More Than a Symbol

With the stroke of a pen, President Obama fulfilled a campaign pledge this week, closing within the year the infamous Guantánamo Bay prison facility and the apparent abuses carried out under the Bush administration.

The symbolism of this gesture is powerful, for it stands as a reminder that Americans value the sanctity of the rule of law and judicial review. But now the cold reality sets in — what are we going to do with the remaining 250 detainees?

It’s not a question that’s easily answered. We sure can’t bring them to our nation’s shores. As much as we want to give them their legal rights, it doesn’t mean we should bring dangerous suspected terrorists to, say, Kansas.

Other countries aren’t as eager to house them, either. Several nations approached with the idea have resisted, citing myriad reasons. And now another wrinkle has formed. Just this week, a former Gitmo Bay detainee had emerged as the No. 2 leader of al Qaeda in the terrorist group’s Yemeni branch.

You heard right, the militant named Said al-Shihri was accused of the deadly bombing of the American embassy in Yemen’s capital just last year. He was released to the Saudis in 2007, and, according to The New York Times, passed through a so-called “rehab program” for former jihadists and was then cut loose on his merry way. Now he’s quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys of al Qaeda’s NFL, and somehow we missed all of that.

“The lesson here is, whoever receives former Guantánamo detainees needs to keep a close eye on them,” an American intelligence officer told the Times.

A close eye indeed. I hope the Obama administration has a plan to deal with these 250 detainees who are just chomping at the bit to get back to work. One thing is certain, closing Gitmo was only the beginning of our troubles, not the end.


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