Obama Moves to Close Gitmo Prison While Republicans Move To Delay Holder Nomination

225px-official_portrait_of_barack_obamaholderericPresident Barack Obama issued four executive orders Thursday, including one requiring that the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay be closed within a year. It was a widely anticipated move. The question remains, however, what to do about the war crimes committed at the facility. In the meantime, the Republicans are demanding that Holder promise not to investigate war crimes as a condition for their votes for confirmation.

The four orders ban torture (though it is already banned) and reverse Bush detention policies. A third order delays the trial of Ali al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident who has been contesting his detention for more than five years as an enemy combatant in a military brig without a charge.

The closing of Gitmo should not be treated as the priority for civil libertarians. It is simply a place. It is what happened there that demands action. We did not deal with Richard Nixon’s crimes by bulldozing the Watergate building. We prosecuted the crimes committed inside the building. The same should be true with Gitmo.

In the meantime, the Republicans are once again embracing torture as a platform for their party — demanding that Holder promise not to investigate or prosecution war crimes committed by President Bush and his administration. Holder will be called back before the Committee to answer these questions. Ironically, it puts the Obama camp in a terrible position because they have been quietly trying to scuttle any investigation of war crimes. Now, it will look like they caved to GOP pressure. Perhaps, this raw effort to manipulate the justice system will awaken Holder to the demands of the law. You cannot say that you will prosecute terrorism aggressively while evading such a statement about war crimes committed by our own nation. Both terrorism and war crimes are equal crimes and deserve a commitment to be equally prosecuted.

For the Holder story, click here.

For the full story on the Gitmo closing, click here.

29 thoughts on “Obama Moves to Close Gitmo Prison While Republicans Move To Delay Holder Nomination

  1. Have we forgotten WW-II and the Nazi prisoners the United States government housed in a number of southern states in America during that war, some of which were given a chance to become farm larorers during and after the war, even becoming citizens and obtaining farm land ? These, along with Nazi sympothizers in New York City, the American Bund, were given freedoms that most minority citizens were denied during the same period. Lets get real with ourselves, this country has two standards, and they are not equal.

  2. The Center for Constituional Rights sent the following message on the Army Field Manuals and torture:

    “The AFM is a guidebook for U.S. interrogators that sets standards in accordance with the law. The AFM has several serious shortcomings, particularly following a Bush-era revision in 2006 that attempted to legitimize some of the abuses taking place at Guantánamo and elsewhere. The executive order on torture implicitly approves of the current AFM as it stands; it is critical that, by signing the executive orders, President Obama truly means an end to U.S. torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

    While the AFM does not allow waterboarding, it currently approves techniques that constitute torture. For instance, Appendix M (a section introduced in 2006 that applies only to “unlawful combatants”) permits techniques like prolonged isolation, sleep and sensory deprivation and inducing fear and humiliation. These techniques, especially when used in combination, constitute cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and possibly torture and were condemned by a bipartisan congressional report released last month, as well as by the Bush-appointed head of the military commissions at Guantanamo. For the full text of this action alert and to write to Presiden Obama, click here.

    Join us in urging President Obama to ensure that no administration will take us back to the dark times of torture perpetrated in our name.

    Yours truly,

    Vincent Warren
    Executive Director, CCR

  3. posted by Mark Kleiman at samefacts.com:

    You’re free to believe that Eric Holder didn’t know, when he said flat-out at his confirmation hearing that waterboarding is torture, that doing so would commit him to at least investigating the BushCO waterboarding spree, because of our treaty obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And you’re also free to believe that his handlers hadn’t thought the problem through, and that he hadn’t cleared his answer with the President.

    I however, am free to believe otherwise. I doubt that, in the end, any of the actual torturers will face a jury, but the folks who gave the orders and provided the legal cover are likely to go through several very bad months at the very least, quite possibly followed by several VERY bad years.

    Holder will order an investigation, the investigation will come back with the conclusion that there is enough evidence to convict X, Y, and Z (where the value of X might well be “Cheney”) of conspiracy to torture, Holder will reluctantly say that the law must take its course, because the treaty strips him of prosecutorial discretion if the only grounds for not prosecuting are policy and politics rather than doubt about guilt or about the evidence to prove it, Obama will even more reluctantly say that, much as he’d prefer to look forward rather than back, he swore to take care that the laws be faithfully executed and it would be inappropriate for him to interfere with justice.

    But the precedent of having the political appointee of one President accuse members of his predecessor’s administration of official crimes is not a comfortable one. So Holder will want to outsource the prosecution. Patrick Fitzgerald’s name has been thrown around quite a lot, but he’s going to be rather busy in Illinois for quite a while.

    One obvious name: William Howard Taft IV. He fought a strong battle against torture from his Bush-appointed post as the senior legal adviser at State, one of a string of senior jobs he’s held in Republican administrations. Best of all, even the wingnuts are going to have a hard time claiming that someone with that name is a partisan Democrat. On the other hand, it’s possible that Taft will be a witness in the case, which obviously would rule him out.

    Other names? Someone from the JAG corps?

    Comments are busted, but I’ll compile the emails I get into a follow-up post.

    Footnote Volokh Conspirator Eric Posner says that since the other parties to the Convention Against Torture are unlikely to do anything to enforce its provisions, Holder has full discretion to decline prosecution on political or policy grounds. But a duly ratified treaty is the law of the land, and Holder is sworn to uphold the law. Could he get away with not prosecuting, in the face of enough evidence to convict? Sure. But he’d be violating his oath of office.

  4. closing Guantanamo represents a step in the right direction; pretty soon the U.S. will be able to join the world community once again

  5. Did the United States give World War II prisoners of war access to our justice system? What is the rule of law for prisoners of war? Perhaps Gitmo should remain open and subject to the Geneva Convention.

  6. Holy crap that’s what I get for blogging when experiencing insomnia. Sorry, Mike. Didn’t mean to call you raff. It’s not an insult, I assure you, although some might think “them’s a fightin’ words”. Since you are not a Neocon, I thinking you’ll take no offense.

  7. Cornyn is indeed a Neocon and part of the problem. Thanks for the info, raff. All I’d seen today was stories of an “unidentified hold” (which instantly registered 100% on my bullshit meter). This explains it all.

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