Part of the path that America must take to regain leverage in global affairs is addressing the moral lapses that occurred during the last administration — ranging from domestic spying authority to the torture and abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo.
Closing the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was a marquee pledge of President Obama during his campaign — and Wednesday evening when the President offers his “State of the Union” thoughts in a joint session of Congress, Obama will have to admit that he has not only failed to close the facility — he is continuing some of the worst human rights abuses of the Bush administration.
Putting his personal seal on the indefinite detention of prisoners there is antithetical to everything Obama was supposed to be about.
After a number of discussions with senior White House staff about GITMO, I have learned that as long ago as nine months ago, there were dispensation plans for every single detainee at GITMO and that the Illinois “Thompson Facility” had been identified three months into the Obama administration.
What was missing was political will to proceed.
Rahm Emanuel, ever watching the currents and mood of election-fearful Congressmen and Senators, convinced Obama to step away from his own GITMO pledge.
There was no effort that Rahm Emanuel would authorize to push for the appropriations to make GITMO’s closure work — and would not do the arm-twisting and political work to overcome the predictable concerns about bringing detainees into federal prison facilities and inside the borders of the United States.
So, the story of GITMO is not one in which those handling the portfolio failed to perform — it is rather a President with sincere convictions and insincere follow-up, a failure to fight for the strategic benefits of closing that facility.
Rahm Emanuel is the architect of the failure to proceed on GITMO, but the President was complicit in the decision.
— Steve Clemons