At TomDispatch, Karen J. Greenberg writes:
On his first day in office, President Barack Obama promised that he would close the Bush-era prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “as soon as practicable” and “no later than one year from the date of this order.” The announcement was met with relief, even joy, by those, like me, who had opposed the very existence of Guantanamo on the grounds that it represented a legal black hole where the distinction between guilt and innocence had been obliterated, respect for the rule of law was mocked, and the rights of prisoners were dismissed out of hand. We should have known better.
By now, it’s painfully obvious that the rejoicing, like the president’s can-do optimism, was wildly premature. To the dismay of many, that year milestone passed, barely noticed, months ago. As yet there is no sign that the notorious eight-year-old detention facility is close to a shut down. Worse yet, there is evidence that, when it finally is closed, it will be replaced by two Guantanamos — one in Illinois and the other in Afghanistan. With that, this president will have committed himself in a new way to the previous president’s “long war” and the illegal principles on which it floundered, especially the idea of “preventive detention.”
For those who have been following events at Guantanamo for years, perhaps this should have come as no surprise. We knew just how difficult it would be to walk the system backwards toward extinction, as did many of the former lawyer-critics of Guantanamo who joined the Obama administration. The fact is: once a distorted system has been set in stone, the only way to correct it is to end the distortion that started it: indefinite detention.