Webb: ‘Wind down’ detainment at Guantanamo

In his first visit to the University of Virginia since his election, Sen. Jim Webb (D) called for the United States military to "wind down" the detainment of alleged enemy combatants at its prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Responding to a question from one of the 350 students in Prof. Larry Sabato's American Politics 101 class, Webb said, "There comes a time when people have to deal with [prisoners] through the American legal system or through the laws of war, and I think that time has come." Asked by reporters if that meant closing the prison at Guantanamo, Webb said, "I think we need to start winding down that operation. We need to bring these people under the Geneva Accords or prosecute them under the American legal system."

In addition to discussing the controversial detainment policy, Webb addressed the class for an hour, ranging from the war in Iraq to life as a senator, including recent legislation he drafted to require President Bush to get Congress' approval before deciding to go to war with Iran. Webb explained that he drafted the proposal when he found a gap in the legislation that authorized the war in Iraq.

"The question is if we're going to take military action in Iran is that a continuation of a war or a commencement of a war?" he asked. "We really need to isolate the situation in Iraq as in Iraq. The president doesn't have the power to commence a war without Congress' approval."

In Webb's first visit to Sabato's class, the political pundit called the freshman senator "a true American hero" for his service in the Vietnam War and called his 2006 defeat of former senator George Allen (R) "one of the most extraordinary upsets in American history."