General David Petraeus said this past weekend that President Obama's decision to close down Gitmo and end harsh interrogation techniques would benefit the United States in the broader war on terror.
In an appearance on Radio Free Europe on Sunday, the man hailed by conservatives as the preeminent military figure of his generation left little room for doubt about where he stands on some of Obama's most contentious policies.
"I think, on balance, that those moves help [us]," said the chief of U.S. Central Command. "In fact, I have long been on record as having testified and also in helping write doctrine for interrogation techniques that are completely in line with the Geneva Convention. And as a division commander in Iraq in the early days, we put out guidance very early on to make sure that our soldiers, in fact, knew that we needed to stay within those guidelines.
"With respect to Guantanamo," Petraeus added, "I think that the closure in a responsible manner, obviously one that is certainly being worked out now by the Department of Justice -- I talked to the Attorney General the other day [and] they have a very intensive effort ongoing to determine, indeed, what to do with the detainees who are left, how to deal with them in a legal way, and if continued incarceration is necessary -- again, how to take that forward. But doing that in a responsible manner, I think, sends an important message to the world, as does the commitment of the United States to observe the Geneva Convention when it comes to the treatment of detainees."
The remarks appear to be the first from Petraeus since the closure of Guantanamo and Bush Administration use of enhanced interrogation techniques became hot-button partisan issues. They couldn't come at a better time for Obama. The president has found himself under intense political heat after the United States Senate soundly rejected his request for funds to shut down the prison. Dueling speeches between Obama and Cheney this past Thursday, moreover, did little to tamp down the controversy over the president's release of memos depicting the legal authorization fro the use of torture.
The president got a boost on Sunday when former Secretary of State Colin Powell came to his defense on both subjects. In conducting his RFE interview, Petraeus because the second figure who garners far more respect and popularity among Republicans than Cheney to offer his backing for Obama's national security plans.