National Security

Making America Safe Again: President Reverses Gitmo Closure

While Obama never actually followed through to close the facility, his order to do so needs reversal.

Caroline C. Lewis · Feb. 8, 2018

President Donald Trump signed a little-discussed executive order last week reversing the previous administration’s order to close the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay (GTMO). The president is keeping his promise: “When it comes to terrorism, we will do whatever is necessary to protect our nation.”

Fortunately, Barack Obama never delivered on his 2009 executive order to close the facility at Guantanamo Bay, yet his order still needed to be reversed. The Obama administration worked from a failed ideology of peace through appeasement. In contrast, President Trump understands Ronald Reagan’s concept of “Peace Through Strength.” That is, maintaining peace by keeping our strength, not by enabling the enemy.

While it may appear humanitarian to “free all prisoners,” this perspective ignores the real threats terrorism poses to our nation’s safety and to the world. It compromises the Rule of Law and ignores the reason why the detainees are imprisoned in the first place: These unlawful enemy combatants either harmed or sought to harm innocent people. To free such fighters who are intent on murdering innocent people, while claiming no responsibility for the resulting deaths, qualifies as the true action of inhumanity.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has remained engaged in armed conflict with the Taliban, al-Qaida and associated forces such as the Islamic State. This stands as a fact, not simply a “perspective.”

As part of his constitutional role as commander in chief, the president has the authority to detain certain persons associated with terrorism. The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) from Sept. 18, 2001, as explained by the White House fact sheet, states,

The AUMF authorizes the United States to detain certain persons who are part of or provide substantial support to al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, or associated forces engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. Decisions regarding the disposition of captured terrorists will be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account legal requirements and the facts of each case.

As such, the president remains responsible not only to manage the armed conflict between the U.S. and al-Qaida, the Taliban and Islamic State, but to take actions that preserve the safety of American military members and civilians.

The executive order “would preserve military detention as a counterterrorism tool by maintaining detention facilities at the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), Cuba and stating unequivocally that the United States reserves the right to detain terrorists under the law of armed conflict.”

While the U.S. currently utilizes counterterrorism tools such as military action and intervention, it must retain the right to detain enemy combatants. This stands in accordance with the law of war principles. Without the right to detain prisoners, the war on terror becomes a meaningless fishing expedition of “catch and release.” The White House fact sheet notes, “The detention of enemies captured in an armed conflict is a lawful and necessary tool of warfighting that must continue to be available to the United States.” The executive order also reaffirms the right of the U.S. to transport and detain more enemy combatants to Guantanamo when necessary.

More than 100 former prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay have re-entered combat as terrorists, killing both Americans and our allies in coalition forces. Keeping the Guantanamo Bay detention facility open averts that risk, while prioritizing safety and security for innocent people who remain targets of international terrorism.

The executive order also emphasizes the use of the existing periodic review process that helps authorities to determine whether the continued detention of certain prisoners is necessary.

Finally, the order notes that “the detention operation at the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay are legal, safe, humane, and conducted consistent with United States and international law.”

President Trump’s executive order to keep the Guantanamo Bay detention facility open allows the United States to act as a sovereign nation, capable of winning the war against radical Islamic terrorism worldwide. Without this counterterrorism tool, victory will elude us, and innocent civilians will serve as terrorism fodder in the name of “peace” and “understanding.” The commander in chief understands this and has willingly acted to protect innocent civilians who are targets of terrorism in the United States and throughout the world.

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