President 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.