Obama today signed an executive order closing the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay and ending America's use of torture
President Obama (what a beautiful phrase) has confirmed that a speedy return to decency, tolderance, respect for humanity and justice will be central to US policy during his administration. On his second day in office, he has given effect to his campaign commitment to shut down the prison facility at Guantánamo Bay.
And to the delight of those who love justice worldwide, he's gone further; much further than expected. As the New York Times has reported:
Saying that “our ideals give us the strength and moral high ground” to combat terrorism, President Obama signed executive orders Thursday ending the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret overseas prisons, banning coercive interrogation methods and closing the Guantánamo Bay detention camp within a year.
The Guardian quotes Obama saying a new set of rules will be established to deal with detainees.
"We are not, as I said during the inauguration, going to continue with the false choice between our safety and our ideals," Obama said at the signing ceremony. "We intend to win this fight. We are going to win it on our own terms."
No more rendition. No more waterboarding. No more 'no holds barred'.
The ugliness of Guantánamo Bay has been a stain on the United States' conscience for too long, not that it worried its instigators. It illustrates starkly the awfulness of the last eight years of Bush-Cheney. Whereas Obama's administration shares values common throughout the world, across developed and developing nations, his predecessors' principles are common with those found in despotic regimes. Torture and secret trials are repugnant to all but the repugnant.
Symbolism is important in politics and Obama's early initiative sends a clear signal to the world that the US is changing back to what it should be – a force for democracy, justice and human rights.
So, if you're having a Friday night drink tonight, quietly toast President Obama. It's a special day. And maybe toast too the departure of his predecessors.