Libby's Stew: Gitmo & Obama's Alarming Inertia
Andrew O’Hehir in “Guantanamo: It’s Obama’s disgrace now”
But as details about the conditions of detainment at Guantánamo began to leak, the place began to look not just abusive and nightmarish but also bureaucratic and buffoonish. Many of those who were being held captive in those egregious circumstances were low-level foot-soldiers, or even bystanders, who’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time. ...
Under Bush’s successor, Guantánamo Bay has become something that’s arguably even more disgraceful than a symbol of hyper-patriotic right-wing zealotry. It’s become forgotten, abandoned and swept under the rug. No one goes in and no one comes out. If the remaining 166 detainees at Guantánamo were originally swept up in a paranoid imperial overreach, that reaction was at least somewhat understandable. Today they are prisoners of political paralysis and political cowardice, which are inexcusable.
So it is that Obama, more than four years after signing an executive order to shut down the Guantánamo prison, found himself a few days ago mumbling defensively to the White House press corps that it might be time to “re-engage with Congress” on the issue. “It is not a surprise to me that we’ve got problems in Guantánamo,” he added. Well, it freakin’ well shouldn’t be, Mr. President.
From the moment Obama became a presidential candidate in 2007, he campaigned vigorously against Guantánamo as a pillar of the flawed and failed Bush-Cheney war policy. He won the election and signed that executive order in his third day on the job, and then – once it became clear that House Republicans would be delighted to use the issue to depict him as a crypto-Muslim, terrorist-coddling pantywaist – let the whole thing drop. The rest of us, I’m afraid, mostly assumed that the right guy was in office and the right thing would be done eventually, and moved on.
... the current hunger strike at Guantánamo, which began as a small dissent movement in February and now includes most of the camp’s detainees, has shamed Obama and forced America and the world to face “one of his most glaring failures.” Military officials admit that 100 of the 166 Guantánamo prisoners are now refusing food, while lawyers and activists in contact with the detainees say the real number is closer to 130. At least 23 men in the camp are reportedly being strapped into a chair twice a day and force-fed Ensure nutritional supplement — through a plastic tube passed through the nose and into the stomach – in order to keep them alive. Three to five others in more serious condition have apparently been hospitalized.
.... Of the 166 prisoners still at Guantánamo, 86 have been officially cleared for release, either to their home countries or somewhere else. In fact, many of those were designated for release years ago, under the Bush administration, and they are still locked up.
There’s nothing close to an adequate explanation for that fact, but we can evidently blame a combination of bureaucratic inertia, excessive caution and the fact that almost no one gives a crap about a few dozen Arab and/or Muslim men who used to be suspected terrorists and now constitute a national embarrassment.
Either you order force-feeding, in blatant violation of “core ethical values of the medical profession,” as the U.S. government is doing now, or you let prisoners die, as Margaret Thatcher infamously did when confronted by Bobby Sands and the other IRA hunger strikers of 1981. ...
... whereas Obama inherited a situation not of his own making. At best, that’s a half-truth, and mostly it’s a cop-out. Yes, it’s undeniable, if profoundly disturbing, that Guantánamo still plays well as a symbol of American virility with the most jingoistic elements of the Republican base. The House GOP has repeatedly thrown roadblocks in the president’s path, denying funds to transfer detainees to domestic prisons or send them home. But until now Obama has avoided displaying any moral authority or expending any political capital on the issue, apparently calculating that it was easier to let the grievous wound of Guantánamo fester than to treat it. In terms of the long arc of history and posterity, the hunger strikers are doing him a favor.
Glenn Greenwald in “Obama, Guantánamo, and the enduring national shame”
That sweeping language [enacted by Congress to restrict detainee release] has had a chilling effect. No one can give an absolute guarantee that detainees won't go back to fighting, just as no one can ensure that criminals released from US prisons won't go back to crime. As Charles Stimson, who headed detainee affairs under George W. Bush, points out: 'You have to tolerate some kind of risk.'
That's why Obama ultimately deserves the blame for the failure to make more progress at closing Guantánamo. He seems unwilling to tolerate any risk at all. Even Shaker Aamer, a British resident cleared for release years ago, remains at Guantánamo, despite the British government's public and repeated requests that he be sent home.
