At 11:47a Eastern, Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. As that happened, Barack Obama joined the ex-President’s club, leaving behind a legacy that will probably take a little time to truly comprehend. Just as Bill Clinton benefited from slow-developing policies enacted by George H.W. Bush, it can take years before a President’s actions are truly understood.
I’m not ashamed–why would I be?–to admit that I voted for Obama in 2008 based on his promises to clean up the messes left behind by George W. Bush. And there were certainly messes, not the least of which–but probably the most obvious–was the near-collapse of the economy. The problems in America, however, were so much deeper. George W. Bush had presided over an administration which had flouted international human rights norms through its policies of extraordinary renditions, operation of so-called Black Sites and Gitmo, torture, and specious spying on Americans. Obama ran on a platform that promised to end these abuses, promised to provide greater transparency, and promised to curtail the abuses of the Bush Administration.
Interesting. According to the AP (and others), five Gitmo detainees will be tried in a civilian court in New York for the 9/11 attacks. Among these detainees will apparently be Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who purportedly confessed to masterminding the attacks after severe waterboarding. Which raises all sorts of evidentiary issues, as Charlie Savage of the New York Times points out:
The decisions about how to prosecute Mr. Mohammed and Mr. Nashiri have been particularly difficult because their defense lawyers are expected to argue that they were illegally tortured by the Central Intelligence Agency during their confinement, tainting any evidence gathered from their interrogations.
In addition to the civilian trial(s), five others will be sent to a brig (probably in South Carolina) for trial before a military commission. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to make an official announcement at 11a today.
This announcement, like the under-reported news that President Obama has sent war planners back to the table to come up with better ideas about Afghanistan, signals a potential shift in Obama’s resolve. Neither decision will be politically popular, and we haven’t seen Obama flex his muscles in quite a while.
Color me surprised, because I truly didn’t think he’d keep this promise. President Obama has signed an Executive Order ordering that Gitmo be closed as practicable as possible, and in any event, no later than one year from now. He has also signed an Executive Order creating a Special Interagency Task Force to study what to do with the individuals housed at Gitmo (and elsewhere), and while he was at it, he revoked Executive Order 13440, and issued yet another Executive Order ensuring lawful interrogations. Impressive.
According to the Voice of America, the world welcomes these changes. That’s not surprising, as the world’s been pretty pissed at the US for quite some time for how we’ve gone about our bidness.