We hosted a dinner for Andy Worthington, the author of Guantánamo files, a few weeks ago and something he said struck a cord with everyone in attendance. During a back and forth pertaining to the positive statements made by Senator McCain, Senator Obama and Senator Clinton vis-à-vis Guantánamo – all seem keen to close it - Andy asked us to consider the end game for the U.S. Specifically he asked what would happen to the prisoners.
Of course the first reaction of most of the individuals in attendance was predictable – these prisoners would be repatriated back to their home countries. However, as Andy prodded us to consider that assumption we all stumbled upon the problem that he was grappling with. It became clear that there would be many countries that would refuse to take back their citizens. After all, the U.S. has been stating since the first prisoner transfer to Guantánamo that it is holding the worst of the worst. With that statement on the record it seems fair to assume that some countries will choose to wash their hands of the matter. Why risk internal strife by bringing back someone who is a radical, has become radicalized or is likely to embarrass his home government by questioning why they did not do more to seek the release of an innocent national. What will the U.S. do if it ends up with a group of prisoners who have no where to go and are not deemed to have committed acts that warrant a trial?
The three candidates for President seem to understand that Guantánamo is a blot on the U.S. image in the world
and I am convinced that all of them would like to close it. However, in an incredible irony, it seems possible that the next U.S. President may find that closing Guantánamo proves to be harder than it was for the Bush Administration to open it.
I am going to start making a few calls on this issue to see what the latest thinking is within Defense department circles and will report back in the days ahead.