Instead, Obama appears to have thrown in the towel on Guantánamo. In January, he closed the office of the envoy who led the effort to close the facility. Now, the US military is investing in a fiber optic cable to the base and planning for specialized medical care for 'aging detainees.' That suggests that some will be held there for the rest of their natural lives.
... Obama deserves his own share of the blame, and it is substantial. He can take several steps to alleviate this injustice, ... but simply refuses to do so. Having Democratic partisans reflexively claim every time Guantánamo is mentioned that it is all the fault of Congress is not only deceitful, but much worse, prevents pressure points being applied where they can be effective and closes off the most promising avenue for some positive reform.
David Bromwich in “America's Words of Peace and Acts of War”
The moral disaster of the Guantanamo hunger strike has now alarmed the president into second thoughts. In his April 30 press conference, Obama seemed to wish that he could return to the mood of the Ramadan Message of August 2009. ...
But Obama, as is his wont, declined to take much responsibility for the enormities that are still committed at Guantanamo four years after he ordered it closed. ...
... he continued his answer in a tenor of impotent good will. Of the inhuman abuse of force-feeding, he said, with an emphasis hard to decipher: "I don't want these individuals to die."
The extraordinarily vague reference asking "my team" to look into it, and asking "some folks over there" who know about terrorism to "help me on it," might suggest, to close observers of this president, an underlying weakness of specific resolve.
The grammar of complaint ("We should be wiser," "We should reflect") and the grammar of wish ("It needs to stop") in this revealing monologue never crosses paths with the grammar of responsibility. "Why are we doing this?" is the locution of someone who denies a particular and personal responsibility. A strangely impersonal stepping back has become a characteristic mark of this president's frequent invocations of high moral purpose.
When one hears a phrase like "It needs to be closed," one cannot help recalling the imperative but evasive construction of sentences such as "Mubarak must go" and "Gaddafi must go" and "Assad must go." The president talks as if he were a being who has considerable powers of action which he has chosen not to use, but which he trusts others, on "reflection," to take up somehow in order to embody his intuitions in deeds.
We have now had two successive presidents who dealt in a most anomalous way with personal intentions and evil actions. Bush did intend the evil he performed (as when he asked of the supposed high-value detainee Abu Zubaydah, "Who authorized putting him on pain medication?"), but one had the impression that he also did not know the meaning of what he did. This came out in his choice to delegate the major powers of action during the first six years of his presidency to the office of the vice president.
By contrast, Obama gives the impression that he does not intend the evil he performs, but powerful others want it so much he cannot say no. He recognizes what this means, from the point of view of right and wrong, but he thinks that his having not intended it, a preference sometimes telegraphed by a public demur, absolves him of responsibility.
It is a perversion and a defection of the will. And it fits with his being a winner -- someone who likes very much to win, far beyond knowing why he wants it so much -- and also being a quitter. In many ways, Obama is as odd and disturbing a personality as Richard Nixon: another clever, arrogant, and isolated man who came to place tremendous value on secrecy and for whom, as with Obama, secrecy had its natural climax in secret wars.
In Obama's case, too, as in Nixon's, the exorbitant love of secrecy springs from a desire not to be judged. It has its source in an almost antinomian assurance that there is no one in the world who knows enough to judge him.
There is, however, a respect in which Obama has become a stranger president than Nixon. What after all are we to make of the bizarre alternation of the commands to kill and the journeys to comfort the killed?
As this president has lengthened the shadow of American power in Arab lands and made it hard for someone like Farea Al-Muslimi to persuade his countrymen that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, he has made serial visits to comfort Americans mourning the dead in the mass murders in Tucson, in Aurora, in Newtown, and in Boston.
None of these speeches has carried a hint of the perception that there could be a link between American violence at home and abroad. The role of this president -- a president of safety and protection rather than a president of liberty and the rule of law -- is dismaying in itself. But there is something actively morbid in the dramatic assumption of grief counseling as his major role in public, even as he continues in secret his wars against people about whom he will not speak to Americans except in platitude.
Carlos Warner in “A Desperate Situation at Guantanamo:...”
