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President Obama Poised To Take (Constitutional) Action To Close Gitmo

November 12, 2015

From the heady campaign of Election 2008 to this stormy day where gray clouds cover the sky and blustery winds pound the Madison isthmus one thing has been clear to me.  The detention facility at  Guantánamo Bay, Cuba must be closed.    Period.

Over the past weeks reports of movement again being made within the Obama Administration has allowed for those of us who firmly believe this place must be closed down to have renewed hope.

Over the years there were attempts made by the White House to close Gitmo but each time the effort was thwarted by short-sighted Republicans or timid Democrats.   This time there seems a more determined effort by Obama to close down this stain on our nation with perhaps if needed, a constitutional move.

It appears from the reports that a number of the 112 detainees –perhaps about half of them–would be placed in American prisons.  The remaining would be sent to other countries.  In this country it is likely that a military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and a military brig in South Carolina are places where some detainees would be held.

But make no mistake about this–we must not shut down Gitmo only to restart a horrible situation at some new venue.  At the end of the day we must obviously close down Gitmo, a place that has long been a recruiting tool by those who seek to do us harm.  But we also must not allow people to be held indefinably without legal recourse.  That is a wrong that must not be allowed to continue no matter where these people are held.

There seems to be–from the reporting I read–that Obama’s plan will come to light soon.

And if there is the usual conservative blow-back over this plan from the same people who thinks China is somehow stationing itself in Syria–(and not one single candidate on the debate stage had the ability to counter that crazy remark)–then Obama has a fallback position.

And might I add the fallback plan is a much stronger place to act.

Article II of the Constitution.

As this idea has gained steam The Washington Post printed a column putting the pieces together for such a move.

The Constitution assigns Congress the important power to “declare war.” But Article II designates the president as “Commander in Chief” of the military. Recognizing that the president needs flexibility to select among tactical options in the conduct of war, the Framers explicitly rejected giving Congress the power to “make war,” rather than declare war. As Alexander Hamilton explained in the Federalist Papers, “Of all the cares or concerns of government, the direction of war most peculiarly demands those qualities which distinguish the exercise of power by a single hand.”

Thus the president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has the exclusive authority to make tactical military decisions. Congress can declare war but cannot direct the conduct of military campaigns. It can pass generally applicable military regulations but cannot direct the military’s response to contingent developments. It can authorize detentions and military tribunals and broadly regulate the treatment of prisoners of war, but it cannot direct specific facilities in which specific detainees must be held and tried. Yet that is precisely what Congress has attempted.

For those conservatives who can not find their moral or legal compass let me put this matter in financial terms so they can better understand.  Nothing matters more to them than money, in most cases, so here goes.

Gitmo is simply put the world’s most expensive prison. The annual cost per Guantanamo detainee now stands at $3,345,061. The average annual cost to maintain a prisoner in the most expensive supermax facility in the United States is estimated to be $78,000 per year.

It will be interesting again to see how far removed conservatives can land when it comes to doing what every sane person knows must be done regarding this matter.

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