in an interview with French news outlet iTELE that aired Tuesday.
“Guantanámo continues to serve as a recruitment tool for jihadists, it is something we need to stop,” Obama said. “I will make this argument until my very last day as president.”
Why? For America’s best interest? Or to fulfill a campaign promise?
Back in March, he said this:
Barack Obama says if he could return to the first days of his presidency, he would close the Guantanamo Bay prison immediately. The president has made numerous pledges to shut the facility, but it still continues to operate.
Speaking at an economics conference in Cleveland, Ohio, Obama responded to a question posed by a teenager, who asked him what he would like to change from the first day he was elected head of state.
“I think I would have closed Guantanamo on the first day,” Obama said at the conference. “I didn’t at that time because we had a bipartisan agreement that it should be closed.” He was speaking about his Republican rival for the 2008 vote John McCain, who had hinted during campaigning that he was also not opposed to closing the facility.
During campaigning he called Guantanamo “a sad chapter in American history,” while promising if he was elected that the detention center would be closed in 2009. After being voted into the White House, he reiterated this promise in a television interview with ABC.
However, in November 2009, Obama was forced to back track saying it was impossible to set an exact date for closing the controversial facility.
On numerous occasions, the president has blamed Republican opposition in Congress for not being able to get the military prison closed. In his penultimate State of the Union address as president in January, he reiterated his determination to close the prison and fulfill one of his 2008 election pledges.
How can he blame Republicans when this has been an issue that has had bipartisan opposition to closure in the manner in which the President Obama and Eric Holder had wished to do it?
Claims of “bipartisan agreement” with McCain as reason for not having closed Gitmo “on the first day” of his presidency? Essentially, this is the same desire as the Bush administration, who explored the possibilities of closing Gitmo. When President Obama took office, his administration relived and relearned the same dilemmas that the previous administration encountered in the reality and problems with trying to close down the detention facilities. CJ even pointed out the lack of substantive change in newly-elected President Obama’s executive order calling for closing Gitmo within the year. It was all “hope and change” mumbo-jumbo bragado for the photo-op. And through the years, if Gitmo is the right hand and not taking in any new detainees, then Bagram has been the left hand, open for business for much of Obama’s tenure.
Polls then in 2009 and now show that most Americans oppose closing Club Gitmo.
Curt back in January of 2013, quoting Greenwald:
Glenn Greenwald (the only liberal who has stayed consistent through both Bush and Obama) details the fact vs. fiction of Obama’s excuses for keeping Gitmo open:
Whenever the subject is raised of Obama’s failure to close GITMO, the same excuse is instantly offered on his behalf: he tried to do so but Congress (including liberals like Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders) thwarted him by refusing to fund the closing. As I documented at length last July, this excuse is wildly incomplete and misleading. When it comes to the failure to close GITMO, this “Congress-prevented-Obama” claim has now taken on zombie status – it will never die no matter how clearly and often it is debunked – but it’s still worth emphasizing the reality.
I won’t repeat all of the details, citations and supporting evidence – seehere – but there are two indisputable facts that should always be included in this narrative. The first is that what made Guantánamo such a travesty of justice was not its geographic locale in the Caribbean Sea, but rather its system of indefinite detention: that people were put in cages, often for life, without any charges or due process. Long before Congress ever acted, Obama’s plan was to preserve and continue that core injustice – indefinite detention – but simply moved onto US soil.
Put simply, Obama’s plan was never to close GITMO as much as it was to re-locate it to Illinois: to what the ACLU dubbed “GITMO North”. That’s why ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said of Obama’s 2009 “close-GITMO” plan that it “is hardly a meaningful step forward” and that “while the Obama administration inherited the Guantánamo debacle, this current move is its own affirmative adoption of those policies.” That’s because, he said, “the administration plans to continue its predecessor’s policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial for some detainees, with only a change of location.”
And the reason Democratic Senators such as Feingold voted against funding GITMO’s closing wasn’t because they were afraid to support its closing. It was because they refused to fund the closing until they saw Obama’s specific plan, because they did not want to support the importation of GITMO’s indefinite detention system onto US soil, as Obama expressly intended.
In sum, Obama’s “closing GITMO” plan was vintage Obama: a pretty symbolic gesture designed to enable Democrats to feel good while retaining the core powers that constituted the injustice in the first place. As the ACLU’s Romero said: “shutting down Guantánamo will be nothing more than a symbolic gesture if we continue its lawless policies onshore.” Again, had Obama had his way – had Congress immediately approved his plan in full – the system of indefinite detention that makes GITMO such a disgrace would have continued in full, just in a different locale.
