About Guantanamo

Since I keep bumping into “Well, Obama hasn’t closed Guantanamo, so that means he didn’t want to close it,” I want to address that briefly. The short answer is that Congress passed a law in 2010 that prevents the Defense Department from transferring Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. for any reason. This doesn’t leave the President with many options.

Before that

– President Obama came into office in January 2009, and two days after his inauguration, he signs his first executive order, calling for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay within one year.

– Less than five months later, Congress — controlled by Democrats — votes overwhelmingly to neutralize that executive order, and to keep Gitmo open, by choking off the funds needed to enact the executive order by building new facilities, seeking deportations, etc. The vote in the Senate was 90 to 6.

– In November 2009, the Obama administration tried another tack: they plan to move 100 remaining Gitmo detainees (not including KSM and other 9/11 direct suspects) to an all-but abandoned, state-of-the-art prison in Illinois. The rural town wanted the deal, and the jobs that would come with it. Again, the deal was blocked, and demogogued, by Congressional Republicans, and as of today, the “Gitmo North” plan seems to be dead on arrival.

And then came the 2010 law, and there’s not much else President Obama can do other than get some other country to take them or turn them all loose. This is as good a one-blog-post summary of the mess as I’ve found anywhere. It shows the White House making a sincere effort to close Guantanamo but being repeatedly blocked by Congress, in particular Democrats in Congress.

Now, one could argue that the White House could have handled Congress better — we can always argue that — but reviewing what actually happened, I have to agree with the blogger that it is grossly disingenuous to conclude that Obama didn’t want to close Guantanamo.

And if he appears to have given up for the moment, I don’t blame him. This is not a fight to pick this close to the elections. Outside of us hard-core liberals there is not much pubic support for closing Guantanamo, I suspect. This may not be a fight that any first-term president could be expected to win.

8 thoughts on “About Guantanamo

  1. Boy, maha, leave it to you so spoil some people “Obama’s” at fault for everthing!, the non-Kenyan/Capitalist/Wall Street/Bankers/DINO/Republican-Tool/Secret Conservative Stooge rants.

  2. That’s some interesting information, Maha. I knew that Congress was jerking Obama around, but I didn’t know that they did such an effective job of it. It wouldn’t hurt to hear that news straight from Obama though..It would put that issue to rest, and it would let the American public know where the conflict with their values and ideals lie… If they have a conflict at all.

  3. Ignorant, uninformed maybe… but disingenuous? There should be a corrolary to Occams Razor — the explanation that assumes ignorance has a better chance of being right than the one that assumes intent and craftiness.

    I knew that history well….Cheney even accurately predicted Obama staying the course on that one albeit without spelling out the exact reason — that interrogation methods were used that would have caused our courts to have thrown the cases out and whichever detainees who might have been convicted would have walked. I might be mistaken but I do recall disappointment in the framing that neglected to spell out just what sort of embarassment might result had we housed detainees domestically. Maybe more would have remembered it as a defeat for Obama if the fight had been more vigorous. He’s had some victories. So would a more prominent defeat have hurt or helped Obama overall?

    I’d like so see Obama revisit Guantanamo. Maybe cost-savings could be the focal point. …more relentlessness in the face of opposition. So we are commited to the costs of offshored torture facilities forever when we go that route? I’m not arguing that, though throwing a point of consternation to the deficit slashing hawks might not be bad. I’m just saying that if it had been presented loudly, in unison and with the right tone a lot more would have remembered the circumstances.

    THe GOP are masters at eking out contradiction and running it through empty minds in front of the suckage box. Those are the little things that stick and become the reality in minds long after the details are forgotten.

    The political reality and thus the “campaign” on even a single issues might well take into account the “slob citizen” who needs a level of animation and simplicity on par with the WWF….hardly done better than by the GOP or worse by Obama and the Dems.

    All I’ve been trying to say is that politics is theatre and Obama has been losing where that strategy is concerned. The problem is less losing on an issue than it is the perception of having assented with nary a ruffled feather.

    • Ignorant, uninformed maybe… but disingenuous? There should be a corrolary to Occams Razor — the explanation that assumes ignorance has a better chance of being right than the one that assumes intent and craftiness.

      I’d apply Occam’s Razor to Obama here; it’s illogical to assume he chose not to close Guantanamo when he could have, when all the evidence says he did intend to close it but was outmaneuvered.

      I admit disingenuous may not be quite the right word. The fashionably correct assumption that Obama all along had a secret evil plan to be just like Bush is coming from someplace that has nothing to do with reason, logic, or facts. Some of the people pushing this theory, such as the dear departed xpara, are veering dangerously close to Truther territory, IMO. And when people get so fixated on an idea that they refuse to see evidence to the contrary no matter how visible it is, there’s something beside disingenuousness going on.

      However, other people pushing the theory are being disingenuous, IMO, because they were opposed to Obama’s nomination back in 2008 and are looking for vindication. The notion that Obama was some kind of stealth conservative was popular with Hillary Clinton supporters during the primary fight.

      I’d like to see Obama revisit Guantanamo, too, and if he gets a second term and a more progressive Congress then maybe it can be closed. But I don’t see him stirring up that hornet’s nest unnecessarily before the election.

  4. I believe that progressive causes suffer from the inability to understand that there are large numbers of people to whom the sorts of appeals preferred by progressives do not work so well. One of the dumbest errors in perception that smart, kind people make is assuming others are like them… or are just evil or disingenous if they aren’t. No doubt hammering away at the facts is good and even necessary but haven’t there been time and issues for which, to the dismay of many, this has no effect? Different types of appeals work for those who we view at times as being impervious to the facts. Sometimes thinking out of the self-imposed box can be a good thing. Maybe angels would indulge in propaganda techniques (for the cause of goodness….whatever that is) rather than waiting for sinners to grow their IQs. Who was it? maybe Vonnegut? …who’d hoped that angels would organize along the lines of the mafia. Sounds like a winner to me.

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