Why couldn't Obama close Gitmo?

Barack Obama finally had to admit this week that he would not close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay by his self-imposed deadline of January 2010 — and would not set a new deadline, either.  What happened?  The AP investigated — and discovered that the Obama administration got gobsmacked by what was blindingly obvious to everyone but Obama himself:

President Barack Obama is now confirming what many have long suspected: He will miss his January deadline to close the Guantanamo prison — partly because he cannot persuade other nations to take the detainees.

Prisoners like Walid Abu Hijazi. The 29-year-old Palestinian is nearing his eighth year at Guantanamo even though the U.S. approved his release in February 2008. No one else has been willing to allow him, or dozens of others, into their territory.

This dilemma is one of the chief obstacles to closing the jail, according to lawyers and human rights groups who monitor U.S. detention policy. Most say Washington bears the main blame because it also refuses to accept prisoners on American soil.

“It’s very difficult to persuade third countries to accept the political or security risks involved, especially when the United States has been unwilling to accept that risk itself,” said Matthew Waxman, a professor at Columbia Law School.

The US doesn’t want to play host to terrorists captured on the battlefield, of course. The case that the AP highlights as its poster child, Hijazi, involves a Palestinian who traveled to Afghanistan to train in a Taliban terrorist camp.  Hijazi claims to have never fought with the Taliban, and the US has no evidence to contradict him.  The Bush administration cleared Hijazi for release.

But who wants a Palestinian who traveled on his own to train in jihad?  Hamas would like him, in all likelihood, but we don’t recognize Hamas as a legitimate government in Hijazi’s native Gaza.  Not surprisingly, the rest of the world took a pass on Hijazi as well, perhaps mindful of the lesson learned by King Hussein of Jordan when he took Palestinians into his country — and almost lost it as a result.

Congress passed laws a few years ago which make it difficult to set Gitmo detainees free in the US, and thus far Obama has not wanted to risk political wrath by attempting to do it.  He did dump four Uighurs onto Bermuda without coordinating with the UK, which provides for Bermuda’s security.  A dozen more made it to Palau.  Other than that, other nations have pointed back to the US, saying that Americans should house Taliban-trained terrorists (and much much worse) if we want to close Gitmo.

Anyone with a lick of common sense could have seen that end result.  It’s one of the reasons skeptics scoffed at Obama’s naive executive order in the first place.  Yet the Obama administration appears shocked, shocked! that our allies haven’t shown any more enthusiasm for setting trained terrorists loose in their countries as we have for doing so here.  That warrants a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize Captain Louis Renault award: