Guantanamo’s lesson for the Obama administration
The New York Times tells us that closing the Guantanamo facility has "faded as a priority." The once adamant insistence by candidate and later President Obama that the facility must be closed to erase the blight on America’s image has now run smack dab into reality. The New York Times prefers to write it off to “political resistance”, implying political foes on the right are responsible for Obama’s inability to close Guantanamo. In fact the Obama Justice Department has been no more successful in determining what to do with the detainees at “Gitmo” than was the Bush administration. That is the problem area that can’t be resolved.
The reality they face is very simple – those incarcerated are very dangerous people whose sole goal in life is to kill as many Americans as they can by whatever means they have at their disposal. Releasing them back into the world would simply allow them to again engage in achieving their goals.
The Obama administration has fretted and fussed over their inability to close the detention center. They’ve installed commissions to study the problem, they’ve explored various possible solutions and none have provided a resolution to the problem of what to do with these detainees.
If you can’t release the detainees, they obviously have to be kept somewhere. That is the core of Obama’s problem. His claim that Gitmo is a stain on the image of the United States and is used by our enemies as a recruiting tool presupposes that closing the facility (and, one assumes, releasing the detainees) would remove that stain and the claimed “recruiting tool” Guantanamo provides.
The final attempt at a solution involved Congressional Democrats putting forward a plan to use a closed prison facility in Illinois to house the Guantanamo detainees and allowing the administration to close the detention center there. This idea was certainly met with political resistance when Americans became aware of the plan. Common sense says you don’t move dangerous detainees in an isolated facility off-shore into the heart of your country and provide violent radicals with an opportunity to bring terrorism to America in an attempt to rescue those being held.
But that plan also shifted the debate in a subtle way that many missed. By considering the plan, the administration tacitly admitted that what they saw as a “stain” on America’s image was, in fact, a necessary “stain.” That image, of course, had to do with holding these detainees without trial in an American facility. Its name happened to be Guantanamo. But moving them to an inland prison doesn’t change the image. It merely changes the name and location of the prison. It was clear, at that point, that the administration had no idea how it could close Gitmo safely and remove that “stain.” The best it could do was transfer the “stain” to Illinois.
So it has chosen to let the closing of the Guantanamo facility “fade in priority.” Another naive campaign promise squashed by reality. The world is full of dangerous people who wish us ill. The job of keeping us safe falls to the federal government. For an administration which likes to present teachable moments, this should be one for them.
Guantanamo exists for a very important purpose directly tied to the government’s job of keeping us safe. The administration has now explored that point in seemingly every possible way and the facility remains open and functioning. Perhaps it is time they made peace with that fact and turned their concentration toward keeping the citizens of the US safe instead of worrying about imaginary “stains.”