Obama's GITMO problem is rather complicated
We hear from Doyle McManus (LA Times) about President Obama's "Gitmo woes":
"President Obama sounded genuinely outraged last week when he talked about the Kafkaesque situation at the Guantanamo prison camp, where the United States has been holding 166 men without trial for terms that are, at this point, officially endless.
"It's not sustainable," the president thundered. "I mean, the notion that we're going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no man's land in perpetuity?"
But at least some of Obama's anger should be directed at himself, because his own silence and passivity on Guantanamo are part of the problem.
Mr McManus is right. GITMO is another "Made by Obama" problem, or another example of a managerial style that sits back and waits for problems to disappear. Unfortunately, they usually don't.
President Obama's GITMO problem is complicated by two realities:
The first problem is purely political: Nobody wants one of these guys in their district. We have very good detention centers coast to coast but nobody wants to turn their town into a terrorist target because one of these guys is locked up there. In other words, there is a big difference between hard core criminals who rob banks or commit horrible crimes and terrorists. The former is a very bad person whereas the latter has friends who engage in mass killings.
GITMO was a great campaign issue for candidate Obama and many Democrats because they were out of power. It is different now that they would have to move those in GITMO to a district, another country or back in the battlefield.
The second problem is operational: GITMO's detainees have little current intellegence value. The "war on terror" requires very fresh intellegence and none of the 160-something men there has been in a battlefield recently. GITMO was of value to President Bush because they used it as a place to interrogate and get information.The Obama adminostration did not use it that way.
GITMO will stay open and President Obama will continue in a no-win situation. He can't close it and keep the promise. He can't move the men detained because nobody wants them.
Who would have believed this when candidate Obama used to say that he'd close GITMO if elected.