Friday, December 12, 2008

Ground shifting on Guantanamo, Canada MIA

Rachel Maddow shines a light on what the Bush administration is doing to rehabilitate the image of Guantanamo Bay and their last minute efforts to keep it open. In the last year they have set down some of the most significant trials, including that of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and are now conducting public relations exercises in order to make Barack Obama's pledge to close it more difficult. Glenn Greenwald has a chat with Maddow about it.

Despite these efforts, there's potentially some significant news developing as Portugal is taking a leading role in committing to take in Guantanamo detainees. We learned yesterday that they are encouraging other EU nations to do so as well. From the NY Times last night:
“The time has come for the European Union to step forward,” Portugal’s foreign minister, Luís Amado, said in a letter to other European ministers released Thursday.

“We should send a clear signal of our willingness to help the U.S. government in that regard, namely through the resettlement of detainees,” the letter said. Mr. Amado pledged that Portugal would participate in a European Union resettlement program.
Diplomats said the announcement by Portugal was partly a product of personal diplomacy by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a trip in September. But they said it also appeared that the logjam was breaking because other countries were eager to show the incoming Obama administration that they were willing to assist in the complex challenges of closing the camp. (emphasis added)
This is the type of development in which Canada could easily have played a leading role. We should be right there in seeking to lead on this as well. It is very frustrating to watch other nations such as Portugal leading the way. We, by contrast, have a passive foreign policy as a result of Conservative neglect of the portfolio and a Foreign Affairs minister who likely has no clue that such steps were in the works. Maybe someone could ask him about it today and what Canada's position on this development is. He was commenting on the Senate yesterday, perhaps he could share a thought or two on this significant matter in his ministry.

Perhaps this is an area where the opposition can assert some leadership at the moment and push the Harper government to get with the programme.