We know that this is the largest event that Guantánamo has ever experienced in terms of scope and duration. We’re in crisis, and President Obama is doing nothing.
There are about four years of détente between the guards and the men, ... the guard force was changed in September. It went from the Army—or, excuse me, from the Navy to the Army. And it was just—from that time, we started to have crisis. ... This all came to a head on February the 6th when the men’s cells were stripped and Muslim linguists were leafing through the Qur’ans with the Army looking on. And this was, as I’ve said, the spark that ignited this current strike.....
The military is doing all the wrong things. ... They could end the strike, but more importantly, the president could end the strike if he took some time out of his busy schedule. He’s preparing for the correspondents’ dinner, and that drives us crazy because we see our clients dying. And in five, 10 minutes, he could at least make incredible progress on ending the hunger strike. And he has no will to do so.
On Thursday, the American Medical Association sent a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel condemning force-feeding, saying every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions. ...
Unfortunately, they’re held because the president has no political will to end Guantánamo.
He, the president, is blaming this on the right and saying the right has made these restrictions. Well, what the left doesn’t understand, and the right has pointed this out, is that the president has the authority to transfer individuals if he believes that it’s in the interests of the United States. ... And they languish there in Guantánamo while the president is guffawing with, you know, the social elite in Washington.
“Obama: Walk Your Talk on Guantánamo” by The Nation Editors
The Pentagon, which once called prisoner suicides “asymmetric warfare,” has dismissed the hunger strike as a publicity stunt. Rather than “reward bad behavior,” the official response has been to throw the men into solitary confinement and keep the most weakened alive through torturous means. Moqbel described how eight members of the prison’s Extreme Reaction Force tied him to a hospital bed, forced an IV into his hand and left him there for twenty-six hours.
More than twenty men are now slated for force-feeding, which means being strapped to a chair and having tubes carrying a liquid diet shoved into their noses. In late April, forty “medical reinforcements” arrived on the island to assist.
"Obama Can Shut Guantanamo Whenever He Wants " by Eric Posner
The real issue here, of course, is that Congress has given the president a convenient excuse for not doing something he doesn't really want to do anyway. The public wants to keep Guantanamo open. Shutting it would generate a serious backlash that enraged members of Congress would whip up.
It also matters that President Obama does not object to indefinite detention, but to the island prison itself. That is why he wants to move detainees to a supermax in the United States, not release them. But doing so would make clear that his campaign promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay was an empty one. The place of indefinite detention would change; the system supporting it would not.
He does better with headlines like "Congress, rules keep Obama from closing Guantanamo Bay" than with "Obama moves detainees to U.S. soil where they will remain forever." The president will not shut Guantanamo, and the reason is politics, not law. If you don't like this choice, blame him.
Ann Neumann in “Guantánamo Is Not an Anomaly — Prisoners in the US Are Force-Fed Every Day”
No matter where force-feedings take place, whether in Guantánamo or Connecticut, they are considered torture by most of the world’s medical and governing bodies. As U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Coville said this week about tube usage, “If it’s perceived as torture or inhuman treatment — and it’s the case, it’s painful — then it is prohibited by international law.” At The Daily Beast, Kent Sepkowitz, a doctor, writes, “Without question, [force-feeding] is the most painful procedure doctors routinely inflict on conscious patients,” and calls it “barbaric.”
In 2005, when 142 Guantánamo detainees stopped eating, their subsequent force-feedings caused 263 international doctors to write an open letter in the medical journal The Lancet that denounced the practice and called on doctors to stop participating. They wrote, “Physicians do not have to agree with the prisoner, but they must respect their informed decision.”
Yet most media outlets continue to portray feeding tube use as a “complex ethical debate.” It’s not. Competent prisoners go on hunger strike because they have something to say and no other way to say it. Prison officials choose not to hear — and silence them with tubes. In court documents, wardens cite two primary concerns: the health of the prisoner, whose well-being they are responsible for (and for whose “suicide” they could be blamed); and prison order, including disruption of facility routine, copycat hunger strikers, and low morale among corrections officers and staff.
