Republicans are finally making their opposition to Obama’s policies on Gitmo and civilian trials very public, after the President decided to arraign Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, in New York City. He was extradited on Thursday.
A civilian trial? Republicans are not pleased.
Naturally, John McCain led the Republican charge against the President’s policy, claiming in a statement that the American people don’t want terror suspects brought here for trial, “The American people and their representatives in Congress have been clear that they do not want foreign members of al Qaeda brought to the United States. The Obama administration’s decision to try Abu Ghaith in a New York district court clearly contravenes the will of the American people. This decision by the Obama administration will not go unchallenged.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made clear the Republican support for Gitmo in a statement, “What has not changed since the issuance of the president’s executive orders is that terrorists working to attack the United States are enemy combatants, and if captured should be placed in military custody where they can be interrogated. The decision of the president to import Sulaiman Abu Ghaith into the United States solely for civilian prosecution makes little sense, and reveals, yet again, a stubborn refusal to avoid holding additional terrorists at the secure facility at Guantanamo Bay despite the circumstances.”
It’s as if Republicans don’t believe in our judicial system. If that’s so, then perhaps they ought to set about fixing that much larger problem. Also, had they actually managed to capture Osama bin Laden using torture, they might have a leg to stand on – but as it is, they did not keep us safe, they did not capture bin Laden, and they were wrong about torture.
It’s beyond frustrating that Americans elected President Obama twice, in part due to his approach to our foreign policy and national security, and yet they are getting Bushian/Republican policies on Gitmo and military tribunals shoved down their throats because Republicans and some Democrats refuse to fund Obama’s executive order.
Contrary to what you may have read for the last four years, President Obama really did sign an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (aka, Gitmo) and bring terror suspects to the continental US for civilian trials instead of military tribunals, per his understanding of our Constitution.
On January 22, 2009, as one of his first official acts in office, Barack Obama signed an executive order to close Gitmo within one year. On that day Obama said, “This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard.”
That hasn’t happened, due mostly to Republicans but also some Democrats, who together managed to obstruct the President’s executive order.
While Republicans are opposed because they tend to support the Republican ideology/fear tactics that led to Gitmo and military tribunals, there is also the issue that representatives don’t want terror suspects in their home states because they don’t want the political liability. It’s called cowardice.
They make this clear every year when the Senate Armed Services Committee drafts the NDAA, and the neo con war hawks make sure they specifically prohibit the funding of the transfer of prisoners to US soil, thereby nullifying Obama’s executive order by defunding it.
The President has made clear his objections to their actions, most notably in his signing statement clarifying how he instructed his administration to carry out the NDAA (emphasis mine):
In the second paragraph of his NDAA signing statement, Obama stated, “The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists. Over the last several years, my Administration has developed an effective, sustainable framework for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected terrorists that allows us to maximize both our ability to collect intelligence and to incapacitate dangerous individuals in rapidly developing situations, and the results we have achieved are undeniable. Our success against al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents has derived in significant measure from providing our counterterrorism professionals with the clarity and flexibility they need to adapt to changing circumstances and to utilize whichever authorities best protect the American people, and our accomplishments have respected the values that make our country an example for the world.”
This has all gone on under the radar as the public chased other less than savory aspects within the yearly NDAA.
For years, progressives have blamed Obama for the Republican obstruction, which was easy to miss as it was buried in the fine print of bills. However, here it is, out in the light of day and yes, it’s just as you suspected. The party of torture has deliberately obstructed the President’s executive order and the party of few spines has at times assisted in carrying out Republican fear based policies.
The President did sign an executive order to close Gitmo and it has been carefully obstructed by Congress (including some liberal heroes, by the way) every year since. The President is taking a stand now (another perk of not having to run for office again; second term revelations of character), which is forcing Republicans to come out of the closet and publicly defend their love for Gitmo and military tribunals.
Republicans are objecting to the President’s policy of civilian trials because they see it as another way to obstruct the President from carrying through on a promise he made, and also because they still believe in their vision of national defense in spite of its lack of effectiveness: Torture, military tribunals over civilian trials, and a general atmosphere of fear, instead of considering our higher obligations to justice.
Republicans fell down on upholding our values when they lied about weapons of mass destruction, and they continue down that same failed path to this day.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.