President Obama and Guantanamo

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Obama’s toughest Guantanamo sell: Senate Democrats

Donna Cassata, Associated Press Posted: Monday, July 8, 2013, 1:08 AM

WASHINGTON – President Obama’s hardest sell in his renewed push to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may be members of his own party – moderate Senate Democrats facing tough re-election bids next year in the strongly Republican South.

Obama has stepped up the pressure to shutter the naval facility, driven in part by his revised counterterrorism strategy and the four-month-old stain of the government’s force-feeding Guantanamo prisoners on hunger strikes to prevent them from starving to death. Civil liberties groups and liberals have slammed Obama for failing to fulfill his 2008 campaign promise to close the installation and find another home for the 166 terror suspects being held there indefinitely.

Had the Administration not force-fed the hunger-striking Guantanamo prisoners, part of the problem would have solved itself; I have no problem at all with a man choosing to starve himself to death.

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have repeatedly resisted the president’s attempts to close the facility.

White House counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco lobbied House members in advance of several votes last month to no avail. The House delivered strong votes to keep Guantanamo open and to prevent Obama from transferring detainees to Yemen. Separately, the president’s recent appointment of a special envoy on Guantanamo, Cliff Sloan, has met with a collective shrug on Capitol Hill.

More at the link.

The President has little support for closing Guantanamo because a lot of people with simple, common sense realize that there is nothing else that can be done with the prisoners. They can’t simply be released, not while we are still fighting the Islamists on the battlefield, because they can return right back to the battlefield to shoot at American troops. The Director of National Intelligence reported last year that 27.9% of the 599 Guantanamo detainees released were either confirmed or suspected of having returned to the battlefield. And the US has identified 44 inmates whom it considers too dangerous to ever be released, but cannot be put on trial for a number of reasons. We can’t send them to third countries, and lose control of them, but if they are brought to the United States, they cannot be tried, but gain full legal rights, which means they also cannot be held in indefinite detention without charges being brought against them.

The Associated Press article notes that there are several Democratic Senators facing the voters next year in heavily Republican Southern states, and that breaking with the President, who is (deservedly) unpopular in the South is smart politics for them. Further, the President hasn’t really spelled out just what he plans on doing with the detainees if Gitmo is closed. It goes against the President’s liberal grain to hold the prisoners without trials — he is, after all, a lawyer — but he is also the Commander-in-Chief, and as the Commander-in-Chief, his first duty is the safety of the troops under his command; releasing prisoners who might come back to shoot at and possibly kill some of his own troops is unthinkable, or at least it should be.

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