FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Liberals and Gitmo

by

In the title of a recent piece at The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald asked, “What Excuse Remains for Obama’s Failure to Close Gitmo?” Greenwald makes the argument that, given the Obama administration’s willingness to bypass Congress – and the law– by releasing five Taliban prisoners in exchange for American POW Sgt. Bowe Berghdal, the president’s line about being unable to close the globally despised detention center without congressional assent has been rendered worthless.

Logically, Greenwald is obviously right. If the Obama administration asserts the authority to ignore the statute requiring it provide thirty days’ notice to Congress before releasing detainees, as it evidently does, then the long-standing excuse about its hands being tied on this issue may be dismissed as pure political posturing. This shouldn’t surprise anyone.

For years, people opposed to the continued existence of the prison, which is an international scandal, have genuinely wondered how it can possibly remain open. Surely, U.S. officials understand how injurious it’s been to America’s reputation, and we have heard for years about how it’s been used as a recruitment tool for extremists. There is one component of the ongoing Gitmo saga that’s rarely discussed, though, and it might illuminate one reason why the president, or anyone else in power for that matter, has never had the stomach to make this a front-and-center political issue: public opinion.

As it happens, Gallup has just conducted a poll asking Americans about their thoughts on policy relating to Guantanamo Bay, and the results are rather striking. An astonishing 66% of Americans opined that the United States should not “close this prison and move some of the prisoners to U.S. prisons.” That is the highest figure Gallup has recorded since first asking this question in July of 2007, when only 53% of Americans believed this. Just 29% of Americans want the facility closed and the prisoners either released or transported to the U.S.

Republicans, unsurprisingly, oppose closing Gitmo by a margin of 84% to 13%. What is rather troubling, though, is that majority support for the prison holds firm even among Democrats (54% of whom now say they oppose shutting it down). It’s quite revealing to note how Democrats have moved on this issue. In 2009, after Obama was sworn in as president, and when his opposition to Gitmo was often celebrated by liberals and progressives, 53% of Democrats told Pew that they supported closing the prison; that number has now dropped to 41%.

It would be difficult to find a clearer example of Democrats eschewing substance and alleged principles when they are no longer politically useful. At this point, talking about Gitmo is simply not helpful for Democrats, because it might reflect poorly on Obama in some way. But back at the height of Obama-mania, in 2008 and 2009, if you talked to a liberal about Gitmo, you would walk away with the impression that the prison represented a truly unconscionable stain on our national character, one that required urgent action. Five years later, nothing has changed fundamentally, and Democratic support for the prison is at an all-time high. This is shameful. So while Greenwald’s piece taunts Obama supporters for their gymnastics in defending him over failing to close Gitmo, it turns out they don’t even want to close Gitmo in the first place; or at least a solid majority of them don’t.

None of this is to absolve from blame either the president or leaders of both parties in Congress (the latter, in particular, have taken political cowardice to new levels on this issue). But it is to say that there should be no mystery about why people in power seemingly lack the will to pursue the closing of Gitmo with any kind of vigor. Elementary political analysis should make it clear why this is the case. When 66% of the population is horribly wrong on an issue, only politicians of impressive moral backbone will still do the right thing, and our leaders, up to and including Obama himself, are simply not up to the task. This is especially true on this particular issue, which is so ripe for rabid demagoguery from professional fearmongers like Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has threatened impeachment if Obama dares to release any more detainees.

H.L. Mencken once said that “public opinion, in its raw state, gushes out in the immemorial form of the mob’s fear. It is piped into central factories, and there it is flavored and colored, and put into cans.” When it comes to the unspeakable horror that is the prison at Guantanamo, his words ring true. We can, and should, call out Obama and Congress for their utter spinelessness whenever they deserve it, and they certainly deserve it in this case. But whether it’s from conservatives’ wildly irrational fear and paranoia, or liberals’ simple indifference and political laziness, Americans are overwhelmingly on the wrong side of history here. There are 149 people still being held in cages down there, and ending this disturbing chapter of our history swiftly and humanely seems quite unlikely as long as we, the people, refuse to help turn the page.

Justin Doolittle is a freelance writer based in Long Island, New York. You can follow him on Twitter @JD1871.

Justin Doolittle is a freelance writer based in Long Island, New York. You can follow him on Twitter @JD1871.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail