American Elephants

Guantanamo is Far More Complicated Than You Would Think. by The Elephant's Child

In his second day in office, Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center within one year.  He had no idea what to do with the 241 inmates who are usually described as “the worst of the worst.” He is determined to close the facility because he believes that the world disapproves, and that closing it will somehow improve our image in the world.  He apparently feels that prisoners can be brought to the United States,  and prosecuted in the criminal justice system.

But as historian Arthur Herman explains in a brilliant  history of the facility:

Gitmo was never meant to be a prison where inmates were to serve sentences for crimes.  It was, in the words of a Defense Department document, a detention facility set up n order to prevent “enemy combatants from continuing the fight against the U.S. and its partners in the war on terror.”  Its goals were military and tactical, not juridicial or penal.  Still the conditions under which these unconventional prisoners were to be held did involve questions.

The Senate, alert to public opinion, and including the Democratic leadership and 99 of  its members,  refused to grant the President the $80 million he asked for to close the detention center, and stripped the requested funds from a war-spending bill.  Senate Leader Harry Reid said “Democrats under no circumstances will move forward without a comprehensive, responsible plan from the president.  We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States.”

The REAL ID Act of 2005 prohibits anyone connected to terrorist activity from entering and living in the United States.  (A bill that Obama voted for).  There are approximately 30 detainees who have been cleared for release from incarceration.  The administration is trying to find them a home.  European nations are reluctant to make any commitment unless President Obama also allows a number to live freely in the United States.

One federal district court judge has ruled that 17 Chinese Muslims be brought to Washington D.C. The judge cited no law or treaty to support his order.   The Uighurs have appealed to the Supreme Court, where it rests at present.

It is doubtful that it is legal to incarcerate detainees in the federal prison system without trial, or to put them in solitary confinement without trial in maximum security prisons.  Trials are a problem, because the prisoners  were meant to be detained, not tried.  As David Rivkin and Lee Casey point out:

Guantanamo has always been a symbol, rather than the substance, of complaints against America’s “war on terror.”  It’s the military character of the U.S. response to 9/11 that foreign and domestic critics won’t accept.

President Obama has made the naive assumption that the Bush administration did not consider  these problems when they opened the Gitmo detention center.  It was not decided on either lightly or without reservations, and there were efforts from the first to make sure that the facility was responsible and honorable.  The first ‘building’ was a trailer home for the representatives of the International Red Cross, who help inmates to write home.  Rivkin and Casey again:

Mr. Obama can still reverse his decision to close Guantanamo.  This would cost him significant political support among his base.  But making unpopular decisions to serve the national interest is a president’s duty and obligation.

5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great post, as usual. What seemed so simple during the election didn’t turn out to be. Big surprise! Didn’t some of us already know that and say it?

I’m sorry for the current tension on my blog. I know that you do not agree with me, but I still respect and admire you. I’m still on your side.

If you do not return, I will understand. I will try to visit here more often. I have some time off right now, so it will be easier.


Comment by renaissanceguy


You keep me informed with actual fact as usual. You know as well as I do that if Obama does reverse his decision it will happen quietly and noone will know he did. Problem being that he signed the order giving the date it was to be closed.

Perhaps Bush wasn’t as nieve as Obama thought he was.


Comment by Jay Burns

whoops, I just realized I’m wrong. It won’t happen quietly. It will be Bush’s fault.


Comment by Jay Burns


I still respect and admire you as well. It’s commenting on your blog I cant stand. It’s like arguing with dishonest children.

Presenting facts on your blog is an utterly futile waste of time. They are ignored outright.

“Nu uh! Is not! Nu uh! You just made that up! Is not!” and my favorite, “I didn’t call you a liar! I just called your honesty and integrity into question and said I didn’t believe you!”

As you said, you aren’t interested in promoting honest debate, you are interested in promoting tolerance.

But I don’t think we are supposed to tolerate dishonesty, deceptiveness, and bad faith, I think it is destructive and rewards dishonesty and bad behavior. I think rewarding bad behavior discourages good behavior.

But it is your blog and you are free to tolerate whatever you want. I just cant stand it anymore.

It’s ok, I know plenty of other places where honest debate is encouraged and dishonesty and deceitful tactics are smacked down instead of tolerated. I will go there instead.


Comment by American Elephant

Thank you Jay and RG for the compliment, but this post was written by The Elephant’s Child. I don’t want to take credit for her work.

Still trying to figure out how to make the authors of each post more obvious. :/


Comment by American Elephant

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