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Argument: Closing Guantanamo would renew America's image and leadership

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President Obama said following his inauguration in January 2009, "the message we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism, and we are going to do so vigilantly; we are going to do so effectively; and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals. We think that it is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and the moral high ground to be able to effectively deal with the unthinking violence that we see emanating from terrorist organizations around the world. We intend to win this fight. We're going to win it on our terms."[1]


Kenneth Roth. "The Case Against Preventive Detention". Foreign Affairs. May/June 2008 - These days, it seems, everyone wants to close Guantánamo. In January 2002, the Bush administration created a detention camp at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba to imprison what former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called "the worst of the worst" terrorism suspects. The facility has since become an embarrassing stain on the United States' reputation. With some inmates now having endured more than six years of detention without charge or trial, and with no end to their ordeal in sight, Guantánamo has come to symbolize Washington's flouting of international human rights standards in the name of fighting terrorism. Now, even President George W. Bush says he wants to shut it down.


Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, Obama's incoming director of national intelligence, told Congress today that the detention center must be closed because it is "a damaging symbol to the world."[2]


Karen J. Greenberg. "8 Reasons to Close Guantnamo Now". In These Times. February 12, 2007 - "what may be the most compelling, if unspoken, [reason to close Guantanamo] of all: Guantánamo must be closed because the United States needs to indicate that it has decided to change course. Closing Guantánamo will help to restore America’s standing in the world and in the eyes of its own citizens."


Suzanne Nossel, Senior Fellow at the Security and Peace Institute. "10 Reasons to Close Guantanamo". Democracy Arsenal. June 12, 2005 - "To recapture the U.S.'s position as a human rights standard-bearer – Despite the Administration's denunciations, Amnesty's fingering of the U.S. as a major human rights violator has been heard 'round the world. The claim resonates because of the revelations concerning Guantanamo, Bagram and elsewhere. To counter this, we need to make a dramatic gesture to show that the U.S. maintains its reputation on the forefront of promoting human rights. (see Jimmy Carter's comments)."


Amnesty International called the detention center for alleged terrorists "the gulag of our time".[3]


Colin Powell told NBC's Meet the Press in June 2007 - "Guantanamo has become a major, major problem ... in the way the world perceives America and if it were up to me I would close Guantanamo not tomorrow but this afternoon ... and I would not let any of those people go. I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system.[...] Essentially, we have shaken the belief the world had in America's justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open and creating things like the military commission. We don't need it and it is causing us far more damage than any good we get for it,"[4]


The National Lawyers Guild and the American Association of Jurists called Guantanamo a veritable "concentration camp".[5]


"The President's Prison". New York Times. March 25, 2007 - The president has been told countless times, by a secretary of state, by members of Congress, by heads of friendly governments -- and by the American public -- that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp has profoundly damaged this nation's credibility as a champion of justice and human rights. But Mr. Bush ignored those voices -- and now it seems he has done the same to his new defense secretary, Robert Gates, the man Mr. Bush brought in to clean up Donald Rumsfeld's mess.


"An exit strategy for Guantanamo". The New York Times (Editorial). May 3, 2007 - The five-year-old military prison at Guantanamo Bay, with its indefinite detention rules, lack of judicial review and insufficiently regulated interrogation techniques, is an ugly stain on this country's long tradition of respect for the rule of law and an endless propaganda bonanza for America's enemies.


Matthew Waxman. "The Smart Way to Shut Gitmo Down". The Washington Post. October 28, 2007 - the ongoing threat of terrorism is very real, but it does not follow that we must keep Guantanamo Bay open -- or even that the prison helps our fight against al-Qaeda. It did not occur to that official that the previous four years' worth of experience might offer lessons that would help us revise the U.S. approach to detaining suspected foreign terrorists. But they do.

President Bush has said publicly that he would like to see Guantanamo Bay closed, if he could do so without putting Americans in greater danger. He can, and he should. My experience advising former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on these issues has convinced me that there's a way out, but it will take some painful truth-telling to get there. For even if Guantanamo Bay could be defended in legal or moral terms, it still hurts us more than it helps us in battling al-Qaeda.

I'm not trying to challenge the improvised decision to create Guantanamo Bay's detention site in 2002. Rather, I want to challenge its continued operation in 2007. Fair-minded people can differ over whether the Bush administration was justified in sending suspected al-Qaeda fighters there immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, but as time wears on, it's almost impossible to argue that the prison is keeping us safer.


"Leading article: President Obama must end the scandal of Guantanamo". The Independent. November 12, 2008 - Guantanamo Bay may be a sad chapter, but its closure is a complicated matter nonetheless; no magic wand will alter that fact. Nothing however would do as much to assure the world that the US is under new management. Mr Obama will enjoy a political honeymoon as few incoming presidents have. And what are political honeymoons for – if not for awkward decisions to be taken?

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