Obama Reinstates Military Tribunals at Guantanamo Bay

The entrance to Guantanamo Bay.

Throughout the 2008 election, Barack Obama promised change – eventually riding that slogan to the Oval Office thanks to a groundswell of dissatisfaction with the status quo. At the same time, he rarely defined what the promised change would be exactly. In one of those few instances where his position was made perfectly clear, he promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay – one of the left’s favorite piñatas. Obama has been somewhat lackadaisical about the Guantanamo situation since his election, leaving the prison open for the first two years of his presidency…despite the fact that of all his campaign promises, closing Guantanamo might be the easiest, especially when compared to stopping the rise of the oceans.

Despite that fact, Obama has reversed even the first steps he took to change America’s policies on suspected terrorists. Shortly after coming into office (in January 2009 to be exact), the Obama administration banned filing new charges against suspected terrorists in military tribunals. That decision has now been rescinded. The ACLU quickly issued a statement that chastised the Obama administration, saying: “The best way to get America out of the Guantanamo morass is to use the most effective and reliable tool we have: our criminal justice system… Instead, the Obama administration has done just the opposite and chosen to institutionalize unlawful indefinite detention – creating a troubling ‘new normal’ — and to revive the illegitimate Guantanamo military commissions.” As the ACLU notes, it appears that Obama will not be closing Guantanamo any time soon. It will be very interesting to watch the liberal response to Obama’s return to Bush-era policy regarding the legal status of terrorist suspects. One wonders if America will so readily embrace the vague slogan of change again in 2012, especially given that so little has changed over the past two years.

–J.P. Harrington