I’ve been looking through the amendments added to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 (HR 4870). Earlier today I noted that South Dakota’s Representative Kristi Noem voted on the side of civil liberties by defunding illegal NSA activities. I applaud her for that vote. Now it is time to look at another amendment to the defense appropriations act she voted for that I feel is bad.
Rep Cotton (R-AR) submitted an amendment (905) that basically prevents President Obama from transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay for one year. This amendment was offered by Rep Cotton as a response to Obama unilaterally choosing to swap Sgt Bergdahl for Guantanamo Bay prisoners. That act from Obama was technically illegal because the NDAA requires the President to give a thirty-day notice to Congress before such transfers can happen.
I call bullshit on Rep Cotton’s reason for submitting this amendment.
Back when campaigning for this first term the closure of Guantanamo Bay was one of Obama’s biggest campaign promises. A promise he has failed to accomplish. There appears to be two very large reasons Obama has failed to keep this promise:
- Congressional war hawks in both parties do not want Guantanamo Bay closed. Rep Cotton is among those who will do anything possible to keep Obama from closing Guantanamo Bay.
- Obama has never really tried to close Guantanamo Bay. It is true that Obama has raised Guantanamo Bay as a talking point many times over the years. Yet he has failed to ever try using his political power to accomplish this goal. Now this late into his second term Obama simply doesn’t have the political power to make such a change actually happen.
Rep Cotton is using the current Obama Bergdahl scandal as political cover in a means to keeping Guantanamo Bay open. The Obama administration in turn is playing political games by saying this amendment would actually be unconstitutional because it would diminish the President’s power as Commander-in-Chief. Both Congressional war hawks and the White House are content with this battle because it keeps focus away from the debate that should actually be happening: should Guantanamo Bay be closed.
Personally I think Guantanamo Bay is the antithesis of what American is meant to stand for. The indefinite detaining of people without any true means of due process goes against the principles this country was founded upon. Ironically some of the very same politicians I hear talk about “natural-born rights” are also the same the politicians that support the existence of Guantanamo Bay. If someone believes in natural-born rights it has to be for EVERYONE; and not just for people who are born in the United States. Allowing the government to arbitrarily choose who gets natural-born rights and who doesn’t has the endgame effect of reducing the potential liberties for all people; including US citizens. Government officials have often claimed Guantanamo Bay is important because our Constitution and laws do not apply there. The very fact that claim is made in support of Guantanamo Bay should actually be the reason to show why it should not exist. Our morals should not disappear when we leave our national border!
Are the people in Guantanamo Bay bad? Most likely they are. But it is time to stop pretending we as a country have the right to detain people indefinitely in an ambiguous and unwinnable “War on Terror”. I don’t know what should be done with the prisoners that currently ‘reside’ in Guantanamo Bay; but I most certainly believe the current solution is NOT Constitutional or morally acceptable. It is time for Congress and the White House to actually try looking for an answer to removing this morally bankrupt detainment center from our country.
Back to Cotton’s amendment. The amendment passed 230-184 along highly partisan lines. Yet it is important to remember the vote was only among party lines because the Democrats voting knew it would pass not matter what they voted. If there were too many Republicans parting from leadership in this vote there is no doubt more war hawks from the Democrat side would have stepped up and ensured the amendments passage.
I don’t really think the amendment will make it through the Senate. But it doesn’t have to. Debate will take place about the amendment. Reid will accuse Republicans of playing political games. McConnel will accuse Reid of being a dictator. In the end the amendment will be dropped. That will be a case of Reid and McConnel showing modern-day bi-partisanship: both parties arguing over political games to keep attention away from the real issue.
Unfortunately in South Dakota our lone Representative Kristi Noem decided to be part of this political straw-man battle; instead of actually standing up for what is right and arguing about whether Guantanamo Bay should remain open. Maybe I was expecting too much to think that DC Republicans care about little things like natural-born rights……
Here is the actual text of Cotton’s amendment for those interested. Basically if passed it would prevent the President from transferring prisoners until the next defense appropriations bill is passed in 2016.
At the end of the bill (before the short title) insert the following:
Sec. __. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to transfer or release any individual detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the individual’s country of origin or to any other foreign country.