Thursday, March 22, 2007

Guantanamo - What Will Obama Say?

In incredible news this morning the new defense minister Robert Gates is calling for the close of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. Yet another strike against the administration's war policies - from the Walter Reade scandal, to the torture scandals, to the recent court cases condemning the detention of Iraqi-Americans in custody in Iraq.

Meanwhile, on Larry King, Barack Obama called for a virtually immediate end to the war that is costing greater and greater devastation to Iraqi civilians (The United Nations estimates that two million Iraqis are currently displaced within their homeland) as well as to neighboring countries like Uzbekistan and our returned soldiers and their families here at home.

There is so much criticism brewing around the administration and the war that, for those of us outside of the discussion over Guantanamo, it is hard to tell the difference between a shrewd political consession, an act of showmanship, and a decision in the interest of national security. But no matter what the motivations for the administration's change in stance on Guantanamo, it comes at a critical time.

Who would have thought that what amounts to a dramatic shift in strategy over our domestic legal approach to the war on terror would coincide with the loudest calls to change to our military policy Iraq? Closing Guantanamo would seem to be an unavoidable windfall for those who have been fighting to protect the rights of the prisoners. Moving the prisoners from the physical isolation and unprecendented legal black hole of the military detention center (in Cuba of all places!) can both as a practical and legal matter serve as nothing more than an admission of their human rights and civil rights. This is a chance for immigrant and human rights advocates to gain foothold in their fight against the United State's inhumane policies on the detention of deportees, refugees, and suspected terrorists.