Alberto Gonzales, next to Dick Cheney, was the strongest advocate of keeping Guantanamo open. Now that he's out, this is the time to listen to former Secretary of State Colin Powell and shut down the place.
Gonzales represents everything un-American about the current America -- the suspension of habeas corpus for those accused of crimes; the advocacy of torture techniques on enemy combatants; the promulgation of illegal, domestic spying and eavesdropping; the delusion of a "unitary executive" in our government (i.e., monarchy); the deep politicization -- what I'd call the Sovietization -- of our nation's judicial system.
He has been a fellow traveler of Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, David Addington, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton and others in this administration who have forever changed the profile of this country's moral footprint.
Now that he's gone. The real question is who is next.
The next Attorney General will indicate much about the relative positions of the good guys vs. the bad inside the Bush administration when it comes to shutting down Guantanamo and ending the extralegalisms surrounding the treatment of alleged enemy combatants.
It needs to be pointed out that CIA Director Michael Hayden; the DoD's Bob Gates and Gordon England, State's Condi Rice, John Bellinger, John Negroponte, and R. Nicholas Burns; and DNI's Michael McConnell all want the secret prisons closed, extraordinary rendition stopped, anything even near the verge of torture suspended, and want Guantanamo ultimately shuttered. White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten also wants this. Cheney and his team are the primary holdouts -- more isolated today with Gonzales' overdue departure.
Michael Chertoff's candidacy for the AG job is still just a trial balloon at this point. Others are on the list -- some bad, some decent. One former senior national security official who served in the Bush administration told me today that "the battle over Guantanamo still rages inside -- and the next AG may determine the character and conduct of the Bush administration on these kinds of issues. But getting rid of Gonzales creates a real opportunity for those with souls."
There are rumblings that Bush will appoint someone to head the Justice Department via recess appointment. I find that a bit cynical -- but it could happen. Bush needs to think "legacy" and put an end to the worst that his administration unleashed in response to the 9/11 crisis. I for one think that the Bush administration -- while weakened politically now and until the end of this term -- nonetheless has a chance to do a lot that would restore America's moral position and national security portfolio.
But while Gonzales is packing his bags, this is the time to move on Guantanamo.
Cheney's team is a man down -- and the Kafkaesque nightmare that Cheney chief-of-staff David Addington realizes can be brought to an end with a concerted effort of people who remember what the stuff of the United States is about.