Obama’s First Move May Be His Willie Horton Moment


In his inauguration address  ( see http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/us/politics/20text-obama.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink to the nation President Obama stated these words” Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Like it or not these words which were very carefuly carved is an admission that Al Queda ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Qaeda) and the Taliban  ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliban ) are “enemies” in a war.

He also stated : “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” Implicit in this was that the Bush administrations  treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guantanamo_Bay_detainment_camp was not in comports with our notions of Liberty and Justice.  Moving swiftly to fulfill his campaign promises yesterday the president has ordered a cease and desist order with regard to shutting down the facility and reviewing cases as to whether they should be  transferred, prosecuted, and or  released. See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/22/us/politics/22gitmo.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink 

This announcement is consistent with President Obama’s “change” and appeals to those who argue the camp is inhumane, unlawful, anti American, Nazi like,  a torture facility and as such it’s operation is inconsistent and an affront with notions of freedom, fairness and justice in our society.

They have strong Constitutional Law to support there argument. During World War II and immeditely after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans of Japanese decent were placed in “internment camps” see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_American_internment. In the famous case of Korematsu v U.S. see ( http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0323_0214_ZO.html) the Justices debated the military need for national security, the horrors of detentions facilities and the connotations therein against the rights of individual civil liberties. The case however is mostly known for Justice Hugo Blacks dissent ” legal restrictions which curtail the  civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect and subject to the most rigid scrutiny”   .  This was the birth of ” civil rights” and protection against invidious discrimination.  I fully support the dissent  and the reasoning. ( See http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/personality/landmark_korematsu.html) However, most if not all of the “enemy combatants” were not chosen or incarcerated because of there faith, heritage, or racial background, it was because of factual connections with terrorism and or active combat agains Americans.

I don’t know enough about the facility, however if in fact the detainees there are prisoners from a war that President Obama admits is ongoing, it appears to be the first time a President has released prisoners of war and or enemy combatants during a time of ongoing conflict.

Clearly before making such a decision he had to weigh the risks involved,. They are  crystal clearly had it ( Gitmo) remained open Obama would have been deemed a liar, and breached his promise to the American electorate.  This would have offended a large portion of the “anti war”, anti detainee status, and legal professionals who argue that “GITMO” detaineedare entitled to the full protections ( even if they are not citizens of the U.S.A.) of our judicial systmem and Constitution. 

The issue that remains open and unclear, must soliders now have probable cause before seizing enemy combatants. Must they ” cease” and “preserve” evidence, or be civilly liable, like police officers when engaging the enemy. Must they invoke Miranda rights before ” debriefing” a prisoner who may have critical knowledge of facts, and information that will protect the safety of our soliders and citizens.

 Clearly Obama weighed the risks ( political breaching a campaign promise) against ( risk to American warriors and national security interests). Given that this happened so quickly in his administration  indicates that his staff felt this was imperative.   The loser, is clearly the American Soldier’s who are  in a war that Obama admits is on going.  Just as football teams fail to perform at a higher  when a star is injured , so too does an enemy when it’s leaders are imprisoned, injured or killed. Here is an example.

 Fox News is reporting  that “Said Ali al-Shihri”  who was held as an “enemy combatant” ( see http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/372-said-ali-al-shihri ) a former prisoner at the Gitmo facility is now heading “Al Queda” operations in Yemen. See http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,481849,00.html Now, on the face of the accusatory instrument it seems clear Shihri fought against us, and engaged in conspiracy to commit murder in the furtherance of his war with us.

Why was he released I don’t know, are Americans engaged in combat better off with him in jail, or back out in Al Queda and engaged in active planning, preparation, and participation in  war and terrorism efforts against our nation.

Well if any of those detainees get out and kill Americans and or attack our nation in their terrorist’s efforts President Obama will have his Willie Horton moment. See ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Horton)  What concerns me about this was that Obama chose expediency over a totality of the circumstances and evidence review. He could have appointed non partisan  “Parole type ” enemy combatant ” review body with former Judicial leaders such as “Sandra Day O’Connor ” to render decisions on detainees.  

In my opinion our men and women at war and their families are risking enough already. While a robust review of Guantanamo Bay and it use fullness and status of detainees is acceptable. Closure without due diligence may further endanger American lives and expose us to another terrorism catastrophe.


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