Prisoners’ rights activists have long acknowledged courts’ reluctance to reconsider application of common law and constitutional rights to those inside. This status quo works so long as it is supported by public opinion — or public ignorance of the practice.
“My Guantanamo Hunger Strike Hell” by Shaker Aamer
I began my hunger strike on February 12, 2013. There was a time when I worried about a whole lot of medical problems that were causing me suffering: the knee that has caused me pain since I was beaten up early in my detention; my back which gets re-injured each time the FCE Team [the Forcible Cell Extraction team, formerly known as the Emergency Reaction Force] comes in and beats me up some more; the kidney trouble that is made worse by the yellow water that comes through the taps round here; the swelling in my ankles caused by wearing shackles every day.
But since I started the hunger strike, my concerns about all this have pretty much been overridden by the endless desire for food.
My treatment was bad before, but since the beginning of April I have been treated with particular venom.
They started by taking my medical things. I had an extra blanket to lessen my rheumatism, but that was soon gone. My backbrace went at the same time. The pressure socks I had to keep the build-up of water down did not last long.
Then they came for my toothbrush. Next, my sheet was taken, along with my shoes. My legal documents vanished soon after, leaving me only my kids’ drawings on the wall. They were the last to go.
And now I am left alone. Since 8am Monday, April 15, I have had nothing, not even my flip-flops.
I am meant to sleep on concrete, and when I say alone, I mean alone in a very lonely world. The bean hole is what they call the small hatch on the door through which they normally pass my food.
Recently they have started using a padlock to close it all day long. The OIC [Officer In Charge] keeps the key so no one else can open it.
One reason they do this is that, despite my being on hunger strike, they were making me take the meals through the bean hole at lunchtime, and then refusing to take the clam shell [the polystyrene platter] back until the evening meal. I couldn’t throw it out of my cell, since the bean hole is locked. So it just sat there.
I used to think the food round here smells disgusting, but when you’ve not eaten for two months or more, having any food sit around in the cell is pure torture. But then that’s the point, isn’t it?
You’re allowed only one bottle at a time, as having two is somehow a threat to US national security. That means from morning until night, I have nothing to drink unless I conserve it carefully.
I do sometimes worry that I am going to die in here. I hope I don’t, but if the worst comes to the worst, I want my kids to know that I stood up for a principle.
They waste more than $1 million a year for each man they house here, 40 times what it would cost in a maximum security prison in the US. And for what? We get nothing. They just get a headache.
They told me that if I wanted water, they would FCE me; then they FCE’d me and did not give me water. They are going crazy in this place. They are driving all of us crazy too.
“Voices from Guantánamo: Obaidullah, an Afghan, Says “There is No Hope that We Will Ever Leave Here” by Andy Worthington
Releasing men already cleared for release from the abominable open tomb that is Guantánamo — where all the prisoners are suffering indefinite detention without charge or trial, whether cleared for release or not — needs to happen as soon as possible, before some poor soul in Guantánamo dies. That, I am compelled to say, would most emphatically not be in America’s best interests.
However, President Obama also needs to do more — to appoint an official to deal specifically with the closure of Guantánamo, who can take charge of revisiting the President’s failed promise to close the prison in 2009, and to initiate objective reviews of the cases of the majority of the other 80 prisoners, to ascertain whether they should still be held.
Note: Please sign the petition to President Obama, calling for the closure of Guantánamo, if you have not done so already, as these demands are central to the demands in the petition.
Just a few days ago, another first-hand account of the hunger strike, the reasons for it, and conditions in the prison, was released by lawyers for Obaidullah, an Afghan prisoner (one of 17 Afghans still held), whose case has long interested me.
Obaidullah’s declaration from Guantánamo, March 27, 2013
I have been on a hunger strike for 50 days since approximately February 6, 2013. I have not taken any food from the guards since February 6 in protest to events of that week, and what has happened at the camp since then. That week, camp authorities asked all of the detainees in our block in camp 6 to step outside of the cells while a “shake-down” of the entire block was conducted by U.S. soldiers. ... The searches were unexpected, sudden, and disrespectful. To my knowledge there was no incident which provoked the searches.
