Pres. Barack Obama began keeping his campaign promises on Thursday with the signing of an executive order closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The prison, sometimes referred to as Gitmo, has been the location where the US holds prisoners of war from the war on terror. Among its most famous residents is the man accused of being the mastermind behind September 11 terror attacks.
When the president signed the executive order, chief White House counsel Greg Craig advised that the intention is to close the infamous prison within a year. During that time, the Obama administration is expected to create a new plan for dealing with terror suspects when they are captured. Craig said at the press event for the signing of Executive Order that the president’s office will also be involved in creating a new set of guidelines for the American military to use when terror suspects are captured.
Preliminary among the commitments of the new guidelines is the president’s statement that water-boarding and other alleged forms of torture will no longer be used to interrogate prisoners. In keeping with both the statement he made during his Inaugural Address and policy statements available on the new Whitehouse.gov website, the president said during the signing of Executive Order that the overriding goal was to demonstrate that the United States still believes in the principles of liberty and the principles upon which it was founded.
One problem with the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay is that there seems to be no plan in place for dealing with terror suspects once Gitmo is closed. Clearly, these are not typical prisoners of war, and though the most appropriate way to deal with them would be war crimes tribunals similar to those held at Nuremberg after World War II, the simple truth is that there is no international mechanism appropriate for dealing with the crimes the suspects are accused of.
In addition, the president recognized in signing the executive order that there are evidentiary issues with many of the accused. In some cases it appears that the American philosophy will be to turn over the accused to other world governments for trial and punishment.
During the Bush administration, there were many accusations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and the Obama administration seems committed to recognizing human rights in an unprecedented way.
In his critique of the president’s actions, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh argued that the closer of Gitmo was a purely political decision and not based at all on the safety of the United States. Limbaugh promised to change his “Club Gitmo” merchandise to add the phrase “when America was safe.”
Limbaugh has been an unsurprisingly outspoken opponent of many of the initial actions of Pres. Obama and his staff. During his radio show Thursday, Limbaugh reminded listeners that his critiques are based on policy differences with the president and nothing else.