipped thousands of miles away rather than released to the community of Uighers already in the US which was willing to take the prisoners in and to help them adjust to their freedom. Because the US won't take any prisoners in, many European countries, including our closest allies, won't even consider relocation to their soil.

If the President is really serious about closing Gitmo, he needs to get serious in its implementation. He has the bully pulpit, which he appears willing to use on other important issues like health care and the bailouts of huge corporations. He needs to use it now. He needs to speak out against the outrageous disinformation being thrown out by the Republicans . He needs to make it clear that closing Gitmo will result in greater US security, not less. He also needs to make it clear that the US will abide by national and international law with respect to the use of torture.

If he doesn't, if he allows Guantanamo Bay to remain open, then his promise, like several other promises he has defaulted on, will just be more dust in the wind.

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Anonymous UknowIt said...

"Furthermore, the 111th Congress has been pushing back against the camp closure, introducing bills that would forbid such a move based on highly inflammatory and outright false claims."

Of course they have because they are all afraid of how it will impact them. They all know that you can't hold prisoners of war when a war has not been declared by congress. This entire issue has loads of legal consequences. When and if they come to the conclusion that the prisoners actually do have rights, then we may get somewhere.

8:46 AM  

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