Dr John last month:
Americans overwhelmingly oppose the transfer of the terrorists to US soil, but Barack Obama is not known for putting the concerns of Americans before his own. In recognition of this, Congress has passed veto-proof legislation determined to keep Obama from importing these terrorists into the US. Thus, Obama can once again be expected kick sand in the face of one of America’s properly elected governing bodies and whip out his pen and his phone. But let’s examine the motivation here. Obama:
“It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held,” Obama said. “It is contrary to our values.”
Hold on a second. Holding them “inspires” jihadists and extremists? What is Obama going to do to change that? We’re still going to hold them. We’re going to hold them on US soil instead of in Cuba. If holding terrorists in Gitmo was an inspiration to extremists, holding them on US soil ought to put that on steroids.
Heck, even the claims that jihadis really lose sleep over Gitmo is questionable; or that it’s the recruiting bonanza that the Administration claims it to be. Just maybe, they’re just not that into you. Lawfare Blog:
Claims regarding Guantanamo’s purported propaganda value have often been more ideological than empirical. So we decided to consult some empirical information about how Guantanamo is actually portrayed in jihadist propaganda. Is the detention facility, in fact, a significant recruiting tool for the enemy?
The answer, it turns out, is complicated. Yes, Guantanamo shows up repeatedly in jihadist propaganda. But it has grown far less salient over the last few years, playing a much bigger role in the words of Al Qaeda and AQAP a few years ago than it does now—and playing a far lesser role in the propaganda of ISIS than it does in that of older terrorist groups. What’s more, Guantanamo has never played a big role in any terrorist group’s propaganda compared to the issues that really animate those groups. So while it’s easy to find examples of terrorist leaders mentioning and denouncing Guantanamo, these were never the major themes of jihadi propaganda but were, at most, supporting arguments.
Indeed, other issues and grievances seemingly receive much more airtime and emphasis than the detention camp does; and Guantanamo, when mentioned, is often lumped in with other controversial facilities—like Bagram and Abu Ghraib. Detention and abuse of suspected terrorists by the United States, in other words, is a readily discernable motif. But the contemporary propaganda narrative seems to treat that motif as but one category of offenses in a long chain of western transgressions against the Muslim world.
Accordingly, it is hardly clear that Guantanamo’s closure would matter much, so far as concerns the contents of jihadist propaganda. U.S. detention operations at Bagram and Abu Ghraib, after all, are now in the past—but that hasn’t persuaded jihadis to drop their invocations of both prisons in their online literature.
Guantanamo Bay is mentioned in Islamic State propaganda, though far less frequently and in a more obscure fashion than in propaganda put forward by AQ and AQAP. For example, the founder of the group that morphed into ISIS, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, mentioned Guantanamo in a 2004 polemic against Muslims who condemned his brutal tactics: “They lied and claimed that [the beheading of Nick Berg] has distorted the image of Islam in the eyes of delicate Westerners, and that the world interacted with the Abu Ghurayb and Guantanamo crime and [the beheading] came to negatively affect this interaction and response from the world.” While Zarqawi does invoke the “crime” of Guantanamo, this reference seems relatively insignificant compared to his larger point—that Islamic moderates had acted dishonestly in condemning the beheading of Nick Berg.
Guantanamo plays a similarly minor role in Dabiq, the English-language magazine ISIS began publishing last year. The facility appears in just four of its nine issues, and in one of those issues, the sole mention is tucked into a footnote.
And yet President Obama is fear-mongering about Gitmo remaining open:
President Obama said Thursday that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is helping the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) create new terrorists.
“Guantanamo has been an enormous recruitment tool for organizations like ISIL,” he said during a press conference in Manila, the Philippines, using the administration’s preferred acronym for the extremist group.
“It is part of how they rationalize and justify their demented, sick perpetration of violence on innocent people,” Obama said.
I think it’s more a sticking pointing in the president wanting to fulfill a campaign promise and cement his legacy.
Has Club Gitmo really been all that bad? Or just a victim of bad PR rap?
Courting Disaster, pg 283-4:
There have been more than a dozen major reviews of U.S. detention operations in the war on terror- led by twelve active duty generals and admirals, a former Air Force General, former Democratic and Republican Secretaries of Defense, and a former Member of Congress. None of these reviews found a pattern of abuse at Guantanamo or anywhere else. And all rejected claims of a government policy directing, encouraging, or condoning torture in any theater of the war on terror.
On a previous post regarding the shell game of Gitmo-Bagram, I wrote:
About 50,000 individuals have been held in detention facilities by the U.S. in the war on terror. Of these, there have been about 300 allegations of abuses filed. Even if all of these were proven true (many are shown to be otherwise), that would still account for around .6% of all detentions. According to Admiral Albert T. Church III’s independent investigation into detention facility operations, “the vast majority of detainees held by U.S. forces during the Global War on Terror have been treated humanely.”