Paving the road to hell

Well, this is disappointing. It looks (via the Dish) like Obama is abandoning one of the cardinal reasons I had for voting for him. Writes Benjamin Wittes:
President Obama's decision not to go to Congress for help in establishing reasonable standards for the continued detention of Guantanamo detainees is a failure of leadership in the project of putting American law on a sound basis for a long-term confrontation with terrorism. It is bad for the country, for national security and for civil liberties. It represents a virtually wholesale adoption of the failed policies of his predecessor -- who, with equal obtuseness, refused to root American detention practices in clear law approved by the legislature and similarly failed to learn from repeated Supreme Court rebukes to this unilateral approach. It violates Obama's much-noted statement this spring that he would "work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution." And it delegates a profound and difficult policymaking exercise to the judiciary and, ultimately, to a single man on the Supreme Court.


We may never know what would have happened had Obama been willing to divert some portion of his prestige from health care to the creation of a political coalition for strong counterterrorism measures rooted in statutory powers debated and passed by the people's representatives.
I am, of course, profoundly disappointed in this decision. I've mentioned before that the issue of human rights abuses under the past administration was of major concern to me, and I am very, very saddened to see that this is what we get.

That being said, and as Wittes notes in the intervening paragraphs, there is no reason to expect that Obama would have any success at all in working with Congress if he should choose to take this up. Given the lunatics and cretins he has in the opposition party, creating reasonable and humane standards for treatment of Guantanamo detainees is probably a bridge too far.

This doesn't let him off the hook, however. It merely serves as a reminder of how tarnished our reputation on the world stage remains, and how likely to remain that way it is.


  1. I was going to let this go, but Dan, all the lunatics and cretins in the opposition party can't stop anything the Dems want to pass. This is a failure of the Dems, nothing more, nothing less. Mr. Bush isn't around to blame, although the WH is trying. President Scary Smart said it was simple to close Gitmo, I believe the quote was "just close it!"

    So, why don't the Dems and Pres. Obama close it?

  2. No, John, I suppose they can't. But they can make all kinds of really hateful and seditious noise, and I can understand (though not excuse) the President's desire to avoid the whole brouhaha.

  3. sorry drdan, but a stock market and an economy headed off a cliff, zero private sector jobs added in the 8 years of the Bush Presidency, 2 incredibly bothced wars, I will put these as reasons to give Republicans the boot over gitmo anyday. The reason Obama can't close gitmo is NIMBY, his forcing any state prison to take them would be a pr nightmare. And technically, the location of gitmo really shouldn't be an issue. Do you really think it matters to these prisoners where the prison is? What is of issue is the lack of due process rights. And it is an ongoing process. Americans themselves have not decided if these people are prisoners of war or criminal detainees. I think it would be much easier to declare them as POW's and be done with it.


  4. charo, dude, Barack the Unready said that he would close GITMO within a year. No one held a gun to his head and made his promise that. What happened? Did Pres. Obama actually think about what he was committing to do, or did he just 'assume' that everyone would fall over themselves to obey his every wish?

    Detainees are not POWs and they are not entitled to due process rights of American citizens (unless, of course, they are American citizens); even the Obama admin agrees with me on that. POW status is clearly defined in the Geneva Conventions, and GITMO detainees do not meet Geneva requirements. Due process doesn't always apply to noncitizens; immigration cases can be decided by administrative judges, behind closed doors, and without legal counsel for the immigrant.

    Pres. Obama is slowly discovering that the world is in fact a much more nuanced and complex place than he imagined as a candidate.

  5. Dan, due process in the sense of "entitled to the full protection of the law" is indeed something to which all humans deserve. And the GITMO detainees are indeed being treated with due process today. In fact, virtually all of them were subject to summary execution according to the Geneva Conventions, and if they were, such a result would have been due process as well.

    But typically, when the Left speaks of due process in the context of GITMO, it means extending American citizens' due process rights to the detainees, and as I've mentioned, not all human beings are entitled to that.

    Which due process do you mean? You must mean American citizen rights, because the detainees are being treated with full due process under ratified international agreements. I would disagree with your opinion if that is indeed the case.

  6. By due process, I mean that they are entitled to challenge their detention in a court of law, and are entitled to release if said charges cannot be brought.

    In other words, they are entitled to a future other than indefinite detention for crimes that are not fully explicated.

  7. I would go as far as to agree that the detainees could be brought before a military tribunal. I do not agree that human beings are automatically entitled to access American courts if captured on a battlefield fighting American forces. We have the Geneva Conventions to guide us, and military tribunals seem both reasonable and sufficient.