Memo to Politico — Pick a Side! We’re at War!

President Obama has finally secured a federal prison for ex-Guantánamo detainees in the U.S., in Illinois, scoring a sound victory for the notion that Americans will step up to the plate to solve national problems. Naturally, for Politico, this just won’t do. So they’re going after him from both ends.

Either Obama is continuing indefinite detention, giving Al Qaeda a recruiting tool:

But some critics said they feared that the Illinois facility, like the one in Cuba, could end up being a place where detainees are held indefinitely without trial.

Or he “wasn’t around for 9/11,” and will endanger American lives:

[Dick Cheney:] Americans did not elect President Obama to usher terrorists onto the homeland and call it a jobs program

You can always count on Republicans to put blood before justice, and argue away outdated ideas like due process with appeals to base fear, and on Politico to disingenuously lump arguments together. For shame.

But the notion that Illinois will become a second Guantánamo deserves exploration, to rebut valid (and non-contradictory) concerns from the left that indefinite detention will continue. It won’t — unless Congress agrees, and only then as “a last resort.”

Congress shouldn’t agree. If we’re to commit to the idea that terrorists can be captured as combatants and tried as criminals, we must be consistent. The only excuse for indefinite detention without prosecution is if the detainee can’t be tried, because of prior torture at the hands of Bush’s goons. In the war of words, for Democrats at least, the national security debate is so often unwinnable. Let’s win this one with deeds, and prove that our Constitution is up to the challenge.

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2 comments

  1. So how do you square the notion that there won’t be indefinite detention with recent statements by teh Attorney General and the President that some Guantanimo detainees will get federal trials, some will get military trials, and some can’t be tried at all (usually to protect state secrets). It seems to me that, if that third category is really made up of bad guys (and I have serious doubts about that), then we will have indefinite detentions of some sort, regardless of congressional action.

  2. That’s what I alluded to with the torture point — if that third category exists, it’s a function of the misdeeds of the prior administration, and one that we have to deal with.

    If Guantanamo is to be closed, they’ll have to seek congressional authorization to detain them on American soil without hope of trial. And here we agree: Congress shouldn’t give the go-ahead.

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