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Gitmo Won’t Easily Disappear

The Obama camp is seeing shades of gray in more Bush policies they had thought so clearly repugnant. Here’s Reuters:

President-elect Barack Obama’s pledge to shut the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, presents policymakers with a Gordian Knot of political, legal and logistical questions that would preclude quick results.

Human rights advocates have called on Obama to seal the prison’s fate with the stroke of a pen by signing an executive order on the day he takes office.

But the Obama transition team has said that no decision has been made on how to move ahead on the president-elect’s commitment to shutter the facility. Analysts warn there is a host of complex issues that would need to be settled first, including what to do about the current military commissions system and ongoing trials.

No kidding. You mean the change we’ve been waiting for isn’t simply us, after all? Guantanamo is a Gordian knot, alright. But it’s a Gordian knot that Obama and Co. tied. By continually elevating their hyperbolic condemnations of President Bush, the Left painted itself into an untenable corner. On Iraq, gays in the military, interrogation techniques, and closing Gitmo, Obama’s team is now wondering how to turn demagoguery into policy. When it comes to ending the war, integrating the armed services, getting the most information from suspected terrorists, and relocating detainees, “yes we can” is a universe away.

As the Reuters piece points out, closing Guantanamo isn’t a matter of chaining up the door and walking away. It will require extensive legislation, the creation of a whole new system to hold and try suspects, and the designation of a new facility to house hundreds of terrorists. These are uncharted waters and they don’t much resemble anything our military or legal officials have navigated before.

In the end, of course, Gitmo does more than fill a national security void. There are humanitarian considerations that make something like the detainee center necessary. Repatriating the approximately 60 detainees who have been approved for return to their countries of origin risks subjecting them to torture under their own governments. These prisoners may remain the U.S.’s responsibility forever.

Democrats intent on demonizing George W. Bush were never big on offering practical alternatives to Bush policies. In one sense, they got away with their delinquency: Barack Obama is now the President-elect. But in the most important respect, they’re arriving at square one tragically late. Lack of planning is only a partial explanation for the string of broken campaign pledges headed our way. Obama’s biggest obstacle in effecting change will continue to be the realization that President Bush often made  wiser choices than previously suspected.


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