White House waffles on Guantanamo Bay closing deadline
President Barack Obama is finding out what his predecessor experienced — closing Guantanamo Bay is easier said than done.
As early as May 2006, former President George W. Bush said he wanted to close the prison for terrorism suspects in Cuba that was constructed during his administration after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
But the Bush administration found it was not easy getting other countries to accept some of the prisoners and faced a dilemma of what to do with other prisoners who could not be released.
When Obama came into office in January, one of his first edicts was to close Guantanamo Bay by January next year. Now that the deadline is four months away, his administration is acknowledging that it will be difficult to meet that goal.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also served under Bush, said on Sunday that it would be tough to meet the January deadline.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was peppered with questions about Guantanamo Bay closing at his media briefing today, but refused to get cornered into saying the deadline would be missed.
Question: Robert, back in June, when you were asked about whether or not the deadline to close down Gitmo could be reached, you said, “absolutely.” Over the weekend, I’m sure you heard the secretary of defense saying that it’s going to be tough. What happened?
Question: I’m sure he does. What happened between the “absolutely” and “it’s going to be tough”?
Gibbs: I think we’re continuing to make progress. I think we’ve had more and more people transferred out of Guantanamo Bay…
Question: So is the White House resigned now, resigned to the fact now that the deadline cannot be met?
Gibbs: Well, we’re not focused on whether or not the deadline will or won’t be met on a particular day. We’re focused on ensuring that the facility is closed and doing all that has to be done between now and the 22nd of January to make the most progress that we can that’s possible.
Doesn’t sound like anyone should bet on the deadline being met…. How important is it that Obama meet his own Jan. 22 deadline for closing Guantanamo Bay? Does it matter if the deadline is not met? How much more time is reasonable for closing the prison?
Photo credit: Reuters/pool (Guantanamo detainee inside open-air yard), Reuters/Jim Young (Gibbs at Monday’s media briefing)