May 22, 2009: Terrorism in our own back yard?

During the presidential campaign President Obama had a consistent campaign message, that he would close the Guantanamo Bay facility in his first year in office. Two days after his inauguration he signed an executive order doing just that. Over the months, however, he had modified his position. The President announced that there may be some in the prison that require continued detention as enemy combatants. The difference is this President will afford them the full protections of the Geneva Convention. Nothing wrong with that.

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This decision, closing the prison, is the most divisive decision the President will make this term of office. Closing the detention center irritated the right and the left. Of course the right has been searching for anything to yell about. Dick Cheney in his latest speech, May 21, 2009, claimed that the President closed the Guantanamo Bay facility, or signed the order at least, without any debate or input. Hmm- is that not the way we opened it? I recall vividly the early days of the new war on terror. The Bush administration took the position that during a time of war the President is clothed with super presidential powers that are unconstrained by the constitution. President Bush and VP Cheney claimed that they could do what was then necessary to protect America and no one could challenge their decisions because we were at war. Well Dick, we are still at war. President Obama inherited your war. He has the same power that you seized for your president. It seems that Dick Cheney is only in favor of unlimited presidential power if he is the one with it.

In the, we want to fight as well category, the far left was outraged by the President's decision to continue holding some of the prisoners as enemy combatants. The left claims that Obama has reneged on a campaign promise. I guess he did; however, it is clear to me that once he took office and found out matters that only a select few ever know he found that there are some being held that are in fact too dangerous to release. I view that as a very presidential thing to do. It is the right thing to do for the country. By affording them the full protection of the Geneva Convention he has afforded them the rights that the United States agreed to afford people of this status and given America it high ground again.

Now both the House and Senate have refused to give the administration $80 million dollars to fund the closing of Guantanamo Bay. Both houses want a plan of action to deal with the prisoners before they agree to close the prison. There's a thought. For the first time since the war on terror began someone has suggested that we act with forethought and a plan. My how things would be different today if we had of started that way.

The President says we can try most of these cases in civilian rather than military courts, while reserving the military tribunal for those few that pose to great a risk. He is absolutely right. The Bush military tribunal system has been struck down at every turn. The federal government has a prison in Colorado, Super Max. Super Max houses the worst of the worst, Tim McVeigh was there before his execution, Terry Nichols, Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber). At Super Max the prisoners are held in a small cell 23 hours per day. For one hour they are allowed to go outside, alone, in a small completely enclosed exercise yard. The yard has a cover on it so they cannot even see the sun. The prisoners at Super Max are monitored 24 hours a day. If they are allowed a visit from family the visit is monitored. This is the perfect place to keep these prisoners.

The government made a snap decision in opening Guantanamo Bay. The treatment of our war prisoners has strained relations with long time allies. We no longer have the ability to force change on regimes that mistreat treat others as we are now in league with them. It is time to close this chapter in our history.

We can find a better way.