The last few days I have been very critical of Obama’s waffling on issues of national security. I have also allowed myself to become incredibly frustrated by the ridiculous, absurd, preposterous and shameful arguments that have come out of the some members of the press, some Republicans, and especially Dick Cheney (who is doing everything in his power to stay out of jail). So with a great sigh of relief, I just finished reading the transcript of Obama’s national security speech. His speech was not perfect (he did everything possible not to admit that both Guantanamo and enhanced interrogation were, above all else, illegal), and there were some moments of pure political spin (in particular on Afghanistan and Pakistan). Nevertheless, his words do reinforce our supposed self-image as a national of the rule of law.
Here are two excerpts from Obama’s speech that serve as additional arguments on why the problem is Guantanamo, not Obama’s policy to close it.
For over seven years, we have detained hundreds of people at Guantanamo. During that time, the system of Military Commissions at Guantanamo succeeded in convicting a grand total of three suspected terrorists. Let me repeat that: three convictions in over seven years. Instead of bringing terrorists to justice, efforts at prosecution met setbacks, cases lingered on, and in 2006 the Supreme Court invalidated the entire system. Meanwhile, over five hundred and twenty-five detainees were released from Guantanamo under the Bush Administration. Let me repeat that: two-thirds of the detainees were released before I took office and ordered the closure of Guantanamo.
. . . Indeed, the legal challenges that have sparked so much debate in recent weeks in Washington would be taking place whether or not I decided to close Guantanamo. For example, the court order to release seventeen Uighur detainees took place last fall – when George Bush was President. The Supreme Court that invalidated the system of prosecution at Guantanamo in 2006 was overwhelmingly appointed by Republican Presidents. In other words, the problem of what to do with Guantanamo detainees was not caused by my decision to close the facility; the problem exists because of the decision to open Guantanamo in the first place.
The president is definitely more articulate than I am on the issue.