Obama on Gitmo


Today is the seventh anniversary of the opening of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Protests in Madrid and London marked the occasion. Meanwhile, President-elect Barack Obama addressed the question of Guantanamo head on in an ABC News interview yesterday. He demurred on the whether or not he’d be able to close the prison camp in his first 100 days, but re-affirmed his commitment to see the place shuttered.

That’s a challenge. I think it’s going to take some time and our legal teams are working in consultation with our national security apparatus as we speak to help design exactly what we need to do. But I don’t want to be ambiguous about this. We are going to close Guantanamo and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our constitution. That is not only the right thing to do but it actually has to be part of our broader national security strategy because we will send a message to the world that we are serious about our values. [emphasis mine]

Not everyone is satisfied with this answer. I think it’s pretty significant, though, that Obama couches his objection to Guantanamo in terms of American security interests. For the past seven years the administration judged that the benefits of having a place to indefinitely incarcerate alleged terrorists outweighed the potential damage to American interests from sponsoring an entity so antithetical to American values. Obama’s answer suggests that he comes at this from the opposite cost-benefit analysis, that America’s strength comes from the idea that is America–not its ability to trap foreigners and place them in zones of nebulous legality. That’s change I can believe in.

Image from flickr. Creative commons license.