President Barack Obama has vowed no retreat on closing Guantanamo Bay, branding the prison a “mess” and charging that Bush-era anti-terror tactics were rooted in fear and ideology.
Obama also raised the prospect of holding the most dangerous al Qaeda detainees indefinitely in US “super-max” jails, in a major speech on Thursday designed to recapture the initiative in a row over his national security policies.
Hours after Obama's speech, the US Senate approved a 91.3-billion-dollar 2009 budget supplement to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through October 1, but without funds to close the prison camp at the US naval base in Cuba, after days of acrimonious debate.
“The terrorists can only succeed if they swell their ranks and alienate America from our allies — and they will never be able to do that if we stay true to who we are,” Obama said.
Minutes later, former vice president Dick Cheney stepped up, in a compelling duel between present and past administrations, forcibly defending former president George W Bush's policies in his own elevised speech.
Obama insisted he had been right to order the closure of the controversial “war on terror” prison by January 2010, saying it had stained the US image abroad. “We are cleaning up something that is quite simply — a mess — a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges,” said Obama.
Obama, however, took his own swipe at Cheney, who has been leading the Republican charge against his anti-terror policies. “Some Americans are angry, others want to refight debates that have been settled, most clearly at the ballot box in November,” he said.
“We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people,” Obama said.