Ben Buchwalter

Guantanamo Bay to Sing Fat Lady Song

Watching 24 definitely makes you think about the morality of torture in a fictional world. But as a liberal in the real world, is it possible to enjoy 24 despite its implicit support for terrorism? This week’s season 7 premier proves the answer to be yes, but AmericaBlog asks this difficult question.

Wherever you land on that important issue, it is difficult to deny that by far the most horrendous legacy of President Bush’s two terms is the torture at Guantanamo Bay that was not only approved by the President, but became de-facto law. AmericaBlog reports that Obama will announce his plans to close Guantanamo after he is inaugurated on January 20. This does not mean that the detention facility will close immediately. President-elect Obama has already said that it could take a year to finalize the end of Guantanamo Bay because of the deeply complicated nature of international law and the difficulty of placing the 250 terrorist suspects, many of whom have not been charged with any crime, in an appropriate setting.

Although it is not soon enough, this is an extremely encouraging development that says a lot about the Obama administration. First, the United States no longer supports torture. Throughout the campaign I was surprised by how few times Obama, Biden or other democratic surrogates mentioned torture. Under the leadership of George W. Bush, this country that has stood as a beacon and freedom for so many across the world for hundreds of years, embraced torture as national policy. The reality of that is both terrifying and deeply sad. Though closing Guantanamo Bay does not make up for that, it shows that we are at least willing to admit this error and attempt to rebrand our moral image.

It will be interesting to see how Obama closes the detention facility. Back in November, the newly elected Obama unveiled plans to pursue out-of-the-box methods of prosecuting terrorists. They endorsed a “hybrid approach” which would combine necessary aspects of military courts with the liberties associated with civilian courts. As I wrote back in November, Republicans oppose this approach because it could bring terrorist suspects to US soil, and Democrats are weary about it because these suspects would not receive all the rights guaranteed for American citizens. For that reason, the plan is constitutionally unstable and, if implemented, would probably require the Supreme Court’s attention.

The closing of Guantanamo Bay also indicates, as AmericaBlog writes, “that Team Obama is starting to realize that it needs to reach out to the left, and not just the right.” This is the third issue that surfaced in the past few days on which Obama has made statements that satisfied the liberal base of the Democratic party.

But the meaning of closing Guantanamo Bay seriously transcends politics. It shows that Obama might make good on the hope that he inspired during his campaign to begin a process that re instills pride in our country.

In an interview with The Atlantic this week, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the internationally acclaimed peace activist, spoke of his disappointment that the United States now uses torture.

He must close Guantanamo Bay immediately. That must be one of the first things he does. You know, for someone who comes from South Africa, it is one of the greatest letdowns I’ve ever experienced that America, Britain, whom we had regarded as—I mean, they were our starlode. Or is it lodestar?

Hoo hoo! Yes, our lodestar. These countries were so insistent in the days of apartheid. When we had detention without trial in South Africa, they condemned it out of hand. I mean, it is one of the greatest letdowns that these countries should, without batting an eyelid, be using the same arguments that were used by the apartheid government. You feel so, so despondent.


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