Even allowing for the surmised tongue-in-cheek proposal made on Tuesday to once again close the United States detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it received a swift reply from Republicans. Obama’s long-promised 2008 campaign promise to close and transfer detainees to American soil is no closer than it was eight-years-ago. Now it is brought up in the middle of election 2016.
Most critics (bi-partisan) insist such a plan is against the law. So is this sudden reopening of the Guantanamo closure something to do with President Obama’s historic trip to Cuba next month? Besides already giving the 59-year-old dictatorship legitimacy by now officially recognizing them, does Obama look at the island prison as icing on the cake?
House Speaker Paul Ryan said shortly following the president’s announcement, “After seven years, President Obama has yet to convince the American people that moving Guantanamo terrorists to our homeland is smart or safe, and he doesn’t seem interested in continuing to try.” The House Speaker pointed out that there has never been a report on what the costs would be to the American taxpayer or a solid plan on where to house the prisoners in the U.S. As Ryan put it, “We will not jeopardize our national security over a campaign promise.”
In reality, Obama’s proposal calls to spend nearly $500 million to transfer from 30 to 60 detainees to U.S. facilities. No confirmed site has been mentioned by the Pentagon. One major critic of the Obama “plan” is California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa. As he put it on Tuesday, there has been little surprise in the president’s proposal since it has been his dream since day one to close Gitmo.
The California congressman added, “The fact that he’s willing to do it in violation of an explicit law probably means two things. One, he has very little to lose in his opinion. He doesn’t believe the American people will impeach him, and with the death of Justice Scalia, he might view that the Supreme Court will back him by a 4-4 decision, the liberals letting him do it even if it’s a clear violation of the law. This is a president who doesn’t respect the law or Constitution.”
Retired four-star Gen. Michael Hayden, who headed the CIA under former President George W. Bush, said Obama’s proposal is an “almost unnatural demand” which is not “being driven by the facts as we know them on the ground. Hayden concedes the Bush administration was trying to reduce the prison’s population, and “We pushed more people out the door than the Obama administration, but we thought we were winding the war down.”