Most disturbing, was the way in which the soldiers disrespected our Qur’ans. ..... This constitutes desecration. It has not been searched in five years. ... Our Qur’an is not a security issue and the soldiers have never found anything in Qur’ans since the beginning of GTMO.
The February shake-down which caused our strike, was the beginning of many other changes at the camp. ... We had not had a problem with having our prayer time disrespected or interrupted in many years and it has become a problem after our hunger strike. They also restricted our exercise and started to relocate prisoners to different camps.
All of these actions showed me and the other prisoners, that camp authorities were treating us the way we were treated in the years under President Bush.
As our conditions and treatment got worse, many more prisoners joined the strike. Now, almost all of the prisoners in the camp are hunger striking except for the more older prisoners in Camp 5 and 6.
The strike has led authorities to treat all of us more harshly even as our health is deteriorating. For the last 30 days, the authorities have sometimes lowered the temperature in Camp 6 so that it is freezing. Also, last week, for 1 day, the authorities shut off water to the camps between the hours of 11am to 8pm.
I have seen men who are on the verge of death being taken away to be force-fed. I have also seen some men coughing up blood, being hospitalized, losing consciousness, becoming weak and fatigued, and being moved to Camp 5 for observation.
I am losing all hope because I have been imprisoned at Guantánamo for almost eleven years now and still do not know my fate.
Andy Worthington in “25 Former Prisoners Urge President Obama to Close Guantánamo”
As the prison-wide hunger strike continues at Guantánamo, the danger — following President Obama’s news conference last week, when he finally deigned to talk about Guantánamo — is that the mainstream media will think, as they did in 2009, that merely talking about the prison in a critical manner is equivalent to closing it...
Open letter from former Guantánamo prisoners The Observer, May 5, 2013
The hunger strike by our former fellow prisoners at the Guantánamo prison camp should have already been the spur for President Obama to end this shameful saga, which has so lowered US prestige in the world.
It is now in its third month and around two-thirds of the 166 prisoners there are taking part. They are sick and weakened by 11 years of inhumane treatment and have chosen this painful way to gain the world’s attention. Eighty-six of these men have been cleared for release by this administration’s senior task force. Who can justify their continuing imprisonment? This must be ended by President Obama.
Last week, a report by the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, ... stated bluntly that the treatment and indefinite detention of the Guantánamo prisoners was “abhorrent and intolerable” and called for the prison camp to be closed by next year. Despite these findings the US administration continues to employ tactics that include:
The abuse of the prisoners’ religious rights, such as the desecration of the Qur’an
The use of chemical sprays and rubber bullets to “quell unrest”
Regular and humiliating strip searches
Extremely long periods in total isolation
Interference in privileged client/attorney relationships
Lack of meaningful communication with relatives
Arbitrary imprisonment without charge or trial
President Obama claimed he wanted to close Guantánamo and promised to do so. Four years after his initial promise, he has again acknowledged that Guantanamo is not necessary and must close. Speaking on 30 April 2013, the US president reaffirmed his commitment as it was, “not necessary to keep America safe, it is expensive, it is inefficient … it is a recruitment tool for extremists; it needs to be closed.”
We hope that on this occasion, such words are not mere empty rhetoric, but a promise to be realised.
We make the following recommendations:
For the American medical profession to stop its complicity with abusive forced feeding techniques.
For conditions of confinement for detainees to be improved immediately.
That all detainees who have not been charged should be released and
That the military commissions process should be ended and all those charged should be tried in line with the Geneva Conventions.
Andy Worthington in “Eloquent But Unconvincing: President Obama’s Response to the Guantánamo Hunger Strike”
On Tuesday, however, when confronted with his failures, President Obama chose to sidestep them, blaming Congress instead. He did, however, deliver an eloquent analysis of why the prison at Guantánamo Bay is such an abomination.
... the President refused to accept his own responsibility for the fact that Guantánamo, on his watch, has become a place where indefinite detention without charge or trial is enshrined far more thoroughly than it was under President Bush. Instead, he stated, simply but incorrectly, “Congress determined that they would not let us close it.”
President Obama also neglected to mention that it was he who revived the military commissions, and he who backed down on federal court trials when the administration was criticized for Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement, in November 2009, that the men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks would be tried in New York.
