Monday, May 08, 2006

Bush: Guantanamo should close

Speaking on German television, President Bush said he wants to close the Gitmo detention facility.

"Obviously, the Guantanamo issue is a sensitive issue for people," Bush told ARD German television. "I very much would like to end Guantanamo; I very much would like to get people to a court.

"And we're waiting for our Supreme Court to give us a decision as to whether the people need to have a fair trial in a civilian court or in a military court," he said in a transcript released Sunday.

This is remarkable for two reasons: Bush essentially admitting that Gitmo is an embarassment, and his apparent willingness to given detainees civilian trials if the Supreme Court disallows military tribunals -- as it should and hopefully will do.

It would be easy to dismiss this as rearguard damage control, given that the question is in the Supreme Court's hands now. Cynics might point out that Bush was free, any time in the last four years, to charge detainees in civilian court. Instead he set up the tribunals and kept people detained without charge or trial while he fought the tribunal concept all the way to the top.

You might be right. But what you also have is the administration admitting, however obliquely, a mistake. And you have Bush signaling that he will not stonewall the situation if the Supreme Court ruling goes against him. And you have, for the first time, the prospect that detainees will get their day in court sooner rather than later.

But most importantly I think there's now a sense that we have learned our lesson, and Gitmo will go down in history as a terrible idea, not to be readily repeated again.

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