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22 May, 2009 00:31

Face Off: Obama vs. Cheney

While U.S. President Barack Obama defends his decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, former vice president Dick Cheney has accused him of endangering the country.

Both the US President and former vice president gave speeches focusing on national security on the same day.

Barack Obama is playing offense against a ghost from the past or, to put it more accurately, from the past administration. He has defended his plans to shut down the Guantanamo prison camp and says he'll work with the U.S. Congress on how to deal with the detainees.

Obama was speaking to military lawyers after Congress rejected his $80 million bid to shut the base, which he still wants to happen by next year.

The row over the camp has brought former Vice President Dick Cheney out of retirement and into the fray.

“All too often our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions,” Obama said, while attacking the former administration’s policies.

“And in this season of fear, too many of us – Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens – fell silent,” concluded the American president

Terrorism is once again the hot topic. The U.S. Congress is refusing to fund the closing of Guantanamo Bay because transferring detainees onto U.S. soil is making lawmakers a bit uneasy.

“Foreigners have a hard time understanding about American politics, that is, in a divided government system like we have here with the separation of powers,” explains James Pinkerton from the New America Foundation. “The Congress really has more power than the president does on these things – if they choose to assert it.”

And former vice president Dick Cheney is not helping the President. Speaking out on the same day, Cheney said “In the fight against terrorism there is no middle ground and half-measures keep you half exposed.”

But could Cheney’s fear mongering really work again?

“I’ve never seen anything like this before, where an ex-vice president challenges the sitting president like this,” teased James Pinkerton.

Still, Obama stands firm on his decision.

“Al-Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture, like other prisoners of war, must be prevented from attacking us again,” Obama stated, “and having said that, we must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded.”

But where to place the terror suspects, is the question that’s putting Obama into a corner.

Despite Obama’s efforts, four months in office have not solved the divide on the issue of Guantanamo Bay. Americans do not want the detainees, and neither does anybody else. If anything, it looks like the split in opinion is only growing.