Tuesday, May 12, 2009

# Posted 10:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

McCAIN AND GITMO: WHICH SIDE IS HE ON? John McCain also promised, if he were elected president, to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. So now that Republicans are attacking Barack Obama for closing Gitmo, which side will McCain be on? That was the question Sunday morning

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me also ask you about Guantanamo. You saw that [Gen. Jones] and I talked about that. And you and President Obama share the same goal where you both say that Guantanamo should be closed. You and the president share the same goal on the enhanced interrogation techniques.

Yet, especially on Guantanamo right now, it appears that there has been rising opposition to the Congress -- to this, what appears to be a necessity, that some of these detainees are going to have to come to the United States.

So how do you work with President Obama to meet the goal that you both have set?

MCCAIN: Well, I don't know how you walk it back to the initial announcement. To announce you're going to close Guantanamo within a year, and not have a comprehensive package for how you address these issues that understandably have arisen...

What should have taken place, in my view, was the announcement of the closing and an announcement of exactly how we're going to put these people on trial. The Military Commissions Act that Senator Graham and I originally proposed is clearly what they are returning to...

STEPHANOPOULOS: That key group, the 50-100 [detainees], are probably going to have to come and be detained here in the United States, correct?

MCCAIN: I don't know what they're going to do. Because...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Would you be opposed to that?

MCCAIN: I would certainly be -- would -- well, I don't know if I would be "opposed" to it, because I would probably want to judge them on a case-by-case basis. I understand the local objection. And senators and congressmen objection to saying, here are some people that we're just going to dump onto the community.

But we could have avoided all of this if there had been an announcement of the closure of Guantanamo and the process for resolving the cases of people who are detained there, whether you release them, whether you ask other countries to take them, what the process for trial is, what the process of those that you just discussed who are "enemy combatants" but you can't convict.

That is a terrible mistake. Announce the closure, but don't address the underlying problems that a lot of us have been wrestling with for years...

STEPHANOPOULOS: So relax the deadline, no January deadline?

MCCAIN: I would relax -- I said I wanted to close Guantanamo, but I also said I wanted to address all of the issues. So I never set a deadline. But so, no, I wouldn't set a specific date until I had resolved all of the issues surrounding the detainee question, including a military commission that would be appointed and authorized to address some of these cases.
No question, President Obama generated a lot of goodwill toward the United States by promising to close down Guantanamo. But you do have to wonder, did he have a plan for getting the job done? And if the prison doesn't close down, the goodwill won't last forever.

Cross-posted on Conventional Folly
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