Broken promise — Guantanamo to stay open

That politicians all over the world break their campaign promises is nothing new. This week, it was President Obama’s turn when he broke his election promise from the 2008 campaign to close Guantanamo prison in Cuba.
Judging from his new guidelines, announced on Monday, on how the remaining 172 prisoners are to be treated, it is clear that Obama has failed in his goal to close Guantanamo, which President Bush opened for suspected terrorists shortly after 9/11. The President’s decision stems from the political realities that Obama has failed to overcome. It is striking to many how closely the new guidelines resemble those advocated by Bush when he was president, a fact that explains the satisfaction displayed by the Republicans after the announcement. But what else could Obama do when Congress has said no to any transfer of Guantanamo detainees to prisons on the U.S. mainland and to the civil trials against senior terror suspects in cities like New York.
Similarly, it has proved extremely difficult to send back the prisoners considered to be less dangerous, or even innocent, to their home countries or to a third country. Many countries have explicitly said no. Still, since Obama became president, the number of detainees has fallen from 242 to today’s 172nd.  The released have been moved to 24 different destinations.
White House sources, according to press reports here, say that Obama still maintains his goal to close Guantanamo, but this week’s statement constitute a de facto failure in that effort.  Guantanamo will stay open, for the foreseeable future.
The new guidelines mean that some 50 of the 172, who are still deemed to pose a security threat, will continue to be detained indefinitely and without trial. This has been sharply criticized by human rights groups. However, their cases will be reviewed more regularly than before. Others will be tried by military tribunals, which now once again will take place after a two-year intermission ordered by Obama.
Since 9/11, nearly 800 prisoners have been sent to Guantanamo. The prison was for a long time a central issue in the American political debate. But today is different. Judging by the modest media attention and the low-key reactions to Obama’s announcement, there are more important issues than Guantanamo to debate in America today.