"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Obama Admin Finally Seeing Folly Of Its Gitmo Policy?

January 21st, 2011 by mopns · No Comments

It’s now been almost two years since President Obama announced on his second day in office that “Guantanamo will be closed no later than one year from now.” But this policy was announced hastily, and as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell pointed out a year ago, “[President Obama] didn’t provide any details about how the administration planned to deal with the detainees who are housed there. He just said it would be closed. A year later, it’s clear that closing Guantanamo was a lot more complicated than the administration thought. It’s also increasingly clear that this facility plays a uniquely important role in the War on Terror.”

Indeed, The New York Times reported yesterday, “The Obama administration is preparing to increase the use of military commissions to prosecute Guantánamo detainees, an acknowledgment that the prison in Cuba remains open for business after Congress imposed steep new impediments to closing the facility.” And The Wall Street Journal adds today, “President Barack Obama recently reasserted his desire to close the prison, in line with an executive order he issued on his second day in office. But administration officials acknowledged the decision to hold new trials there reflected the reality that the president would likely run for re-election in 2012 having still not accomplished that goal.”

Yesterday’s decision doesn’t just remind of the folly of hastily announcing the closing of Guantanamo, it also marks a significant reversal in policy after the Obama administration met with a great deal of resistance to their ill-advised plan to try detainees in civilian courts in the United States, instead of through military commissions at Guantanamo. The NYT writes, “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is expected to soon lift an order blocking the initiation of new cases against detainees, which he imposed on the day of President Obama’s inauguration. That would clear the way for tribunal officials, for the first time under the Obama administration, to initiate new charges against detainees.”

And The Journal notes, “Attorney General Eric Holder announced the military trials . . . at the same time he announced civilian criminal trials in New York City for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The plans for civilian trials ground to a halt early in 2010 after a backlash from New Yorkers and members of Congress over security concerns and other issues. The administration had hoped that the progress of existing cases would revive support for the policy of prosecuting accused terrorists in both civilian and military courts. But in November, a civilian jury in New York rejected all but one of the 285 counts against Ahmed Ghailani, a former Guantanamo detainee charged with aiding the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in east Africa. While Mr. Ghailani still likely faces a life sentence in that case, the conviction on only one count was a major setback to the Obama administration’s promotion of civilian trials as an option for detainees.”

At the time of the Ghailani verdict last November, Sen. McConnell said the trial “is all the proof we need that the administration’s approach to prosecuting terrorists has been deeply misguided and indeed potentially harmful as a matter of national security.” He pointed out, “[Attorney General Holder] said Ghailani’s prosecution in civilian court would prove its effectiveness in trying terrorists who are picked up on the battlefield. At the time, most Americans wondered why we would even take the chance. And now they’re wondering when the administration will admit it was wrong and assure us just as confidently that terrorists will be tried from now on in the military commission system that was established for this very purpose at the secure facility at Guantanamo Bay, or detained indefinitely, if they cannot be tried without jeopardizing national security.”

Related:

Rasmussen Reports: 27% Say U.S. Heading in Right Direction

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