National Security

Obama's Plan to Fulfill Foolish Gitmo Promise

He'll undermine our national security while claiming to do the opposite.

Lewis Morris · Feb. 24, 2016

Barack Obama took another shot this week at completing one of his first campaign promises: the closing of the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

When the prison at Gitmo was first established during the Bush administration, it was meant as a holding facility for the worst of the worst. Enemy combatants captured in the field deemed too dangerous to be brought to the U.S. were placed there where they would remain until it was decided what further would be done with them. Part of the rationale was simply to keep them off the battlefield.

It may not have been the optimum solution, and then-President George W. Bush said he had no interest in keeping the place open indefinitely, but at the time national security was the first priority. Obama certainly has fundamentally changed that.

Since the beginning, Gitmo has been a cause célèbre of the Left — people who view the war against radical Islamic jihad as America’s fault.

Being a staunch Leftist himself, Obama embraced the desire to close down Gitmo at his earliest opportunity. In fact, he even issued an executive order the day after he was sworn in promising to close the facility “no later than 1 year from the date of this order.”

Luckily, common sense prevailed. Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike came out against his plan, as did a large segment of the law enforcement and national security communities.

No one wanted hardened terrorists from Gitmo brought to American soil. The American public didn’t want them, the states that were being targeted as transfer sites didn’t want them, and Congress didn’t want them. In fact, Congress went so far as to pass a law preventing this or any president from transferring terrorists to the U.S. mainland. Obama signed it.

This did not stop Obama from announcing earlier this week that he intended to close the facility once and for all.

In his remarks, he embraced some typical failed talking points:

“For many years, it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security — it undermines it,” he claimed.

The facility has protected the U.S. by keeping dangerous terrorists behind bars. It’s only when they’ve been released (sometimes in bogus prisoner swaps) that the problems start. There have been a number of instances where prisoners released from Gitmo have re-emerged on the battlefield.

Obama went on to claim the Gitmo remains a potent recruiting tool for radical Muslims. In reality, the case could be made that drone strikes, which have increased manifold during Obama’s tenure, are a more powerful recruiting tool than the terrorist prison at Gitmo.

And why would a terrorist prison at Gitmo be more of a recruiting tool than a terrorist prison in the continental U.S.? It seems that just the opposite would be true.

Obama also had the nerve in his statements to make note of the money that would be saved by closing Gitmo. “The Defense Department estimates that this plan, compared to keeping Guantanamo open, would lower costs by up to $85 million a year,” he said. “Over 10 years, it would generate savings of more than $300 million. Over 20 years, the savings would be up to $1.7 billion.”

$1.7 billion over 20 years? That’s supposed to impress? The proposed 2017 budget is $4.1 trillion. The yearly savings of closing Gitmo amounts to 0.0021% of the budget, and that’s not counting the costs of either transferring or releasing prisoners, some of which would be paid with American blood.

We should be likewise unimpressed by Obama’s professed concerns for staying on the sunny side of the Constitution by closing Gitmo. He is a fan of the Constitution only when it suits him, and he doesn’t lose the slightest amount of sleep about subverting it for his political ends.

Obama’s plan, which is typically light on details, calls for the creation of up to 13 different facilities stateside for permanently shifting the 30 to 60 detainees who will not be sent overseas. There is no indication whether those sites already exist, are yet to be built, or where they are or will be located.

House Speaker Paul Ryan made sure to let Obama know where Congress stands on his plans. “Congress has left no room for confusion,” Ryan said. “It is against the law — and it will stay against the law — to transfer terrorist detainees to American soil. We will not jeopardize our national security over a campaign promise.”

Just how far Obama will go to keep his campaign promise remains to be seen.

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