Friday, September 25, 2009

Closing Gitmo: Closer to the Deadline, Further From Reality

The Washington Post reported today that the Obama administration has relieved White House Counsel Gregory Craig of responsibility for carrying out the President's commitment to close Gitmo by January 22, 2010. This strikes me as rearranging the deck chairs on the political Titanic that is the administration's self-imposed deadline.

From White House Regroups on Guantanamo:

Even before the inauguration, President Obama's top advisers settled on a course of action they were counseled against: announcing that they would close the facility within one year. Today, officials are acknowledging that they will be hard-pressed to meet that goal.

The White House has faltered in part because of the legal, political and diplomatic complexities involved in determining what to do with more than 200 terrorism suspects at the prison. But senior advisers privately acknowledge not devising a concrete plan for where to move the detainees and mishandling Congress.

To address these setbacks, the administration has shifted its leadership team on the issue. White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig, who initially guided the effort to close the prison and who was an advocate of setting the deadline, is no longer in charge of the project, two senior administration officials said this week.

-- snip --

To empty the prison, the administration will need to find facilities to house 50 to 60 prisoners who cannot be released and who cannot be tried because of legal impediments, according to an administration official. The administration must also win congressional funding for the closure process, find host countries for detainees cleared for release, and transfer dozens of inmates to federal and military courts for prosecution.

Craig's explanation is priceless:

"I thought there was, in fact, and I may have been wrong, a broad consensus about the importance to our national security objectives to close Guantanamo and how keeping Guantanamo open actually did damage to our national security objectives."

He thinks he may have been wrong about that "broad consensus?" Only may?

Let's see. Congress has denied the administration any funding to transfer, release or incarcerate any of the Guantanamo detainees in the United States. A Gallup poll found that by better than a 2-to-1 margin the public opposes closing Gitmo. Senior Democratic officeholders, such as the Senate Majority Leader, have spoken out in the strongest terms against bringing any Gitmo detainees to the United States. And other countries are not exactly lining up to receive our 'releasable' detainees.

Mr. Craig should have realized long ago that a consensus for closing Gitmo doesn't exist much outside of the Obama White House. He needs to get out more often.

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