CLOSING GUANTANAMO…. Shortly after the election, Barack Obama spoke to “60 Minutes,” and explained, “I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that.” Dick Cheney told Rush Limbaugh this week that he doesn’t really believe the next White House will change the policy: “I think they’ll discover that trying to close it is a very hard proposition.”
Perhaps, but Obama appears intent on doing it anyway.
This week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates endorsed Obama’s position, saying the challenges Cheney sees are “solvable,” and adding that the closing of the detention facility “will be a high priority for the new administration.”
What’s more, the Pentagon is moving forward accordingly.
The Defense Department is drawing up plans to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison in anticipation that one of President-elect Barack Obama’s first acts will be ordering the closure of the detention center associated with the abuse of terror suspects.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates “has asked his team for a proposal on how to shut (the detention center) down, what would be required specifically to close it and move the detainees from that facility while at the same time, of course, ensuring that we protect the American people from some dangerous characters,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters on Thursday.
The prison, built to hold suspected terrorists after the 2001 U.S.-led military intervention in Afghanistan, now houses about 250 detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and others accused in connection with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Obama, who’s asked Gates to stay on as his defense secretary, has said that he wants to close the prison within two years of taking office on Jan. 20. Gates also has spoken publicly about the need to close the facility.
“If this is one of the president-elect’s first orders of business, the secretary wants to be prepared to help him as soon as possible,” Morrell said. “The request (for a closure plan) has been made, his team is working on it so that he can be prepared to assist the president-elect should he wish to address this very early in his tenure.”
The Washington Post added, “Any plan will probably address whether to also abolish the military commission system and, if so, what kind of legal framework can be substituted to put detainees on trial.”
Sounds like progress, and Cheney’s skepticism notwithstanding, like a commitment Obama is going to keep.