The Blog

'Obama's Detainee Mess'

11:56 AM, Dec 28, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

White House aides say they are working up an executive order to allow the U.S. to hold enemy combatants indefinitely, while last week a Democratic Congress barred the Pentagon from spending money to transfer detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. mainland. Did we just wake up and discover this is 2003 and George W. Bush is still President?

No part of President Obama's agenda has been as thoroughly repudiated as the one regarding terrorist detainees. From the February 2009 promise to close Guantanamo in a year, to the misbegotten attempt to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Manhattan, to the near acquittal of Ahmed Ghailani in a civilian trial, the Administration has failed to change the fundamental architecture of Mr. Bush's legal war on terror. Sounds like it's time for Mr. Obama to accept that Mr. Bush mostly got it right, much as Republican isolationists eventually accepted Harry Truman's Cold War institutions.

Such a grace note is beyond White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who on Sunday on CNN would only concede that Guantanamo will remain open for "a while." Better make that a long while. We're not convinced Congress can tell a Commander in Chief how to handle prisoners in a time of war. But unless Mr. Obama wants to press a Constitutional fight with Congress over the issue, he won't have the money to move the Gitmo terrorists anywhere in the U.S.

The leaked plans to allow indefinite detention are also a concession to political and wartime reality. Remember all that huffing and puffing about Mr. Bush's "illegality" and the alleged affront to American values from holding enemy combatants without a trial? Mr. Obama has discovered the difficult dilemmas involved in handling captured killers who refuse to obey the rules of war, much less of civilized society. We're now waiting for House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers to call for Mr. Obama's impeachment.

Whole thing here.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 15 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers