Home > Law, Politics > Change We Can Believe In, XV

Change We Can Believe In, XV

Change We Can Believe In: Reaffirming the commitment to close Guantanamo but keeping it open

You gotta love it. Eight days ago, the White House released a fact sheet on Guantanamo and detainee policy announcing that it “remains committed to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and to maintain a lawful, sustainable and principled regime for the handling of detainees there, consistent with the full range of U.S. national security interests.” There’s the rub. Committed consistent with national security interests. And if the administration’s determination of national security interests results in keeping Guantanamo open, oh well.

I’ve been meaning for a week to write about this, but now I can simply refer to an eloquent editorial in last Saturday’s Des Moines Register that says what needs to be said. Excerpts below.

President Barack Obama’s announcement this week that some prisoners at Guantanamo Bay could be held indefinitely by the United States without benefit of trials is a major disappointment. He may have inherited Guantanamo from former President George W. Bush, but by failing to make good on his pledge to shut it down, Obama now shares credit for this stain on America’s once proud tradition as a champion of justice for all.

That stain must eventually be removed. The president alone clearly cannot resolve the Guantanamo dilemma, however. It will take leadership from both parties in Congress, and the support of the American people, who should see that this nation has a strong interest in living up to its commitment to protecting human rights.

The president made a bold – if risky – promise in his first month of office in 2009 to close down Guantanamo and prosecute or resettle the remaining prisoners outside the United States. . . .

On Monday, Obama appeared to throw in the towel. He cleared the way for trying some Guantanamo detainees before military tribunals. He issued an executive order regarding the fate of the remainder who cannot be tried for various reasons, and who are too dangerous to release: Their status will be periodically reviewed, but unless some miracle happens, they likely will remain in U.S. custody for the remainder of their lives even though they have never been tried or convicted of any crimes against the United States.

[snip]

The United States must eventually come to terms with the fact that it has imprisoned foreign nationals for years with no immediate prospect of a fair trial. Some of these men may present a potential threat to the United States, but the world is full of terrorists who would dearly love to wreak havoc on America. We cannot lock them all up, and locking up a few of them forever without trial will create whole new generations of terrorists with good reason to hate this country.

The stain must be removed.

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