Bush gets excuse to close Guantanamo Bay
Just a few minutes ago the British Atorney-General gave a speech on human rights. Like his American counterpart, his job is to advise the British government on the legality of proposed legislation, or governmental actions (such as going to war) as relates to treaties, international commitments and legal requirements of things such as the European Convention on Human Rights of which Britain is a signatory.
In the speech he said very clearly, The existence of Guantanamo remains unacceptable. “It is time, in my view, that is should close. Not only would it, in my personal opinion, be right to close Guantanamo as a matter of principle, I believe it would also help to remove what has become a symbol to many - right or wrong - of injustice. The historic tradition of the United States as a beacon of freedom, liberty and of justice deserves the removal of this symbol.”
It is significant that he said “in my view”. This means he is making a judgment of the policy but one that doesn’t necessarily change government policy. Yet. The more important subtlety of his statement is that he could only have done this with Tony Blair’s approval, implicit or more direct. In other words, Tony Blair feels it’s time to deal with something that is quite clearly loathsome to most of the rest of the world (including an overwhelming percentage of British people) but is doing so in a way that opens the debate without embarrassing the Bush administration into digging its heels in.
Tony Blair has said himself that Guantanamo is “an anomaly”, an implicit criticism, but one without the immediacy of today’s speech. The problem with Guantanamo is that it was setup in the spirit of another odious American anomaly from the 20th century, the Japanese-American detention camps. Although the analogy doesn’t hold entirely, the comparison does in that flimsy legal precedents were used to allow the government to be seen to be doing something; namely exacting public revenge. This, as observed and judged by most of the rest of the world, is unjust, immoral, and, ironically, un-American, (to say nothing of an exercise in futility, but we have dealt with some of these points on our UK site earlier this year).
Now the good news is that President Bush has said himself on an interview for a German television station “I would very much like to end Guanatanamo; I would very much like to get people to a court.” Ostensibly he’s waiting for a Supreme Court ruling but that’s never seemed to stop the Executive doing what they wanted to. Now his closest ally has put the ball in the President’s court. We’ll see if he’s up to catching it and scoring with it.