Obama, Cheney cross swords over Guantanamo

May 22nd, 2009 - 12:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 22 (IANS) US President Barack Obama and former vice president Dick Cheney Thursday duelled over Obama’s move to close down the controversial Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, an issue that has drawn bipartisan criticism.

While Obama claimed the prison has made the US less safe and set back the country’s “moral authority”, Cheney said the decision to close it down was taken “with little deliberation and no plan”.

“The record is clear: Rather than keep us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security,” Obama said during an address on national security at the National Archives in Washington.

“It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it.”

He said the facility resulted in the creation of more terrorists than it detained, and that over the last seven years, the system of military commissions at Guantanamo succeeded in convicting “a grand total of three suspected terrorists”.

Immediately after the president’s address, Cheney critiqued Obama’s national security decisions and philosophy, and defended the moves of the Bush administration in an address before the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Cheney said that the Bush administration “didn’t invent” the authority it exercised in the war against Al Qaeda and others. He said it was clearly granted by the constitution and by legislation passed by Congress after the Sep 11, 2001 terror attacks.

He also said the use of controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques” was a success that saved thousands of lives.

Cheney belittled Obama’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay prison “with little deliberation and no plan”. He also said the Bush administration’s national security policies successfully delivered numerous “blows” to extremists targeting the US.

Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo have been met with opposition from both sides of the aisle in Congress. Following in the steps of House Democrats, Senate Democrats Tuesday rejected the administration’s request for $80 million to close the facility.

They instead asked that Obama first submit a plan spelling out what the administration will do with the prisoners when it closes the prison.

The Senate passed a measure Wednesday that would prevent the detainees from being transferred to the US. The measure passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in a 90-6 vote. A similar amendment has passed the House.

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