The Corner

Shocking News: Obama Finds That Closing Gitmo Is More Complicated Than He Thought

… or at least than he said.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this article imploring the incoming administration – before digging themselves in any further with more cavalier promises to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay – to develop a concrete plan tackling the problem that, you can bet the ranch, applies to the majority of the 250 or so enemy combatants we are still holding:  namely, what to do with detainees we know are terrorists based on reliable intel but whom we (a) don’t have enough usable evidence against to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a civilian trial, and (b) can’t extradite because — shocking as this may seem — other countries are not exactly tripping over themselves to take trained terrorists off our hands?  (To review how this game goes: Bush thinks we should capture and hold terrorists who pose a threat to Americans; the “international community” condemns Gitmo for public consumption but is unwilling to take detainees off our hands (though tacitly thrilled that someone is detaining these maniacs); Obama and the Obamedia say Bush is nuts and the “international community” is great — go figure.)

In any event, today the Wall Street Journal reports that Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who will be staying on in the new administration, says, yes, we’d love to close Gitmo yesterday, indeed shutting it down remains a “high priority,” but, whaddya know, it may take a while to get that done.  Why?  “Mr. Gates said the Democratic-controlled Congress would need to craft legislation resolving legal issues before the prison could be closed. Specifically, he said the bill would have to bar freed prisoners from seeking asylum in the U.S.”

Here it’s worth remembering that while the WSJ’s editors are frequent Obama critics, the paper’s news reporters are charter Obamedia members.  So, unsurprisingly but misleadingly, the report also states that Gates “was one of the first senior members of the Bush cabinet to push publicly for the Guantanamo prison’s closure, but his calls largely fell on deaf ears.” (Emphasis added.) 

In fact, President Bush himself has said, several times over the last couple of years, that he thought Gitmo should be closed.  He refrained from following through on that desire because of the very complications that now cause Gates (and, implicitly, Obama) to acknowledge that the facility cannot responsibly be closed unless and until we have a legal process that will avoid releasing terrorists in the United States.  (The Left, of course, said this reservation was frivolous … right up until the moment judges started ordering the detainees released into the United States, just as many of us who’ve had experience with judges warned would happen.)

Moreover, regarding this new Gates/Obama proposal that the Democrat-controlled Congress enact some legislation to bar prisoners freed by the courts from seeking asylum in the United States, Attorney General Michael Mukasey made precisely this plea to the Pelosi/Reid rabble some four months ago — i.e., shortly after the Supreme Court set disaster in motion with its Boumediene decision that gave our alien enemies the constitutional right to petition our courts for their release.  In this piece, I recounted AG Mukasey’s proposal and – speaking of deaf ears – the reaction to it by leading Democrats. 

Naturally, now that it’s Obama rather than Bush doing the asking, there will surely be action — probably even quick action (though, as Obama will remember and come to rue, many in the hard Left from which he comes don’t mind the prospect of terrorists being freed and would prefer the more detainee-friendly procedures that courts are likely to make up on their own if Congress continues sitting on its hands).

It all underscores a reality that grates even though that we’ve long understood it:  Democrats were never going to get serious about the war until they owned it.  Be prepared for all sorts of things that were “constitution-shredding” for the last seven years to transform before our very eyes into “smart, effective counterterrorism.”

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