Guantanamo Bay: Is a set closure date the best option?

Bryant Fong

Guantanamo BayOn his first week of office President Obama issued an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay within a year.

The camp has come to signal to the nation the “lost moral compass” of the Bush administration (Radio Free Europe).

The closure affects both our national security as well as foreign relations: especially those concerning prisoner treatment and handling of the current global recession.

The main concern surrounding the closure is what to do with all the detainees. How the president chooses to answer this question may put the safety of the U.S. on the line. National security should be viewed as a more important concern than strictly following a schedule in the closure of the camp.
Acknowledging Guantanamo in his crucial 100 first days in office may be setting Obama’s administration up for failure. Rather than making that his first priority, he should be concerned now with the more pressing problems surrounding the economy.

I am in agreement with Senator Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.) that the concern over public safety is more important than expediency. Congress should not adhere to a schedule for the closure of Guantanamo Bay if the issue of handling detainees is not addressed.
If Obama is unsuccessful in managing the Guantanamo issue, then the rest of his presidency will be tarnished, as happened in the early days of the Bush administration.

The prisoners in the camp cannot be placed into a U.S. prison institution, since few if any American communities would consent to having former Guantanamo residents close to home. Nor do Senators want prisoners in their respective states.

When the U.S. will not take the detainees, it cannot be guaranteed that in a foreign prison they will not be tortured or, if sent to their home countries, that they will be well- received.

Brownback states it is not enough to argue that it is the right objective, or that closing the camp improves America’s image.

If the camp is closed, then security must be better than it was before when the camp was in operation under previous policies set by the Bush administration. However, if that is not the case, then Obama has not addressed one of the main concerns facing a post 9/11 world: counter-terrorism.

According to Sarah Mendelson, scholar at the center for Strategic and International Studies, about 500 people have been released   from Guantanamo by the Bush administration. According to the Defense Department figure, roughly 60 have “returned to the battlefield” including people who were not fighters initially and authors of anti-Western propaganda.

Releasing all of the detainees could further develop the terrorist opposition and continue the Bush administration’s tendency to expedite policies and orders through fear tactics.

The most important objective in closing Guantanamo Bay is achieving success rather than adhering to a timeline and completing withdrawal by a deadline.

This success, Brownback says, will come when the Obama administration can “look the American people in the eye and declare them safer than they are today.”