Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Obama encourages congress to close Guantanamo Bay. Reuters.

US President Barack Obama at a meeting yesterday. Reuters. 

Barack Obama is making a last second pitch to convince congress to close the controversial terrorist detainment camp in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Reuters. Obama revealed a plan that would close the camp and proposes 13 possible sites for the remaining prisoners to be transferred too. Republicans in congress are opposed to any plan that brings terrorists into the United States. With congress being opposed to any closure, Barack Obama is considering using an executive order to close the prison. Such an action would lead to legal action from congress. Obama has promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay since before he was even elected, but in more then seven years of presidency, he has failed to shut the prison down. Only 91 prisoners remain in Guantanamo Bay, with roughly 35 due to be transferred to their home countries soon. 

My Comment:
Looks like Barack Obama is trying to save his legacy yet again. He has promised to close down Guantanamo Bay as an election promise and he has utterly failed to get that promise fulfilled. I don't doubt that Obama wants to close Guantanamo Bay but he just hasn't had the diplomatic skill to pull it off. In order to close Guantanamo Bay would mean working with Republicans and throughout his presidency, Obama has completely failed to do that in any meaningful way. Indeed, Obama's failure to close Guantanamo Bay is probably his most obvious broken campaign promise. 

Will he be able to pull it off this time? I really don't expect Obama to make any meaningful compromise with the Republicans and they have very little reason to work with a lame duck president who will be out of office in less then a year. You actually have to give something up to make a compromise, and Obama would never give anything up at this point. Shutting down Guantanamo without huge concessions from Obama would be a fools move by the Republicans in congress. As spineless as they have been, I seriously doubt that even they would buckle under in this situation. 

And any Republican who represents a district where these prisoners would be transferred to would be insane to vote for closing down Guantanamo. This is an election year and closing down the prison would be a huge election issue. People really don't want terrorists brought into their states, and if this ends up happening, people will express their anger on election day. "Not in my backyard" is a real phenomenon, and I can't imagine that there would be many people that would like having these terrorists in their home states. 

If Obama does not succeed in shutting down Guantanamo Bay through congress, he could use an executive order to shut it down. Obama has been very liberal in using executive orders so you know he could try it. Doing so would provoke a legal fight and be extremely unpopular. It could even hurt the chances of whoever the Democratic candidate is. I don't know if the legal challenges against the executive order would work or not, but it would be a major fight. 

What would I do? I would leave those terrorists right where they are. Releasing them to US prisons is probably ok, though largely pointless, but we should never trust our security to other countries. In the past, terrorist suspects released from Guantanamo have gone back to fighting for terrorist groups. I don't trust foreign governments to keep track of these men, and letting them rejoin al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups is too much of a risk to take. 

Of course the real problem is that we aren't taking prisoners anymore. In the Obama administration, our official policy is to destroy terrorists using drones or commandos and only rarely do we capture prisoners. That is a mistake. The prisoners in Guantanamo were a valuable intelligence source, and by having a take no prisoners policy has not helped our intelligence agencies.

There is always the legal issues brought up by Guantanamo. The prisoners that are there are extremely hard to prosecute. Many of them were waterboarded which makes anything they said inadmissible in court. Treating them like POW's doesn't really work either because they aren't members of a legitimate government and commit war crimes. With no real legal option, these men are stuck in a limbo. 

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