Opinion: Obama and Guantanamo: A chronology of his broken promise


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Aug. 2, 2007: Sen. Barack Obama makes a simple promise he will often repeat to loud domestic -- and foreign -- applause during his $750 million presidential campaign:

As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.

Jan. 22, 2009: With the official flourish of a newly-inaugurated president and a platoon of retired generals for a living backdrop, as one of his very first official Oval Office acts, Barack Obama signs an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility within one year:


This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard.

Critics warn the complex closure cannot be accomplished by waving a magic wand. They say that other countries once so eager to denounce the Guantanamo prison are unlikely to be equally eager to accept accused terrorists from there. And that finding and rehabbing an alternative mainland incarceration facility for the remaining hardcore prisoners is expensive, duplicative, likely politically unpopular and virtually impossible to accomplish within the promised one year.

July 21, 2009: The White House grants its Guantanamo closing commission an extra six months to study the situation.

Dec. 16, 2009: President Obama signs a presidential memorandum ordering Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Defense secretary Robert Gates to acquire the state prison in Thompson, Illinois as the $350 million replacement for Guantanamo.

Administration officials are forced to acknowledge the obvious, that closing the facility in Cuba will not occur in 2009 but will spill over into 2010, possibly even late 2010.

Jan. 22, 2010: The one year promise anniversary. No closing. No ceremony.

May 19, 2010: The House Armed Services Committee, controlled by members of....


...the president’s own Democratic party, absolutely prohibits any opening of a Guantanamo detention replacement facility within these United States. To underline its ban, the powerful committee erupts in an unusual display of bipartisanship: The prohibition vote is unanimous.

June 25, 2010: In a Friday bad news dump guaranteed to attract minimal mid-summer attention, the N.Y. Times exclusively announces and excuses the broken Obama promise by blaming political opposition from unnamed parties (but you can guess which one) and citing the press of more important national priorities anyway:

Stymied by political opposition and focused on competing priorities, the Obama administration has sidelined efforts to close the Guantanamo prison, making it unlikely that President Obama will fulfill his promise to close it before his term ends in 2013...’...the administration is not putting a lot of energy behind their position that I can see,” said Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat....

Quoting an unidentified ‘senior administration official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal thinking on a sensitive issue,’ the news organization says, ‘The president can’t just wave a magic wand and say that Gitmo will be closed.’

Friday, July 2, 2010: To commemorate the one-week anniversary of the Times’ exculpation of Obama’s oft-repeated campaign promise, The Ticket publishes a chronology of the Guantanamo detention facility’s non-closing.

To be Continued, no doubt.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Click here to receive Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Follow us @latimestot or Like our Facebook page. We’re also now available on Kindle.