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Closing Guantanamo, Restoring American Values

SOURCE: AP/Charles Dharapak

President Barack Obama caps his pen after signing an executive order closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay today in the Oval Office.

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Report: How to Close Guantánamo

Brief: Closing Guantánamo 101

In one of his first actions as president, Barack Obama announced today that Guantánamo will be closed, the secret CIA prisons will be shut down, and torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” will be prohibited. Much work remains to be done to see through the vision set forth today, but President Obama has begun his administration by sending a clear signal to friend and foe alike that America is back and ready once again to lead the community of nations toward a future that is both more secure and more free.

President George W. Bush abandoned centuries of American respect for the rule of law in the misguided belief that he could purchase some measure of security for this sacrifice of liberty. He could not have been more wrong. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans have died because Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib served as a recruiting tool for our enemies. America’s torture and detention regime drove a constant stream of foreign fighters into the arms of al Qaeda in Iraq. These foreign fighters were the suicide bombers and insurgents who fed the violence in Iraq that claimed the lives of so many Americans. The bizarre claims during the Bush legacy tour that the former president kept Americans safe from terrorists only holds weight if you don’t consider U.S. soldiers and marines serving in Iraq Americans.

Working through the challenges of emptying Guantánamo will be difficult. The process that the Obama administration has outlined leaves many key decisions yet to be resolved. But just the definitive announcement that Guantánamo will close its doors for good on January 22, 2010 has already changed the dynamic surrounding the prison. Portugal, Germany, Canada, Ireland, and Switzerland—all countries that had previously expressed reticence—have signaled a willingness to take part in the process of closing Guantanamo. U.S. Representative John Murtha (D-PA) has bucked the “not-in-my-back-yard” trend espoused by other U.S. politicians and said Guantánamo detainees could be imprisoned in jails in his district.

Closing Guantánamo and the secret CIA prisons and prohibiting torture will enhance the safety of Americans, improve relations with our allies, strengthen the coalition against terrorism, and deny our enemies one of their most potent weapons. But the most compelling reason to choose this path is that in a country literally founded on an unwavering commitment to the rule of law and a rejection of arbitrary executive detention, it is simply the right thing to do.

Report: How to Close Guantánamo

Brief: Closing Guantánamo 101

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