In an impassioned 2006 speech on the Senate floor on the right to habeas corpus, Mr. Obama declared, "I do not want to hear that this is a new world and we face a new kind of enemy." During the campaign, his language implied that all we needed to settle the detainee issue once and for all was to shut down Gitmo.
As president, he is finding out that this very much is a new world, that we do face a new enemy, and that the problems posed by Guantanamo have less to do with the place than the people we detain there.
Put simply, the U.S. needs the ability to detain people we know to be dangerous without the evidence that might stand up in a federal criminal court. Because we can't say when this war will end, moreover, we also need to be able to detain them indefinitely. This is what makes the war on terror different, and why our policies will never fit neatly into a legal approach that is either purely criminal or purely military.
The good news is that Mr. Obama is smart enough to know that the relative obscurity of Bagram, not to mention the approval he has received on Guantanamo, enables him to do the right thing here without, as Mr. Greenwald notes, worrying too much that he will be called to account for a substantive about-face.
The bad news is that we seem to have reached the point where our best hope for sensible war policy now depends largely on presidential cynicism.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
President Obama, contrary to the vocal left, is beginning to deal with the real world. Cheney has called for a declassification of memos detailing what was derived from the treatment (not torture) of a few people who have admitted and been proud of 9-11. According to Cheney (see here) other attacks were prevented due to the information. Bill McGurn in today's WSJ: