By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
May 21, 2009 – President Obama laid out the reasoning and approach he deems necessary to close Guantanamo Bay prison while safeguarding America against terrorist threats and adhering to the fundamental values of our country.
“For the first time since 2002, we are providing the necessary resources and strategic direction to take the fight to the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Obama said.
During his speech at the National Archives Museum, the president said, “I believe with every fiber of my being that in the long run we also cannot keep this country safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values;” values he said the Bush administration overlooked.
Since taking office, the president pointed to three steps he has already taken: banning so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, ordering the closing of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and ordering the review of all pending cases at Guantanamo.
Obama said, “I want to be honest: this is the toughest issue we will face. We are going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country. But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States.”
He continued, “I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people. Al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture – like other prisoners of war – must be prevented from attacking us again.”
The president said, he wanted “clear defensible and lawful standards” to any suspected enemy insuring “fair procedures so that we don’t make mistakes.” Mistakes he identified as being made the last eight years.
With the Constitution in the foreground, Obama’s speech reflected frequently on the document’s core values of the intent of our founders in his remarks. “The decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable — a framework that failed to trust in our institutions and that failed to use our values as a compass, “ he said.
”That is why we lost our way. That is why we were alienated from our allies.”
The president directed his message to the American people, Congress, our allies and our enemies. Now we’ll have to see if he got his message across and will be able to move forward with closing Gitmo.