Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Closing Gitmo's... office on closing Gitmo

Stephen Colbert was really on a roll last night, wasn't he?

As an American, I'm horribly embarrassed by Gitmo (obviously, I mean our detention facility at Guantanamo Bay), and I'm disappointed that Barack Obama didn't work harder to close it.

But I suppose that, between obstructionist Republicans in Congress and cowardly Democrats pretty much everywhere, there wasn't much chance. There certainly seems to be no chance now.

Early in his first term, though, what would have happened if Obama had led on this issue (and on many others)? What if he'd told Congress specifically what he wanted - again, on this issue and many others - and then used the bully pulpit of the presidency to push for it?

He might have failed, true. But so what? He failed anyway. Unfortunately, instead of leading, he left it up to Congress. He left all too much up to Congress. He failed to see that Republicans would oppose him no matter what - even when he adopted a Republican health care plan, for chrissake - not because of what he proposed, but of who he was.

And he failed to see that Democratic politicians have no spine whatsoever, especially if you give the big money interests time to organize to fight something. A few anonymous political ads and most Democrats will quickly cry uncle. It's no guarantee even if you get them all on board immediately, with a clear goal and a specific roadmap to get there,... but at least that gives you a chance.

At this point, it's simply impossible. It's hard to get any bills through Congress, let alone bills which free us from the idiotic requirements they've already passed. (Should Barack Obama have vetoed those bills? Unfortunately, there are bad things in every bill, so that's always a judgment call - a very difficult judgment call.)

But Gitmo was and is a symbol of the worst excesses of the George W. Bush administration, the worst excesses of our "war on terror" - excesses caused by America's hysterical, irrational fear (ironically, exactly what terrorism is aimed at creating). This is where we lost our way. This is where we lost our honor. This is where we lost any special standing in the world.

Not just there, obviously. But there's no better symbol of our failures as a nation than Gitmo. And it's a clear symbol to the rest of the world - especially the Muslim world - too.

As an American, I'd rather we be symbolized by the Statue of Liberty, not the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. But I guess we're stuck with both of them now, huh? How does that make you feel?

No comments: