Obama to Wait on Gitmo Closure

Daily News Article   —   Posted on January 12, 2009

(by Christina Bellantoni, WashingtonTimes.com) – President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday that some of his campaign promises will have to wait … [that] legal and national security concerns have postponed his promised closure of Guantanamo Bay.

In an interview with ABC’s “This Week” that aired Sunday, Mr. Obama said he has come to realize that his pledge to close the federal detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within his first 100 days in office won’t happen that soon.

When he was campaigning for the presidency, Mr. Obama regularly said the prison “sends a negative message to the world” and taints even trade-deal negotiations.

“To the extent that we are not being true to our values and our ideals, that sends a negative message to the world, and it gives us less leverage then when we want to deal with countries that are abusing human rights,” he said during a primary-season debate in Iowa in December 2007.

Guantanamo faded as an issue during the general election campaign because the Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, also wanted to close the facility.

But after Mr. Obama won the presidency, his transition co-chairman, John Podesta, said Nov. 11 that closing Guantanamo was “under review” and nothing definitive could be said because the situation is “complicated.”

On Sunday, Mr. Obama said that closing Guantanamo Bay was a challenge.

“We are going to get it done, but part of the challenge that you have is that you have got a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom may be very dangerous, who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication,” he said.

He said his legal and national security teams strive to balance creating a fair legal process that “doesn’t result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.”

“I don’t want to be ambiguous about this,” Mr. Obama said Sunday. “We are going to close Guantanamo, and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our Constitution. That is not only the right thing to do but it actually has to be part of our broader national security strategy, because we will send a message to the world that we are serious about our values.”

In the wide-ranging ABC interview, Mr. Obama also said he would take a piece of advice from outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney: that he will not commit to changing interrogation practices until he has all of the information that the current administration holds.

“I’m not going to lay out a particular program because, again, I thought that Dick Cheney’s advice was good, which is that let’s make sure we know everything that’s being done,” Mr. Obama said.

He was responding to the vice president’s warning in a recent CBS Radio interview that “before you start to implement your campaign rhetoric, you need to sit down and find out precisely what it is we did and how we did it” to keep the nation safe.

But Mr. Obama said he disagrees with the vice president and thinks that waterboarding is torture.

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“We’re still evaluating how we are going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions and so forth,” he said. “When it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future, as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.”

The president-elect, in the discussion with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, also stressed that he would take a “new approach” with Iran, but he declined to go into detail about foreign policy, despite the turmoil in the Middle East, until he is sworn in.

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The ABC interview followed Mr. Obama’s weekly radio address on Saturday, in which he increased the figures for his stimulus plan, saying it could save or create between 3.3 million and 4.1 million jobs, a jump of more than 1 million from his previous estimate.

The president-elect’s week ahead will be busy.

On Monday, Mr. Obama will meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. The majority of his Cabinet picks face confirmation hearings this week in the Senate. …..

Copyright 2009 News World Communications, Inc.  Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times.  For educational purposes only.  This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization.  Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com. 

Questions

1. What pledge did President-elect Obama make to voters about the Guantanamo Detention center (the detention facility in Cuba where captured terrorists are held by the U.S.) when campaigning for office?

2. What statements did Mr. Obama make about Guantanamo during his campaign?

3. Mr. Obama’s statements while campaigning implied that he believed the U.S. is morally wrong to operate Guantanamo. What did his transition chairman say about closing Guantanamo after he won the election?

4. What did President-elect Obama say about closing Guantanamo during an ABC interview on Sunday?

5. Why do you think Mr. Obama is backing off on his original promise to close Guantanamo in his first 100 days in office?

6. Should those supporters who voted for President-elect Obama for reasons including his pledge to close Guantanamo quickly be upset? Explain your answer.


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Background

NOTES ON “GITMO”

  • Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp is frequently referred to by its ICAO code, “GTMO.” GTMO is commonly pronounced “Gitmo” by military members, and this usage has entered the common lexicon. Reporters often incorrectly substitute the spoken pronunciation (“gitmo”) for the proper spelling (“GTMO”) in written reports. (from wikipedia.org)
  • Today, the United States is engaged in a global, armed conflict. As a result of that conflict, the Defense Department currently holds about 350 captured unlawful enemy combatants at military facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The care and treatment of detainees remains one of the most important aspects of the global war combating transnational terrorism. The research presented in The Heritage Foundation’s Guantanamo Bay Reader advocates Congress not to interfere with the U.S. military’s policy of detaining alien enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay. The United States is engaged in an ongoing armed conflict in Afghanistan and therefore has no obligation-legal, moral, or otherwise-to release captured enemy soldiers so that they may return to the battlefield. Short-sighted legislation extending unprecedented rights to foreign terrorists and other enemy combatants undermines U.S. troops deployed in the field in Afghanistan and Iraq. These detainees should not be released until the cessation of hostilities in Afghanistan and elsewhere. (from heritage.org)

Resources

Read about Gitmo at the Department of Defense website.

Read an article on the Gitmo terrorist detainees’ rights to habeas corpus at heritage.org. (NOTE: This is a PDF document and takes a few moments to open.)