The Appropriate Persistence of Guantanamo

The New York Times reports that closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which President Obama promised to do by January 22 (i.e., one month from now), will not happen "until 2011 at the earliest." Although the Obama administration finally has picked a place to keep the Guantanamo detainees who won't be released—an empty state prison in Illinois—it does not have the money to buy the prison. Once it has the money, which it plans to seek in the fiscal 2011 military appropriations bill, "it could take 8 to 10 months to install new fencing, towers, cameras and other security upgrades before any transfers take place."

You could argue that the delay does not really matter, since closing Guantanamo is a symbolic move. Then again, you could argue that the timing is everything, since Obama was trying to signal a swift, decisive break from his predecessor's detention policies. The longer he delays, the clearer it will become that the symbolism is empty.

The prison's location was significant because the Bush administration picked it in the expectation that it would be beyond the reach of American courts. Since the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise, moving the prison to the U.S. will not make any legal difference. What matters now is the process the Obama administration uses to decide who will be detained and for how long. Already we know that some detainees will be tried in civilian court, some by military tribunals, and some not at all. In addition to keeping some people locked up indefinitely without trial, the administration reserves the right to continue imprisoning defendants even after they are acquitted. In light of those two policies, holding civilian trials for some terrorism suspects (something the Bush administration also did) and tightening the evidence rules for military tribunals do not seem like major advances for due process. So it's appropriate that Obama will be stuck with Guantanamo, the physical manifestation of Bush's disregard for civil liberties, for a lot longer than he anticipated.

In January I argued that "Guantanamo is not so much a place as a state of mind." In February I noted that "President Obama may close Guantanamo, but the policy it represents will continue." In July I commented on "Obama's empty promise of due process for terrorism suspects."

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  • ||

    How many stories is it a day where Obama lies, reneges on promises, or fucks us more? It seems like an average of 3-4.

  • ||

    The New York Times reports that closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which President Obama promised to do by January 22

    Actually, didn't he order it closed? You know, in an Executive Order and all? I seem to recall a press conference, followed by much Obamafellatio.

    The longer he delays, the clearer it will become that the symbolism is empty.

    Which is actually a good thing, right?

  • Robert||

    I'd rather stay in Gitmo, where it's nice & warm. Seriously.

  • CaptainSmartass||

    And be looked after by US Marines, who place duty and ethics above all else, rather than the rent-a-cops making nine bucks an hour they'll get in Illinois. If people thought Abu Ghraib was bad, just wait until those poor bastards are at the mercy of Paul Blart's less-ethical brothers.

  • ||

    Yeah, there have been some insane comments along that line from a few Democrats: "We should move 'em to SuperMax-- because that would be WORSE torture!" Reminds one of the "I'm against the death penalty-- it's TOO GOOD FOR THEM" argument that some also make.

  • Russ 2000||

    Once it has the money, which it plans to seek in the fiscal 2011 military appropriations bill, "it could take 8 to 10 months to install new fencing, towers, cameras and other security upgrades before any transfers take place."

    Sounds more like pork going to one Illinois prison using military funds. I don't expect many Gitmo detainees to ever be sent there. It's a favor for a state campaign supporter, nothing more.

  • ||

    Although the Obama administration finally has picked a place to keep the Guantanamo detainees who won't be released—an empty state prison in Illinois—it does not have the money to buy the prison.

    Are you fucking joking?

    Why don't they just take it our of TARP funds.

    Maybe they can have the prison open a prison-labor credit union.

  • ||

    No kidding. If that prison renovation isn't shovel-ready infrastructure, what is?

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    I seem to recall a press conference, followed by much Obamafellatio.

    Outstanding term! I do think we're also getting a fair amount of Obamirrumatio from Barack himself...

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Obama has lost Mark Slackmeyer. Could the end be near?

  • ||

    I will take the rare opportunity to say I told you so. I said all along Obama wouldn't change one thing about Iraq and wouldn't close GUITMO. I said that before he was even nominated. But it is a "fierce moral urgency". GUITMO is "a stain on American honor".

    Liberals will continue to support Obama because they never meant a single word they said about the war on terrorism. Dick Cheney is more concerned about GUITMO than they are. At least he has an opinion on it. Liberals don't care one way or another as long as their side wins and is able to pass out the political goodies.

  • Andrew||

    Jaysus, are you a tool of Fox News or what? You haven't noticed the criticism of Obama from liberals of late? When I look up "sweeping statement" in the dictionary I expect to see your picture.

  • ||

    Oh yeah. So much criticism. That is why they will be running against him in the primaries in 2012 or not voting from him come the general election.

    I don't see any criticism. I see a lot of whinning and battered wife syndrome. Why had huge anti-war demonstrations under Bush. Where are those now? Where is the anti-war movement and the marches on Washington since Obama is going bigger into Afghanistan?

    No where. Shut fuck up and stop insulting people's intelligence. A liberal dousches whining on their blog about how disapointed they are doesn't count as "criticism". None of you people meant a fucking word of what you said about Iraq or GUITMO. If you did, you would be protesting and having the same fit you did under Bush. Since you are doing none of that, at least admit the obvious that it is not a big deal to you.

  • Andrew||

    "Ladies and Gentlemen: the next guest-host of the O'Reilly Factor..."
    Judging by your substitution of a petulant tantrum for a rigorous analysis, I wouldn't assume you have much of an intelligence to insult.
    Protests go in cycles, and there's something called protest fatigue. When were protests against the Vietnam War most vehement - in '67 under liberal democrat Johnson or in 74 and early 75 under Republicans Nixon and Ford? (oh, and who were the bulk of the protestors against Johnson?...not Republicans if I recall).

    Well, I won't be voting for Obama in 2012 nor will numerous friends of mine. Also, re-labeling something with another term doesn't make it not criticism. And finally, how much do Republicans criticize their presidents? - Fox News, anyone?

  • LarryA||

    Once it has the money, which it plans to seek in the fiscal 2011 military appropriations bill, "it could take 8 to 10 months to install new fencing, towers, cameras and other security upgrades before any transfers take place."

    Which puts move-in about mid 2012. Let's see, anything else happening around then? Like an election?

  • ||

    Yeah. And Obama will really want to be moving the inmates at GUITMO onto US soil a few months before an election. Never going to happen. If he was going to do it, he would have done it first thing to give people as much time as possible to forget about it before the next election.

  • MattXIV||

    I think the take-away is that this administration lacks the competence to execute even entirely symbolic gestures in a timely manner.

  • ||

    from the original NYT article:

    The White House has argued that closing Guantánamo would enhance national security by removing a symbol used by terrorist recruiters. It also said the closing would save taxpayers money because the Defense Department pays $150 million a year to operate the Guantánamo prison on the naval base there, while running the Illinois prison would cost $75 million.

    The NYTimes is wrong in saying that closing Guantánamo would remove a symbol used by terrorist recruiters, it would not remove the symbol, only move it to the heartland of the United States.

    Also, does anyone truly believe that a Federal prison staffed by a bunch of SEUI or other unionized prison guards could be run for half the price of a prison now staffed by midlevel noncommissioned officers in the Military? Seems like this is driven more as a payoff to 0's union buddies than to enhance National Security.

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