Group Tries to Blunt Right Wing on Closing Gitmo

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by
Associated Press

Group Tries to Blunt Right Wing on Closing Gitmo

by
Pamela Hess

WASHINGTON - A group of retired generals and war veterans has
launched a national campaign to rally support for White House plans to
shutter the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

President
Barack Obama pledged to close the jail by January, but logistical woes
and Republican roadblocks on Capitol Hill have made fulfilling that
promise less likely. Much of resistance has been whipped up by former
Vice President Dick Cheney, who warns that closing the prison would
endanger national security.

The campaign, Close Gitmo Now,
includes a relatively modest $100,000 ad buy on cable channels
Wednesday, its message exhorting Congress to reject the "failed
Bush-Cheney policies."

Obama won a modest victory Tuesday when
Congress approved for his signature a plan to allow the government to
continue to transfer Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. for prosecution.
The plan was part of a larger $44.1 billion budget bill for the
Homeland Security Department.

Tom Andrews, a former congressman
from Maine who founded Close Gitmo Now, told reporters he is hoping for
grass-roots support and donations to pay for future ad campaigns that
will target the congressional districts of those on Capitol Hill who
foment fear about closing the jail and bringing the prisoners to the
U.S. to stand trial.

Andrews said 145 terrorists have been
convicted in federal courts since 2001 without a similar outcry from
Republicans, and the jail continues to be a recruiting tool for
al-Qaida.

Andrews hopes his group will be a countervailing voice
to the right wing, shifting media coverage away from the dangers of
closing the jail to the danger of it remaining a symbol of American
torture to would-be extremists.

"The campaign we launch today will not rest until the fear-mongering has been silenced," he said.

A
group opposing the closure of the prison, Keep America Safe, said in a
statement Tuesday that those held at Guantanamo are dedicated to
killing Americans.

"Guantanamo Bay is a secure, safe, humane
facility where terrorists can be held, and when appropriate, tried,"
said the group's board of directors, which includes the former vice
president's daughter Liz Cheney. "Americans expect their President to
defend them from terrorists, not usher terrorists into the homeland."

Administration
officials have recently conceded that they will probably be unable to
meet Obama's promised deadline. The administration brought in senior
White House adviser Peter Rouse to help supervise the flagging
Guantanamo review.

Andrews said the White House is aware of his group's effort but has not seen the ads and is not coordinating the campaign.

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