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Closing Guantanamo

Posted February 23rd, 2016 at 5:17 pm (UTC-4)
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While campaigning for president in 2008, Barack Obama said he would close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On January 22, 2009, his second day in office, President Obama ordered Guantanamo closed within a year. Tuesday, with 613 days left in his presidency, Obama sent to Congress a plan to close Guantanamo.

FILE - A U.S. soldier stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, March 30, 2010

FILE – A U.S. soldier stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, March 30, 2010

There are several reasons for Obama’s inability to fulfill his promise: the slow grind of the U.S military justice system; difficulty finding nations willing to accept detainees once their risk is suitably assessed; congressional legislation that blocks any detainee from being transferred to U.S. soil.

Nearly 800 detainees have been held at Guantanamo since President George W. Bush opened it in 2002, following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. According to a detailed study by The New York Times, 242 detainees were in the facility when Obama was inaugurated and 91 remain as of today.

If the reaction from many in Congress and Republicans running for President are an indication, it’s unlikely closing Guantanamo will be part of the Obama legacy.

The Plan to Shut Down Gitmo

Editorial Board – The New York Times 

Republican lawmakers all too often have been reflexive and thoughtless in their opposition to closing Guantánamo, one of the most shameful chapters in America’s recent history. Closing the prison by the end of the year is feasible. It would make the United States safer, help restore America’s standing as a champion of human rights and save taxpayers millions of dollars.

Obama’s Gitmo Closure Plan: What’s New and Where the Problems Are

Ben Watson – Defense One

The closure plan doesn’t endorse a specific facility stateside, Obama said, it merely gives an outline of the options….The White House has not released the full list of sites to the public, a move believed to be designed to limit political fallout, as the prospect of moving “Gitmo” prisoners to the continental United States is incredibly contentious.

Also missing from the plan was any workaround for restrictions preventing the transfer of detainees to the mainland, a law Congress passed in November.

Obama’s Irrelevant, Outmoded Case Against Guantanamo

Eli Lake – Bloomberg View

(Obama) said Tuesday that the prison’s existence is “counterproductive to our fight against terrorists, because they use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit.” The president is not alone in this view. In 2008, when Obama was running for the White House, no less an authority than General David Petraeus said he favored closing Guantanamo because it was a recruitment tool. George W. Bush and John McCain have said as much themselves.

This is true in the narrowest sense….But in a more important sense, Guantanamo doesn’t really matter in the battle for the hearts and minds of would-be terrorists. Charlie Winter, a senior research associate at Georgia State University’s initiative on transcultural conflict and violence, and an expert in jihadi propaganda…stressed that Guantanamo is “one of many things held up by radical Islamists as evidence of the anti-Muslim conspiracy.”

Keep Guantanamo Open – The Arguments for Closing it Don’t Add Up

Sen. Tim Scott – National Review

Editor’s note: This article was published in November 2015

Guantanamo mapAfter visiting, it is clearer than ever to me that Guantanamo is the best place on earth to keep these terrorists. These are al-Qaeda members, terrorist financiers, and other highly dangerous people.

Opponents of keeping the detention facilities open at Guantanamo believe that by closing it, we can stop terrorist groups from using it as a recruiting tool. This requires you to also believe that any new facility built would not be held up as a recruiting tool. And if you believe that, I have a nice, new bridge to sell you.

It simply does not make sense to transfer some of the most dangerous men in the world here, especially when we consider where they would be coming from. Guantanamo is surrounded by water, desert, and mountains. It is incredibly isolated. This is not an accident.

Security Always Wins: The U.S. Won’t Close Guantanamo Anytime Soon

John Amble – War on the Rocks

Editor’s Note: This article was published in July 2013

One argument made by critics of Guantanamo Bay, of course, is that this militarized detention program eliminates the due process that is fundamental to the U.S. legal system. Without a trial, critics say, we can’t formally determine whether detainees are truly the bad guys they’re believed to be.  But whether or not they committed offenses sufficient to justify their detention – the determination of which is the core function of due process requirements – is immaterial. National security implications remain the sole concern. This is the uncomfortable truth: detainees remain held at Guantanamo Bay not because of what they did or didn’t do before their detention, but because of what they might do after their release or transfer. As such, arguments about the failure to apply due process are both technically correct and largely irrelevant.

Sent to Guantanamo as a Teenager, and now to Estonia

Amy Davidson – The New Yorker 

Editor’s note: This article was published in January 2015

When Akhmed Abdul Qadir Hussain was eighteen (or a little younger, by some accounts), in early 2002, he was arrested by the Pakistani police, who gave him to American forces, who sent him to Guantánamo Bay. When he was about twenty-five, in 2009, the Guantánamo Review Task Force cleared him for release. It had taken seven years, but, as a Pentagon press release put it, “this man was unanimously approved for transfer by the six departments and agencies comprising the task force.” But he remained in Guantánamo for more than five additional years. Finally, on Wednesday, the Obama Administration announced that it had put Hussain on a plane to Estonia.



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