Thursday, January 22, 2009

President Obama Orders Closure of Guantanamo

Today President Obama signed an executive order to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay within one year. There was a lot of speculation around this over the past few days. Initially his aides said he would close it on his first day of office. A day later another report stated (correctly, as it turns out) that he would order it closed within a year. Still later it was reported that it would be closed within a few months.

I question the time frame given the stated reason for closing the prison:

A draft copy of the order, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, notes that "in view of significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo and closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice."

In other words, we need to close the prison because having it open hampers national security and foreign policy interests and causes the international community to question our country's committment to justice.

If this is true, why not order it to begin closing immediately? I realize that there are logistical reasons behind not slapping a padlock on the front doors tomorrow morning, but why hamper our national security and shun justice for a whole year?

Personally, I think that the reasons for closing Guantanamo have more to do with appearances. It has become a symbol. Closing the prison removes the symbol. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that; in fact I agree with it. I just wish the President would say that rather than use the same national security cover President Bush used for so long.

Closing Guantanamo sends a message that the acts perpetrated within its walls (some imagined, some very real) won't be tolerated. That message will be ignored by this nation's critics, but that doesn't mean it isn't the right thing to do. Just acknowledge it rather than substituting national security concerns and nebulous talk about justice in the context of the international community.

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