Friday, May 15, 2009

President to begin military tribunals

President Obama has stated today that he intends to restart military tribunals for the suspected terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay; with some revisions to the tribunals.

This is an encouraging position for those of us who have wondered in just what light the president views the war on terror. His Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, famously refused to even use the word terrorist, or the phrase 'war on terror'. Just a handful of days into office, the president signed an order to close Guantanamo Bay, without even a clear plan about what to do with the more than 200 prisoners held there. He had made grand promises all throughout his campaign to become president to end the war as soon as possible once he became president, setting what seemed to be completely arbitrary timelines about when to withdraw all of our troops from Iraq.

Recently, though, he has taken what many see as a far more practical approach to fighting this war. Instead of drastically lowering troop levels in Iraq, he has actually begun to raise them in other parts of the Middle East. Instead of releasing literally thousands of damaging and embarrassing documents relating to steps taken in the past to fight the war, no matter how right or wrong those steps may have been, he has opted on the side of national security and the security of those fighting to protect this great country. And now, rather than charging ahead with a half-conceived closure of a facility that no doubt houses some of the most dangerous people in the world, the president will begin proceedings to determine which of these detainees are actually dangerous and which were merely in the wrong places at the wrong times.

I couldn't be happier, myself. I've said for a long time that we need to sort the guilty from the innocent. Guantanamo may be a controversial place, but it's not about location; it's about treatment of the people there. We've needed, for a long time, to answer the question of who really belongs there and who should be sent home. The president is taking the first steps towards doing that.

His decision has drawn sharp and frankly unforgiving criticism from organizations like the ACLU and Amnesty International, who say he is not only backtracking on his campaign promises, but on his commitment to justice. I don't mean to downplay the sympathy these organizations feel for the plight of the detainees; but I would suggest to them, and everyone, that when persons such as Barack Obama and George W. Bush find themselves in agreement on any issue, it is worth considering that they may actually be right.

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