Commentary Magazine


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A True Choice

The president’s Guantanamo policy is in trouble. Politico reports:

The Guantanamo prison closure effort is quickly unraveling for President Barack Obama, and all his problems are coming from Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is now demanding specifics on where the prisoners will go and what will be done with them. Reid’s concerns, laid out Tuesday afternoon at a news conference, come a day after House appropriators yanked $81 million requested to help close the facility in Cuba.

Granted, Reid’s new found concern about releasing terrorists comes after Republicans, including Sens. Mitch McConnell and Sessions, raised a fuss, but his new visibility is emblematic of the difficulty Obama now faces. Democrats cannot be seen as silent or in agreement with a policy that will generate  enormous public backlash.

After all, Republicans are continuing to raise concerns, most specifically about the pending release of the seventeen Uighurs. Sessions sent a follow up letter to Attorney General Eric Holder (demanding answers to an earlier letter) in which he queried Holder on how he plans to get around a federal statute barring entry into the U.S. of persons who received terror training. And Sen. Saxby Chambliss will introduce legislation to bar any funds from being used to release Guantanamo detainees into the U.S.

So what does the president do now? To go back on his promise to close Guantanamo would mean incurring the wrath of not only the Left in the U.S., but of the fawning European leaders and public who praised his decision to shut the place down. And it would, of course, be a humiliating admission that his initial pronouncement — made even before Eric Holder visited Guantanamo — was ill-conceived. He can try to fudge the issue or delay, but ultimately he has to do one or the other: proceed to close Guantanamo and begin releasing the detainees, or admit error and adhere to the Bush policy of housing dangerous terrorists there. It is not “a false choice,” but a very real one. We’ll see which audience, American or European, he is willing to offend.