Outrage Fatigue: The Danger of Getting Used to Gitmo

Outrage Fatigue: The Danger of Getting Used to Gitmo

On Jan. 21, 2009, President Barack Obama pledged to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The announcement’s timing and setting highlighted its importance. On just his second day in office, and flanked by former generals and admirals, the president had made it a top priority to shut the U.S. prison that had become synonymous with human rights abuses and lawlessness. That same day, Obama issued an order banning torture and closing secret CIA “black sites” in an effort to align America’s fight against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups with due process and the rule of law.

Obama has largely succeeded in eliminating Bush-era practices of torture and secret detention, which had been declining anyway as a result of court rulings, internal opposition and public pressure. But the plan to close Guantanamo has failed, with the president’s lofty rhetoric foundering on the reality of a new politics of terrorism.

Early on, Obama’s desire to close Guantanamo encountered fierce resistance from lawmakers eager to portray the president as sacrificing America’s safety in the name of a misplaced and naive idealism. Closure also failed to garner support among wide segments of an American public fearful that it might cause suspected al-Qaida terrorists to be brought to the United States.

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