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Our Meeting With Obama: Will He Really Close Guantanamo?
February 16, 20098
On Friday February 6, President Obama met with three dozen people, including myself, whose loved ones were murdered in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the USS Cole and the embassy bombings.
The subject: Obama's executive order closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay (in a year's time and after an interagency committee has decided what to do) and suspending the prosecutions of the terrorists imprisoned there.[Obama reassures terror victims' kin, By Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, February 7, 2009]
I remain convinced that closure of
Whether Mr. Obama's meeting with us was an expression of genuine concern, or is merely the product of political antennae that are better than Bush's, we will only learn with time.
Obama started the meeting by speaking without notes for
over thirty minutes. For at least another hour, he
answered questions. He promised
"swift and sure justice," noting that, as of the time he signed his
order to close
Obama said he had ordered his staff to
the entire process for trying the prisoners. He said the
decision to close
But Obama argued that
Of course, the President's contention that
But the President ignored some relevant facts. The Far Left has engaged in a well-financed propaganda campaign, a web of lies alleging ill treatment at Guantanamo, since the prison was opened. This was part of the Left's effort to undermine President Bush, regardless of the merit of any particular policy. It has been highly successful.
Of course, Mr. Obama would not want to speak of this, since the Left constituted the core of his support in the campaign for the Democratic nomination.
Whatever the reason, Obama is correct that
Mr. Obama also addressed the problem of what information
the government will turn over to terrorist defendants.
In earlier trials, judges have ordered that defendants'
attorneys be given access to
classified information in order to mount a
This information was then promptly transmitted by the
attorneys to terrorists still at large, thus
Mr. Obama said Bush's decision to keep the prisoners
of the United States was an attempt to solve this
problem, under the theory that by keeping them offshore,
they were not entitled to all of the rights that the
Constitution guarantees to
criminal defendants in
However Mr. Obama immediately revealed his own
uncertainty on the matter by saying that it is
"unlikely [emphasis added]
that they will get all the Constitutional protections of
Should that happen, what the president wants won't matter: if a judge decides they're entitled to classified information to make an effective defense, Administration refusal to provide it will result in dismissal of charges.
And this is a real possibility. When asked about the issue of classified information, the President responded: "We're not going to give a whole bunch of classified information to them."
If a judge then dismisses the charges, will Mr. Obama refuse to release them?
Interestingly, the President at one point uttered the phrase "Far Left". But he seemed to instantly recognize this as a faux pas and attempted to gloss over these words, saying instead that the "Far Right has over simplified the issue." Then, as if trying to restore balance, he said that "both the Left and the Far Right" are guilty of this.
That little misstep of referring to the "Far Left" points to the President's dilemma. Breaking his promise to core supporters on an issue in which they have invested so much would have carried terrible political risk. This is a group that has a history of viciously attacking those whom they perceive as insufficiently loyal to the party line, particularly apostates. So it's no surprise that Mr. Obama followed through on this commitment to shut the place down. He may think it wiser to risk setting the terrorists free than face the wrath of betrayed ACLU members.
(In support of this view we must remember that his Attorney General, Eric Holder, was responsible for the midnight pardons granted by Bill Clinton that set free the Puerto Rican terrorists who had attempted to kill President Truman.)
But if anything was apparent about Mr. Obama it is that
he is highly intelligent man. He knows that, after
numerous screenings, what remains in
Obama cannot ignore the fact that if his actions result in release of these killers, the blood of their future victims will be seen on his hands.
Mr. Obama seems to have given himself an escape clause. His executive order allows a year in which his administration can decide how to proceed. It is a year in which he can railroad through the legislative process many demands of his allies on the Left—ACORN, NEA, AFSCME, ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild, LaRaza and the rest.
Having fulfilled these political promises, the President
might decide it would be safe to renege on his
As it required a Richard Nixon, the longtime
anti-Communist, to be the man to
open relations with China, it requires a Barack
Obama to keep Al Qaeda terrorists in
Thus it may be that President Obama was truthful with the families. If it will not be swift, at least there may be justice.
But muting the left's opposition will require surrender to the demands of a host of other radical leftwing groups.
Whichever course Obama chooses, the people of the