Friday, March 23, 2007

Gates, Gonzales, & Gitmo

Soon after he was confirmed as Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates began to advocate closing down Guantanamo Bay, according to The New York Times, reports. He argued that the base "had become so tainted abroad that legal proceedings at Guantanamo would be viewed as illegitimate."

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice backed him up. But they had a powerful contingent opposing them:

Mr. Gates’s arguments were rejected after Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and some other government lawyers expressed strong objections to moving detainees to the United States, a stance that was backed by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, administration officials said.

...[T]he high-level discussions about closing Guantánamo came to a halt after Mr. Bush rejected the approach, although officials at the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department continue to analyze options for the detention of terrorism suspects.
The main logic for Cheney's and Gonzales' opposition was two-fold. First and foremost was the reason that Gitmo was created, because bringing the prisoners to American soil would make things much more complicated -- because of American law. Second was that, even though Bush has said that he wants to eventually close Gitmo, "closing it would be seen as a public admission of an incorrect policy" (i.e. much better for Bush to go back on his word than reverse a disastrous policy).

For now, Gates and Rice are on the losing side of the debate. But that might not last too much longer:

Even so, one senior administration official who favors the closing of the facility said the battle might be renewed.
“Let’s see what happens to Gonzales,” that official said, referring to speculation that Mr. Gonzales will be forced to step down, or at least is significantly weakened, because of the political uproar over the dismissal of United States attorneys. “I suspect this one isn’t over yet.”
Yeah, well, maybe. I personally don't think that this President is smart enough to cut bait and dump Alberto Gonzales before this investigation creeps its way into the Oval Office.