James Moran on Guantanamo

Published on FPIF Foreign Policy In Focus, by Michael Shank, June 14, 2007.

Excerpt: … Shank: Why do you think the president has been so reluctant to move forward constructively on Guantanamo?

Moran: For the same reason he’s been reluctant to take constructive action with regard to the Iraq War. One, he wants to save face. And two, he’s surrounded by the very same people that resulted in our establishment of a detainee policy of indefinite detention without charges and without the ability to defend yourself. These are close-minded people who have little respect for the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or why America has become the greatest nation on the planet. It was for reasons that are really the antithesis of what this administration’s policy has been.

I’m not surprised that he’s reluctant to do the right thing. I can’t think of where he has used his presidency to do the right thing, frankly, in any area of policy. The one possible exception might be the immigration bill, and he didn’t have sufficient commitment to get it passed. Apparently it was a half-hearted commitment on his part.

Shank: If you and other members are successful in shutting down Guantanamo, will [the closing] ultimately and fundamentally change the way the U.S. government treats its enemy combatants in the so-called war on terrorism? Guantanamo has become highly symbolic, but will the system change?

Moran: The system is kind of a patchwork policy. In Afghanistan we’re detaining thousands of people. We’re going to defer to the Afghan government to prosecute them. In Iraq we have about 30,000 people detained, half of them by the Iraqi government, half of them by the U.S. military. Again, if there’s a conclusion to the war we’ll leave it to the Iraqi government to decide what they want to do with them. In Guantanamo it’s a legal black hole, and that’s the kind of situation this administration likes. But I don’t think there’s any coherent policy, so I don’t expect any particular policy change.

If Guantanamo closes it’s not going to be because the administration decided to do the right thing. It will be because they decided the political downside is too much or they had to compromise in order to achieve some other objective … (full text).

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