When President Obama announced on his second day in office that he would close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) said on MSNBC that Obama had “given a reasonable timeline here.” He praised Obama for “helping us reassert ourselves around the world as a moral beacon, in terms of how people are being handled.”
However, on ABC’s “This Week” today, Webb reversed course and appeared to condemn the Obama administration for “creating artificial timelines” to close Guantanamo, where he said detainees should stay. He also objected to a truth commission on torture. On the most important national security issues, Webb sided with the right wing:
ON TRUTH COMMISSION
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s the irony here , Senator Webb, as Speaker Gingrich says, investigate. He wants a separate House investigation. Speaker Pelosi says, fine, let’s have a truth commission, the one that Senator Kyl doesn’t want. Where do you stand on this?
WEBB: I just don’t think it’s that big a deal. [...]
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, no truth commission?
WEBB: I think this will resolve itself without something like that.
ON RELEASING NON-DANGEROUS UIGHURS
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know there are about 17, I believe, Chinese Uighurs, they are called, who have been ordered released by a federal court, they’ve determined not to be a threat to the United States. And the administration has been working on plans to bring them to Virginia. Can you accept them in your state?
WEBB: Well, let me back up for a minute. The answer is no. No.
ON CLOSING GUANTANAMO
WEBB: We spend hundreds of millions of dollars building an appropriate facility with all security precautions in Guantanamo to try these cases. … I do not believe they should be tried in the United States. … We should, at the right time, close Guantanamo. But I don’t think that it should be closed, and in terms of transferring people here.
Watch a compilation:
Webb said repeatedly that the Guantanamo detainees “deserve due process.” But at the same time, he refused to accept a court’s ruling that the Chinese Uighurs are not terrorists, pose no threat, and should be released.
And Webb’s opposition to allowing detainees their due process rights in Virginia courts is not shared by everyone: Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) recently wrote about the “courage and patriotism” of Virginians who supported courts in their state in trying and convicting Zacarias Moussaoui, John Walker Lindh, and Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad:
[S]hould President Obama determine that Alexandria needs to play a reasonably limited role in a nationwide effort to bring justice to the Guantanamo detainees and close this unfortunate chapter of American history, I am confident that Alexandrians will stand strong as they always have: gritting their teeth, stiffening their spines and carrying the load required so that the American values of justice and the rule of law are not overridden but, rather, respected and honored, as is our heritage as a great nation.