Monday, April 4, 2011

The Sadness of Gitmo

Today, President Obama reversed himself, advising that the trials for some of the Gitmo inmates will, indeed, be done as part of a military tribunal and not in a civilian court as he had promised. Add to this that we are well past the one year mark for closing down Gitmo entirely, and you'll see what a massive mess of a ill-handled policy on the President's desk, one in which he has changed the outcome of his initial decisions, if not the intent.

This, of course, defuses what may civil libertarians and progressives charged about Guantanamo Bay. While railing against George W. Bush's policy concerning the inmates, it seems like their most rabid advocate, once elected, got to look at the details and bolted much closer to Bush than his supporters. Best case scenario is that the issue isn't as simple as "try them or let them go."

This isn't a post that's framed as a "See, I Told You So," or at least it's not meant to be. I find the entire situation to be sad. While I'm fully aware of the rationales for running Gitmo as it has been--I don't think it's possible to try war crimes in a civil court, and the tenuous role that the terrorists play creates great big giant legal acrobatics that both sides are scared to discover--the burden of necessity has fallen to the United States to slog through the whole thing. There's something distinctly un-American about denying due process, even though I think a case can be made for the Gitmo situation--just because two presidents of diametrically opposing political and moral philosophies have more or less come to the same conclusion doesn't mean I have to like it.

There is no way America can win this PR battle, whether it be liberal or conservative, so at this point it's a matter of crisis management more than civil liberties, national security, or just plain doing the right thing. It's none of the above, which in and of itself isn't even an answer.

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