- - Monday, August 8, 2016


President Obama is still talking about redeeming one of his original campaign pledges, to close the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay before he leaves the White House. If he does, he ought to leave the key on the desk in the Oval Office. His allies in the war on terror, as well as a bipartisan roster of members of Congress, think Guantanamo is still needed.

France is looking about for a Guantanamo of its own. George Fenech, a member of the French parliament and chairman of its investigative commission on terrorism, proposes a “new Guantanamo Bay” on Ile de R, a picturesque island off the west coast of France. France should expect to be inundated with fighters returning to France, he says, as the Islamic State loses ground in Syria and Iraq. The Paris newspaper Le Figaro observes that the isolated vacation spot would make an ideal site for a detention facility for imprisoning “radicalized people.”

The radical Islamic attacks in France, including the November 2015 Paris massacre that killed 130 and wounded nearly 400, and the truck attack in Nice that killed 84 and injured more than 300, are ample evidence that the tentacles of terror are deeply woven into France. The flood of hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees means the threat is likely to persist. France will need a place to sequester evil.

More than 2,100 French citizens have traveled to the Middle East to wage jihad, according to French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and a thousand of them are still fighting. French President President Franois Hollande is not yet persuaded. “Opening up retention centers that are outside the law is not France.” Mr. Hollande has a disapproval rating near 90 percent, and his constituents see things differently.

President Obama has spent his entire presidency trying to make the case for closing Guantanamo, insisting that its mere existence makes recruiting for terrorism easier. There’s little evidence that this is so. Not waiting for the evidence, Mr. Obama has all but emptied the prison, reducing the number of prisoners from nearly 800 to 76, with 33 of those remaining having been cleared for transfer to other countries, if one can be found to take them. If the president doesn’t get to zero by the end of his term, it won’t be for lack of trying. He has said he regrets not shutting it down by executive order when he first took office.

Guantanamo Bay is one of the president’s symbols of America’s unholy past (he has others), but it was made necessary by the shadowy fighters who mounted an unholy war on America. The fact that 1 in 5 of those released are still trying to kill Americans is persuasive evidence that locking them up was the right thing to do.

Mr. Obama’s war on terror, such as it has been, is winding down, and his legacy, such as it is, is nearly complete. Not so for the rest of us. Terror and how to defeat it may be with us for some time to come. That’s why his successor would likely look for the key to the gates of Guantanamo Bay.

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