It was just three weeks ago that President Obama made a persuasive case for closing the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. He described a military prison that costs too much, has become an international embarrassment, and is filled with “people who have been charged with no crime.”
The vision the president outlined has been embraced by liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, civilians and military personnel. And yet, GOP lawmakers in Congress appear to be going backwards.
Last week, House Republicans once again barred the Obama administration from transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay. Today, against a backdrop of a terrible hunger strike, a Democratic effort to do the right thing was easily defeated in the face of mindless, reactionary conservative opposition.
“These terrorist detainees pose a very real danger to our security in America. They mean us real harm,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), a veteran of the Iraq war who called closing Gitmo “appeasement.”
“Who are these detainees? They are not innocent goat herders swept up by marauding United States military, of which I was a part, and of which I detained numerous potential terrorists,” said Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), referring to his service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) argued that moving the prisoners to the United States would paint targets for terrorists “on every elementary school, every shopping mall, every small business” in the area where they end up being housed.
Arguments like these predictably won the day in the lower chamber. Rep. Adam Smith’s (D-Wash.) proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, calling for a plan to close the detention facility was crushed on a 174 to 249 vote.
What about the dozens of prisoners who’ve already been cleared by military and intelligence officials for transfer? What about the hundreds of terrorists who are already locked up safely in American prisons? What about the extent to which this facility undermines our standing and credibility on the international stage?
According to 249 members of the House, these facts just don’t matter.