Just before the Nobel nominees were submitted, January 22, 2009, “Obama orders Guantanamo Bay closed, bans torture”:
With a few strokes of a pen, President Obama this morning reversed linchpins of the Bush administration’s war on terror.
He signed executive orders to shut down the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention center within a year and to ban harsh interrogations — what critics say are tantamount to torture .
Obama signed the orders after meeting with 16 retired military officers, who he said pleaded with him to stand up for human rights and American values in combatting terrorism.
“They made an extraordinary impression on me,” said Obama, as they stood behind him and applauded.
After signing the orders, Obama said, “the message we are sending around the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism, and we are going to do so vigilantly; we are going to do so effectively; and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals.”
“We think that it is precisely our ideals that give us the strength and the moral high ground to be able to effectively deal with the unthinking violence that we see emanating from terrorist organizations around the world,” he said. “We intend to win this fight. We’re going to win it on our terms.”
I wish George W. Bush had issued the same executive orders two years earlier. I wish there were a group of in-Iraqi statesmen, real Willie Brandts, who had sought reconciliation or had even hammered out a revenue-sharing and peace agreement to bring real security to Iraq. I wish Guantanamo were still on track to be closed within the year.
We should take seriously Obama’s idea that this isn’t “a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.” It’s not an award for Barack Obama, but for Obama’s transformation of the office of President of the United States.
But let’s be honest with ourselves here. This is about an American President reversing awful, inhumane, war-promoting policies that no American government should ever have allowed, let alone endorsed. We’re Kissinger, here, or Arafat: murderers, criminals, who have astonished the world by taking the tiniest steps in the opposite direction.