Commentary: Time to close Guantanamo

May 21, 2009 

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

Democrats in Congress have spent years condemning the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Now that they have a president who wants to close it, they've apparently developed a case of weak knees and second thoughts.

In June 2007, when the White House had a different occupant, more than 140 House Democrats signed a letter to President Bush calling for the facility's closure. They didn't mince words. ''Do I think it should be closed? Damn right I do,'' said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Now President Obama says he's determined to close the prison by January 2010, but his allies in Congress are singing a different tune. When the House passed a war-funding bill last week, Democrats led by Mr. Obey eliminated money to close Guantanamo.

The Senate wasted little time following suit, voting 90-6 to block the transfer of detainees to the United States and deny the administration the $80 million it sought to close the prison. "You can't put them in prison unless you release them," Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid said. "We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States."

Other Democrats say they first want to see a satisfactory plan to transfer the detainees. Prudence? Hardly. More like a dose of political jitters. The Democrats' loss of enthusiasm is a disappointing response to the fear-mongering campaign about what to do with the prison's detainees if Guantanamo is closed.

Republicans have been stoking security fears incessantly with dire predictions about terrorists loose on America's streets, but at least they're being consistent. They balked even when President Bush tentatively proposed closing the facility.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.

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