In the New York Times, Charles Savage reports on Barack Obama’s latest endorsement of Bush national security policy:
The Obama administration has told a federal judge that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team.
This vindicates the Bush administration’s position on enemy combatants, invalidates Bush’s overwrought detractors, and highlights the incoherence of Obama’s shuttering of Guantanamo Bay. The only difference between prisoners being held in Afghanistan and those at Guantanamo Bay is Gitmo’s longer history as an American base. But that shouldn’t change any moral or legal argument about the rights of non-American, non-state actors to have their cases heard by federal judges. And if President Obama was attempting to make some human rights point by closing Guantanamo Bay, it’s worth keeping in mind what Eric Schmitt wrote in the Times last month:
Military personnel who know [the American airbase] Bagram and Guantánamo describe the Afghan site as tougher and more spartan. The prisoners have fewer privileges and virtually no access to lawyers. The Bush administration never allowed journalists or human rights advocates inside.
Yet Barack Obama gives that site a pass while turning the end of Gitmo into a celebrated anti-Bush photo-op. If there is an animating principle behind Obama’s national security policies it’s best described as showmanship.