Closing Gitmo is ‘easy part’

Washburn Review Editorial Board

One of President Obama’s first acts in office was to fulfill a campaign promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Complaints of torture, lack of judicial rights for prisoners and a discussion of the negative impact it had on the United States’ image were main arguments surrounding the controversial high-security prison.

Having closed the institution by executive order, which Senator John McCain rightfully called the “easy part,” the question at hand for the newly-minted president is where to put the current 250 prisoners. Some will need to be tried, however, there are some “enemy combatants” – a still relatively vague term – who are too dangerous to release, but there is not enough evidence to try them. The policies dealing with who can be retained and how they can and should be tried will have to be reevaluated.

For those who can be imprisoned, there has been talk of placing them near San Diego, Calif., Charleston, S.C. or in the prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. A base which is heavily populated and only about three hours from Omaha, Neb., where Strategic Air Command is located. This was one of the bases that President Bush flew to after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

To their credit, Republican senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts are clearly speaking out against placing the detainees at Fort Leavenworth. Brownback called the move “unwise and unsafe” while Roberts vehemently stated that, “this is just not going to happen on our watch.”

We hope the senators are successful in denying access of Fort Leavenworth to the now-institutionless detainees. It will not be good for Kansas and if the federal government simply moves the prisoners to a different place, the ethical and legal questions still abound. The United States will not get credit for simply moving the prisoners to the continental United States. Something actually has to be done and we applaud the media for finally asking some hard questions of President Obama.

We’re glad that President Obama has gotten to work so quickly after his inauguration, but we hope his “feel good” policies have enough depth.