When he took over at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, backed up by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, argued “repeatedly” for closing the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison and possibly moving the detainees to military brigs on the mainland.
His reasoning, according to The New York Times, was that any convictions by military commissions at Guantanamo would lack credibility and that international disgust with the prison's continued existence was hampering the war effort.
These conclusions seem obvious to all but the inner circles of the Bush administration. And, said the Times, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Vice President Dick Cheney prevailed in arguing to keep the prison open and the prisoners off the mainland.
If they were transferred, the detainees, whose legal status remains ambiguous, would have greater access to lawyers, the civilian courts and the press. This is only a problem if the administration persists in trying to short-circuit the judicial system. As for the rest of us, we should demonstrate some faith in our institutions.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told the Times that one solution might be an international legal structure on the treatment of captured suspected members of global terrorist organizations: “I don't know the alternative unless the international community, frankly, develops an alternative.” And that's not going to happen as long as Guantanamo Bay remains an issue with our allies.
President Bush has often said he would like to close Guantanamo Bay. He should heed the advice of his secretaries of defense and state and just do it.
- Scripps Howard News Service