View Full Version : Petraeus supports closure of Guantanamo

05-30-09, 04:26 AM
Petraeus supports closure of Guantanamo
By Greg Bluestein - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday May 29, 2009 17:15:53 EDT

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — Closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay would purge the U.S. of a symbol used by enemies to divide the nation, the head of the U.S. Central Command said Friday.

Army Gen. David Petraeus said the U.S. military is "beat around the head and shoulders" with images of detainees held in Guantanamo, the facility in Cuba President Barack Obama has vowed to close. He said closing Guantanamo and ensuring detainees are dealt with by an appropriate judicial system would bolster the nation's war effort in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I do believe very strongly that we should live our values," he said. "Generations of soldiers have fought to defend those values, and we should not shrink from living them, from operationalizing them, on the battlefield."

Petraeus, who oversees U.S. military involvement throughout the Middle East, Afghanistan and Central Asia, is dealing with another symbol of American hostility after dozens of civilians died in western Afghanistan this month.

"We do not want our soldiers fighting with one arm behind their back; we do not want fair fights. We want our soldiers to be able to employ all the means that we've employed over there to support them and enable them when we make contact with the enemy," he said.

At the same time, though, he said the military must strive to achieve its top goal: "We're there to secure and serve the people — and that is our paramount mission."

Petraeus spoke after delivering a commencement speech to 38 graduates of Georgia Gwinnett College, a suburban Atlanta liberal arts school that opened in 2006.

He told the 38 graduates, wearing black robes in the baking heat, that the nation needs a new generation of civilian "world changers" who can help bolster the troubled economy, fix the health care crisis and tackle other pressing challenges in the future. And he pressed them to remember that serving the country goes beyond joining the armed forces.

"You might suspect that someone wearing a uniform would think of service in terms of military service," he said. "But service comes in many forms. Whether in the commercial sector or in local political arenas, on the health care front or in the educational arena, there is much work worth doing."

His address is considered a landmark event in the young history of Georgia Gwinnett College, which opened in 2006.

Back then, said school president Daniel J. Kaufman, it had 10 faculty members and no fitness center and celebrated its first holiday party in a classroom. Now it boasts 1,700 students and is primed to accept thousands more in the next decade, said Kaufman, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general who taught with Petraeus at West Point about 20 years ago.

For a morning, at least, the bulldozers and construction cranes shaping new libraries and classrooms on the school's growing campus were quiet as the general best known for effectively overseeing the "surge" strategy in Iraq offered his advice. He recognized that students will face significant challenges in trying to serve their country.

"This is certainly the case in today's tough economic times, when finding a job and paying back student loans can be particularly daunting processes," he said. But, he reminded the students, "achieving any worthwhile goal can be a long, hard slog and almost always requires relentless determination."