One of the most principled stands that President Obama made during his campaign was his pledge to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since its very existence violates cherished American ideals, chafes our allies and increases our alienation from much of the world. But his pledge to close the facility by Jan. 22, 2010, has run into political and practical difficulties, and Obama hadn’t said much about it lately.
So I was heartened to hear the president reiterate the pledge during his speech Tuesday at the United Nations.
“On my first day in office, I prohibited — without exception or equivocation — the use of torture by the United States of America. I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed, and we are doing the hard work of forging a framework to combat exremism within the rule of law. Every nation must know: America will live its values, and we will lead by example.”
The president’s prominent mention shows that, despite the political difficulties he has run into on a host of other issues, he’s still firm in his insistence that Guantanamo be closed. (He may not make his deadline, but the facility will close.)
Obama has apparently put a new team in charge of shepherding the politics and the process. That group will have to find a way to overcome not only foolishness from the GOP, which tries to gum up the works on every Obama initiative, but also spinelessness on the part of Democrats, some of whom insist that detainees cannot be kept on American soil. (We kept Timothy McVeigh locked up, didn’t we?)
Meanwhile, the tiny nation of Palau has agreed to take a group of Chinese Uighurs, Muslims who would face oppression, or worse, if they were returned home to China.
Guantanamo remains a serious blemish on U.S. ideals. The sooner it closes, the better.