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Perspectives

May 21, 2009
What to do about Guantanamo?

Guantánamo detainee Ahmed Ghailani will be tried at a federal court in New York. Photo: FBI

On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a strong defense of his decision to close Guantanamo, an issue that has become increasingly political in recent weeks. On Wednesday, Congress had denied Obama’s request for $80 million to close the detention facility. 

In the speech, Obama largely repudiated the Bush administration policy on dealing with terror suspects — and declared again, in no uncertain terms,  “we do not torture.”

Juan Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan and writes at the “Informed Comment” blog to explore what the future holds for Guantanamo and its detainees.

What to do about Guantanamo?

The US Congress is refusing to allow President Obama to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, a symbol of torture and abuse. Apparently their vote was driven by fears of public backlash if those detained were brought to prisons in the US. Obama had failed to specify exactly what would happen to the prisoners when the facility was closed, but one is slated to be tried in New York for the attacks on the US embassies in East Africa in 1998.

I don’t understand the controversy. Perpetrators of the embassy bombings have already been tried and convicted in a New York court, some years ago, and are serving sentences in US supermax penitentiaries. Why would Gailani’s trial and, assuming he were convicted, imprisonment be different?

And, weren’t dangerous Nazis imprisoned in the US during WWII?

I don’t actually think the US public wants to go on torturing people and holding individuals indefinitely without trial and without rights. Uh, the Declaration of Independence didn’t speak of the rights of US citizens. It said “all men” have the rights it set out.

A federal judge has already rejected Obama’s right, which he recently asserted, to keep people in prison for having shown “substantial support” (but short of taking up arms) for e.g. the Taliban. If you wanted to jail people for thinking well of the Taliban, you’d have to imprison 5% of the Afghan population, or nearly a million and a half people, and 14% of the Pakistani population, or about 24 million people.

Obama had better do something quick or he’ll be forced just to let a lot of the prisoners go. 

I’m against the military tribunals. But why can’t you hold civilian trials at Guantanamo Bay? District it as part of some civil US jurisdiction US and send a jury over.

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Comments

3 comments

#3

[…] Read more analysis from Worldfocus contributing blogger Juan Cole: What to do about Guantanamo? […]

#2

You show Obama giving his take on Guantanimo and yet you do not show Cheney’s. Why?

#1

What to do about Guantanamo? Absolutely nothing. Our young president is naive to think that closing the base will change the world’s opinion of America and that it will cease being a “terrorist” recruitment tool. Actually, it will likely have the opposite effect and will aid in recruiting. With the closure of Guantanamo, America concedes to being wrong – effectively reinforcing the “terrorist” agenda. From the viewpoint of a terrorist, the closing of Gitmo is a sign of progress, thereby giving terrorists the mandate to continue their activities.

There is no argument that these “terrorists” are hard-line, Muslim extremists. The ONLY thing that will appease them and will cease recruiting will be to instill Sharia throughout the world. Until that happens, until these people achieve their goal, their brand of extremism and violence will persevere.

Even if the President isn’t aiming to close Gitmo to win the world’s favor, but rather to “uphold the US Constitution” and to protect the integrity of “American Morals,” the prison should nevertheless remain open with all the prisoners either housed there or moved to another country for Domicile. The point is that American prisons are not much better than Gitmo. Additionally, prisons outside of the US are likely worse than those in the US. Moreover, other “civilized” countries also have constituions that declare men to be equal and outline their rights. However, prisons in those “civilized” countries are likely worse than those in the US and are further likely to be on par with Gitmo. (disclaimer: no formal research was done to establish the accuracy of the preceding statement)

In conlusion, the hubbub surrounding Gitmo and the President’s desire to close the prison is really just an overused campaign tactic. Even if, hypotheticall, the majority of Americans would like to see the prison closed, it doesn’t mean that it will or that it should happen. Using the same logic, just because the majority of Americans would like one million dollars, doesn’t mean that they will or they should recieve it.

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