Guantanamo: Obama Betrays His Promises and the Rule of Law

United States President Obama issued an executive order on Monday, March 7, 2011 setting up indefinite detention at Guantanamo. Detainee’s cases will go under a “periodic administrative review.” The Obama administration also announced that it will use military commissions for “new terrorism cases.” Some of the prisoners rotting at Guantanamo have been detained by the US without trial or even any kind of charge for nine years.

The ACLU has already voiced its outrage over the Obama administration’s decision about Guantanamo. The organization called the detention facility illegal, and wants Guantanamo to be shut down. The ACLU also opposed what it calls “the illegitimate military commissions” and asked for the cases to be prosecuted in the federal criminal court system.

“The best way to get America out of the Guantanamo morass is to use the most effective and reliable tool we have: our criminal justice system. Instead the Obama administration has done just the opposite, and chosen to institutionalize unlawful indefinite detention-creating a troubling ‘new normal’- and to revive the illegitimate Guantanamo military commission,” said Anthony Romero from the ACLU.

What a difference a few years make in the flip-flop politics of broken promises. On the campaign trail back in 2008, candidate Obama’s most emphatic promise was to close the Guantanamo detention facility, which he rightly viewed as a stain on US international reputation. Candidate Obama said Guantanamo should be shut down and  that Habeas Corpus should be restored for the detainees. “The United States should have developed a real military system of justice that would sort out the suspected terrorists from the accidentally accused,” said Obama in 2008.

In June of that year, candidate Obama praised a Supreme Court decision allowing Guantanamo’s prisoners to challenge their detention in civilian courts. Obama said then that “the ruling was an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting Habeas Corpus.”

Back in February 2008, candidate Obama also said that the trials were “too important to be held in a flawed military commission system that has failed to convict anyone of a terrorist act since the 9/11 attack, and that has been embroiled in legal challenge.” Yet another blatant contradiction between then and now: back in 2006, Senator Obama voted against the Military Commission Act.

“Today’s announcement takes us back a step when we should be moving forward toward closing Guantanamo and ending its shameful policies,” concluded ACLU’s Anthony Romero in his statement. This decision by the Obama administration will maintain, and perhaps increase, the stain on America’s international reputation, and it will also make President Obama lose the little credibility he has left overseas.



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