McClatchy Newspapers are running a fascinating history entitled “How Congress helped thwart Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo.” The article cites heavily from WikiLeaks cables, showing how the “done deal” announcement by President Obama from January of 2009, promising to close the detention center within 12 months, fell by the wayside.
Fascinatingly, the cables show that the ground was laid for the continuation of the facility’s operation before President Obama even took office, and growing annoyance abroad about the US demands to accept detainees when none of them would ever end up in America clearly didn’t help.
At the same time, the article makes Congressional unwillingness to relocate innocent detainees to the US as a “block” on Obama’s plans, as though they were to be taken at face value. Clearly, President Obama could have closed the facility any number of ways, and civilian trials for detainees would have gone a long way both in removing the taint of the detention system and convincing other nations that the innocent really were just that, innocent.
Instead, President Obama made an announcement in January 2009, then praised Congress when it defunded the closure just a few months later. By the end of the year, officials weren’t mentioning it anymore, and two years later President Obama is still claiming to be sincere about “wanting” to close the facility, even as he lays the groundwork for its continuation long after he is out of office.
The Congressional opposition to Gitmo’s closure was very real, but the notion that innocent people could be detained eternally simply because Congress didn’t like the idea of letting them go is nonsense. President Obama is clearly complicit in keeping the facility going, and his feigned interest in closing it is only making matters worse, by giving the false impression that any such effort is ongoing.