NEW YORK – Following President Obama's historic order calling for the closure
of Guantánamo Bay detention center and suspension of the military commissions,
some critics have argued that detainees held there cannot be transferred to U.S.
prisons, while others allege they will likely turn to terrorism once sent to
foreign countries. Both positions are meant to obstruct the closure of the
facility and a return to the rule of law.
Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of
the ACLU, responds:
John McCain's criticism of President Obama shows that the Republicans are
more inclined to continue with 'politics as usual' rather than give America a
fresh start. Immediately after President Obama took the courageous step of
ordering the closure of the illegal detention camp at Guantánamo, a chorus of
Bush administration apologists, led by Senator John McCain, is already singing
the same tune: 'not in my backyard.'
Senator McCain and his allies are totally
off the mark and at odds with McCain's own campaign pledge to close Guantánamo
and move its prisoners to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The federal prison system
has proven time and again that it is capable of holding convicted terrorists
including Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheik convicted in the first World Trade
Center attacks; John Walker Lindh, the 'American Taliban'; and Richard Reid,
known as the 'shoe bomber.'
Reports of detainees released from U.S. custody rejoining al-Qaeda or
'returning to the battlefield' must also be taken with a grain of salt. If the
alleged terrorists re-joined al-Qaeda, it obviously happened on George W. Bush's
watch. Moreover, Guantánamo and the sham military commissions are more likely to
produce terrorists – both those detained in Guantánamo and elsewhere – than
adherence to the rule of law and a return to American values. It was the Bush
administration's detention and torture policies that made us less safe and more
reviled by the Muslim world. Former President Bush's torture and detention
policies certainly radicalized many individuals across the Muslim world, and
President Obama's executive orders are a first step to defusing that hatred and
giving us an America we can be proud of again.
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