For more than six years, many in the legal community have vocally opposed President Bush’s policy of detaining so-called “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay. In fact, the Supreme Court has thrice rebuked his claims of executive prerogative. Unfortunately, the legal black-hole that his policies have created proved too difficult for even him to dig out of. Now, the problem will be left for President-elect Barack Obama to handle.
During the campaign, Obama stated several times that he intended to close the detention camp at Guantanamo, calling it a stain on America’s image abroad. Unfortunately, some members of the conservative media have jumped on this, claiming that the president-elect is weak on security issues. Our friends over at Media Matters were particularly troubled by a segment on Fox News’ Hannity and Colmes.
Amid reports that President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is developing a plan for closing the U.S. military-run detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, conservative media figures have baselessly asserted that such a plan would result in the release of terrorists and place the country at risk… Fox News contributor Dick Morris claimed on the October 10 edition of Hannity & Colmes that “Obama’s going to close Gitmo, and all of those people are gonna be back in the field, fighting against us.” On the same day, nationally syndicated radio host Lars Larson stated that the detainees are “garden-variety terrorists who I don’t think are entitled to treatment under … the American system of justice.”
Those familiar with the issue know that many of the detainees being held at Guantanamo are far from dangerous terrorists. In fact, several (including 17 Uighurs) have been cleared for release by the Bush administration, but have no where to go. By labeling them as suspected enemy combatants, the U.S. has made it nearly impossible to convince any nation to take them in. And just so we’re clear, President-elect Obama never suggested that he would release dangerous combatants. He said that his team would examine the evidence against everyone, and respond appropriately. But as we’ve seen so often from the right, nuance doesn’t sell nearly as well as fear.