Barack Obama has made it abundantly clear: America does not torture. This means that he will issue an executive order closing down the prison at Guantanamo Bay very early in his administration. This will go a long way to begin restoring America’s moral credibility in the world. An executive order ending torture as an instrument for interrogating suspects will soon follow. This is significant, as the outgoing administration has now openly admitted its endorsement of the torture policy before it was actually applied.
For Bush and Cheney, Gitmo and torture were essential to preventing further terror attacks on US soil. Never mind that the American constitution is at issue and may have been violated. Never mind that this “ends justifies the means”-policy could be grounds for future prosecution before the courts. Never mind that these policies create further disdain for America and its ideals in many parts of the world.
Obama will come to Canada on his first foreign trip. Already, Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire has called on the incoming president to release Omar Khadr from Gitmo. Should Obama agree to do so, it will send a powerful signal to his closest neighbor and best friend. It should be noted that Khadr, who has been held captive since the age of 15 and is now 22 years old, would still be tried for murder on Canadian soil .
Closing Gitmo is the right policy, but it should not end there. Respect for the constitution remains fundamental to the spirit and ideals of America. Bush and Cheney have acted in ways that brings into question their respect for the constitution they were sworn to uphold. It may be too late for impeachment, but someone must be held accountable. That too is part of living in a democracy.
Looking for more?
Get the best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.