Issue Tracker

PrintPrint EmailEmail ShareShare CiteCite
Style:MLAAPAChicagoClose

loading...

The Candidates on Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

August 24, 2008

Share

Issue Trackers trace the positions of candidates from the 2008 presidential campaign on major issues related to foreign policy.

The Bush administration policy of holding accused al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 9/11 has clearly divided Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. Most of the 380 remaining prisoners in Guantanamo [as of summer 2007] have been designated “enemy combatants” who have limited legal protections under international conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war. Most have been deprived of judicial review or due process.

The Democratic candidates have called for Guantanamo’s closure, saying the camp violates civil liberties and the Geneva Conventions. The Republican candidates have, with a few exceptions, reasserted their support for the activities at Guantanamo as legitimate for the country’s counterterrorism struggle. The 2006 Military Commissions Act divided the presidential contenders down party lines. That legislation, which passed, allows prosecution of Guantánamo prisoners in a military court, and abolishes habeas corpus for “enemy combatants.”  The Democratic candidates in Congress voted across the board against the act, while nearly all of the Republican candidates serving in Congress voted to pass it. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has been steadily reducing the number of detainees and has been seeking to return dozens of cleared prisoners to their countries of origin. It has also considered closing Guantanamo and moving the prisoners to other detention centers.

Democratic Ticket on Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

Barack Obama
Democratic Party Nominee - President

President Obama says Guantanamo should be closed and habeas corpus (AP) should be restored for the detainees. He says the United States should have "developed a real military system of justice that would sort out the suspected terrorists from the accidentally accused."

In June 2008, Obama praised (NYT) a Supreme Court decision allowing Guantanamo prisoners to challenge their detention in civilian courts. He called the ruling "an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus."

In February 2008, Obama criticized the prosecution of six Guantanamo detainees charged with involvement in the 9/11 attacks. He said the trials are "too important to be held in a flawed military commission system that has failed to convict anyone of a terrorist act since the 9/11 attacks and that has been embroiled in legal challenges" (SFChron). Instead, Obama said, the men should be tried in a U.S. criminal court or by a military court-martial.

Obama voted against the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (PDF).

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Democratic Party Nominee - Vice President

For years, Sen. Biden (D-DE) has been calling for the prison camp at Guantanamo to be shut down, saying it has "become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world."

Biden says the prisoners should be moved to the maximum security military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He has cosponsored legislation that would release all Guantanamo prisoners who have not been charged. This would mean releasing nearly all the prisoners.

Biden praised the Supreme Court's June 2008 decision that Guantanamo prisoners have the constitutional right to contest their detention in federal courts. He called the ruling "an important and much-needed check by a co-equal branch of government on an Administration which has shown utter contempt for the rule of law."

Biden voted against the Military Commissions Act.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Republican Ticket on Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

John McCain
Republican Party Nominee - President

Sen. McCain (R-AZ), himself a former longtime prisoner of war, was one of just two Republican presidential candidates to say Guantanamo should be shut down. He thinks the prisoners should be moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In a March 2008 speech, McCain said the United States should "close Guantanamo and work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control."

McCain sponsored anti-torture legislation, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, and was a primary backer of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (PDF).

In June 2008, McCain criticized a Supreme Court ruling allowing Guantanamo prisoners to challenge their detention in civilian courts. He called the ruling "one of the biggest mistakes that's been made in terms of our ability to defend our nation in a long, long time."

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Sarah Palin
Republican Party Nominee - Vice President

Palin's stance on military tribunals and Guantanamo Bay is unknown.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Democratic Primary Candidates on Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Democratic Primary Candidate

Sen. Clinton (D-NY) says the prison camp at Guantanamo should be closed. Clinton is a cosponsor of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) bill to close Guantanamo and transfer the prisoners either to their home countries, to an international legal tribunal, or to a civilian or military facility in the United States. The bill also mandates that the prisoners must be charged formally if they are brought to the United States.

Clinton voted against the Military Commissions Act because, she said, "in the process of accomplishing what is essential for our security we must hold onto our values and set an example we can point to with pride and not shame."

Editor's Note: Sen. Clinton withdrew her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on June 7, 2008.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Christopher J. Dodd
Democratic Primary Candidate

Sen. Dodd (D-CT), like the other Democratic candidates, says the detention center at Guantanamo should be shut down. With Biden, Dodd is a cosponsor of Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Closure Act of 2007. He also cosponsors Sen. Feinstein’s similar bill to close the prison camp.

Dodd voted against the Military Commissions Act, which he said “does not provide a credible process for bringing suspected terrorists to justice.”

Editor's Note: Sen. Dodd withdrew his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on January 3, 2008.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

John Edwards
Democratic Primary Candidate

Edwards called the operations at Guantanamo Bay one of the “worst abuses and biggest mistakes of [Bush’s] administration” in a May 2007 speech before the Council on Foreign Relations. In that speech, Edwards said if elected, he would “close Guantanamo Bay, restore habeas corpus, and ban torture.”

Editor's note: Edwards dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination on January 30, 2008.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Mike Gravel
Democratic Primary Candidate

Gravel says he would “raze” Guantanamo if elected. “We must tell the world that the United States does not stand for torture. It is unacceptable human behavior,” he says.

