Friday, January 21, 2011

Merely asking about Guantanamo is akin to farting in church

Guantanamo is but one example of Obama’s fondness for the grand gesture and the glib dismissal of everything his predecessor did without a plan for dealing with the thorny issues behind them
writes the Telegraph's Toby Harnden.
The anniversary Obama would prefer to forget is of an event that took place on January 22, the same day he took the presidential oath a second time. It came in the form of a gravely worded executive order.

In it, Obama solemnly proclaimed: “The detention facilities at Guantánamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order.”

…That evening, the general gushed that “the performance of our president was nothing less than terrific, great courage”, trumpeting that “the fact that we are going to take it down, that we are going to turn this gulag that we have created into a pure naval installation which is how it started, the prison at Guantanamo will cease to exist and will stop being a recruiting method for al Qaeda”.

Mr Obama’s act of “closing” Guantanamo Bay was hailed around the world as a courageous break with the evil Bush administration. “We are full of hope that the world is on the path to reason and peace,” said President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Except, of course, the prison has not closed. … Asking when the order might be acted upon, however, almost invariably provokes a scowl of disapproval. Merely asking about Guantanamo is akin to farting in church.

…NIMBYism extends not only to both sides of the political aisle but also to much of the rest of the world, which has condemned America for imprisoning poor innocent inmates in Guantanamo Bay while refusing to accept them in their own countries on the ground that they are dangerous terrorists.

While there is little doubt that there have been human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay or that the symbolism of such as offshore facility is unfortunate, Obama in office is being forced to admit that hope does not always trump reality.

American intelligence officials have concluded that five of the 69 detainees transferred to other countries from Guantanamo Bay by the Obama administration have rejoined terrorist groups while a quarter of 598 detainees freed since 2002 have rejoined the jihad against America.

…Guantanamo is but one example of Obama’s fondness for the grand gesture and the glib dismissal of everything his predecessor did without a plan for dealing with the thorny issues behind them.

For a self-proclaimed former “law professor” (in fact, he was an outside lecturer), it’s ironic that the willingness to cite to complexity of issues only goes so far.

And Obama’s greatest political vulnerability is that Americans are tiring of self-congratulatory symbolism being a substitute for grappling with the messy realities of the world.