12 January 2009

The Heavy Burden of Leadership ....

... begins to fall on President Elect Obama.

(CBS/AP) On the seventh anniversary of the opening of the American military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where hundreds of detainees have been held for years without trial or even being charged with a crime, President-elect Barack Obama reiterated his promise to close the facility, although he could not promise it would be done quickly.

Obama, who has been receiving daily national security briefings since his election in November, acknowledged that his campaign pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay will be more of a challenge than he anticipated. Many of those held at the military site are suspected terrorists or potential witnesses in cases against them.

"It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize - and we are going to get it done - but part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication," he said.

The fact that so many have been held for so long is caused by two problems. The first problem is that there are 50 or so detainees who have nowhere to go. (My solution is proposed here.) The second is a serious public relations error by the Bush Administration (not their only one, by any means) which could have been solved by quickly providing a means of adjudicating these cases. (While some, including me, do not believe that the SCOTUS had any business taking on Hamdan, it only stepped in after four years of detention had gone by and the Administration had not moved.)

Nonetheless, the job of keeping America safe will shortly become the duty of President-elect Obama. It is easy to sit back and be a back-bench bomb-thrower (a phrase I think was first applied to Newt Gingrich), and Obama took the momentum from Hillary Clinton by being one. When one actually has to make difficult decisions and you know that people's lives are in the balance, suddenly, "It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize ... I think it's going to take some time."

That is fine, sir. Take your time. Its been 2580 days since Islamist terrorists killed anyone on US soil. We can wait a while longer.

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