Editor's Note: Mike Gravel ended his bid for the Democraticnomination on March 26, 2008. He then ran for the LibertarianParty's presidential nomination before announcing the end ofhis political career on May 25, 2008.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Dennis Kucinich
Democratic Primary Candidate

Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) says the problems at Guantánamo are symptomatic of the larger issues at play in the Iraq war. “You could close Guantanamo; that’s a good move—but until the United States ends the occupation (of Iraq), we will still have this war,” he says.

In June 2007, Kucinich cosigned with 145 other members of the House a letter urging President Bush to close Guantanamo and transfer the prisoners (McClatchy) to military detention facilities in the United States.

Kucinich voted against the Military Commissions Act.

Editor's Note: Rep. Kucinich withdrew his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on January 25, 2008.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Bill Richardson
Democratic Primary Candidate

Richardson advocates closing the prison camp. “Prisoner abuse, torture, secret prisons, renditions, and evasion of the Geneva conventions must have no place in our policy. If we want Muslims to open to us, we should start by closing Guantanamo,” he said in a February 2007 speech before the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Editor's Note: Richardson withdrew his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination on January 10, 2008.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Republican Primary Candidates on Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

Sam Brownback
Republican Primary Candidate

Sen. Brownback (R-KS) supports keeping Guantanamo Bay’s prison camp open. He is in an uncommon position for a presidential candidate because the Fort Leavenworth military prison in his state is one location where detainees may be transferred should Guantanamo close down. In response to that suggestion, Brownback said, “Given the investment we have made in a secure facility at Guantanamo, far away from U.S. residents, the administration needs to make a much more compelling case that a detainee transfer is a justifiable use of resources, that it can be completed safely, and that it can be done without significant impact on local communities.”

Brownback voted for the Military Commissions Act.

Editor's Note: Sen. Brownback withdrew his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination on October 19, 2007.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Rudy Giuliani
Republican Primary Candidate

Giuliani supports the detention camp at Guantanamo. He said in a June 2007 interview with the Wall Street Journal that he believes the allegations of prisoner mistreatment at Guantanamo have “been grossly exaggerated, and many of the reports that I see are that it's not terribly different from any other prisons.”

Editor's note: Giuliani dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on January 31, 2008.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Mike Huckabee
Republican Primary Candidate

Huckabee, who has visited Guantanamo, says the facility is better than some prisons in the United States and that some U.S. prisoners would “love to be in a facility more like Guantanamo.” Huckabee in June 2007 also warned against releasing its prisoners. “If we let somebody out and it turns out that they come and fly an airliner into one of our skyscrapers, we're going to be asking how come we didn't stop them, we had them detained,” he said. "If we're going to make a mistake right now, let's make it on the side of protecting the American people.”

Still, in December 2007, Huckabee expressed concern that Guantanamo has become "a distraction from our Global War on Terror." He said another facility, "like Fort Leavenworth, can serve the same purpose without the controversy."

Editor's Note: Huckabee withdrew his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on March 4, 2008.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Duncan Hunter
Republican Primary Candidate

Rep. Hunter (R-CA) has spoken out against any attempts to close Guantanamo. His primary grievance is that transferring detainees to facilities in the United States would allow detainees to “acquire minimal rights under the Constitution, in particular, the right to habeas corpus.” He warned that this would stall the military commission process “for the foreseeable future, and none of the detainees at Guantanamo would be brought to justice” (UPI).

Hunter has also denied the mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. In a 2005 interview, he read reporters a menu for Guantánamo prisoners’ meals that included “honey-glazed chicken” and “lemon-baked fish.” The detainees, he said, have “never been more comfortable in their lives” (San Diego Union-Tribune).

Hunter voted for the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Editor's note: Hunter dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on January 19, 2008.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Ron Paul
Republican Primary Candidate

When asked where he stands on Guantanamo in June 2007, Rep. Paul (R-TX) replied, "Shut it down" (Muckraker Report). "This is an issue that flies in the face of our civic and legal traditions as outlined in the Constitution." he said.

Paul voted against the Military Commissions Act.

Editor's Note: Rep. Paul withdrew his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on June 12, 2008.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Mitt Romney
Republican Primary Candidate

Romney not only supports the existence of the prison, he said in a May 2007 Republican debate, "we ought to double Guantanamo." He also said "enhanced interrogation techniques," though not torture, should be used there.

Romney has also downplayed allegations of prisoner mistreatment in Guantanamo. "The food down there is unbelievable. This is not this gulag; this is a modern prison which treats people with dignity and respect," Romney said.

Editor's note: Romney dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on February 7, 2008.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Tom Tancredo
Republican Primary Candidate

Rep. Tancredo (R-CO) is in favor of keeping Guantanamo open. He voted for the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Editor's Note: Congressman Tancredo formally withdrew his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination on December 20, 2007.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.

Tommy Thompson
Republican Primary Candidate

Thompson says Guantanamo should remain open.

Editor's note: Thompson dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination on August 12, 2007.

Click here for this candidate's position on other top foreign policy issues.