The President also toyed with a kind of self-pity when he added that closing Guantánamo is “a hard case to make, because, you know, I think for a lot of Americans the notion is: out of sight, out of mind.” He added, “it’s easy to demagogue the issue. That’s what happened the first time this came up” — as though his own inaction and obstruction was not a huge problem in and of itself.
Even so, it is clear that what the President didn’t mention in his news conference is at least as important as what he did talk about. He needs, for example, to acknowledge that it was he who put in place the initial prohibition against releasing cleared Yemenis, and he needs to very publicly drop his ban and acknowledge that clearing men for release but then holding them on the basis of their nationality alone is unacceptable. Last week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein provided some assistance on this point, writing to Tom Donilon, President Obama’s national security adviser, to urge that the ban be lifted.
He also, as an urgent matter, needs to initiate review boards for 46 other prisoners who he consigned to indefinite detention without charge or trial in an executive order in March 2011, on the basis that they are regarded as too dangerous to release, even though insufficient evidence exists to put them on trial. That is, and was an unacceptable decision to take, but the only proviso that tempered it ever so slightly was the President’s promise to initiate periodic reviews of the men’s cases, which, over two years later, have not taken place.
In conclusion, action is not only needed, it is needed urgently, before prisoners die.
Inertia — like the use of fine words alone — is no longer an option.
“Worldwide outrage as Guantanamo hunger strike enters fourth month” by Fred Mazelis
President Barack Obama has done nothing to carry out his promise to close Guantanamo. The diplomatic office charged with resettling detainees who had been cleared for release was closed several months ago. Military authorities have requested $200 million for renovating the prison camp, preparing for its use far into the future.
“Twice a day, the 23 most weak are taken into a room,” the newspaper reported. “Their wrists, arms, stomach, legs and head are strapped to a chair and repeated attempts are made to force a tube down their noses to their stomachs. It is an ugly procedure as they gag and wretch, blood dripping from their nostrils.”
The US authorities claim the force-feeding is aimed at preventing suicides, which would deepen the political crisis already facing the US government over the brazen violations of international law that Guantanamo has come to symbolize all over the world.
These techniques are not motivated by the slightest concern for the detainees. Guantanamo inmates have reported that the feeding tubes, instead of being left in, are inserted twice daily for maximum pain and discomfort. These methods are a vindictive effort to punish those participating in the protest and discourage others from joining the hunger strike. In this respect, however, they have been a miserable failure, as the protest grows both in numbers and in worldwide impact.
A total of 779 detainees have passed through the Guantanamo camp since it opened in January 2002. Almost all of them are guilty of nothing but being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As Stafford Smith explained, they were captured in Pakistan or Afghanistan and “sold to the Americans for a reward.” They are collateral damage in the effort of the Bush administration, supported by the Democrats and continued by Obama, to give human form to the enemy in the “war on terror.” The US government, both under Bush and Obama, continues to arrogate to itself the right to determine the fate of these men, in a method of imprisonment that recalls the Middle Ages.
Most prisoners are being held in solitary confinement in empty windowless cells, according to the Independent. They have been stripped of all possessions and the air conditioning has been turned all the way up to create maximum discomfort. Guards deliberately disturb prayer times and sleeping at night.
Moroccan detainee Younous Chekkouri spoke to his lawyers via telephone, describing sleeping on a concrete floor and using his shoes as a pillow. “Pain starts immediately when I’m on the floor,” he said. “Pain in my neck, pain in my chest. Finally, at night they gave us blankets. It was very cold. Water is now a privilege. They are treating us like animals.”
Many of the detainees have lost about one-third of their weight. Usually, once this figure reaches 40 percent of normal body weight, starvation sets it, with the body consuming muscles and vital organs.
The determination of the detainees has aroused the anger of millions around the world, while op-ed columns and other statements reflect the growing awareness of the political catastrophe that the prison camp has become for the US government. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who earlier had called for a ban on transfers of detainees to Yemen, has now changed her stance and called on Obama to expedite these shifts before the crisis gets any worse.
... History will record the barbarism of Guantanamo as a symptom of the economic decay and moral bankruptcy of American capitalism.
Conor Friedersdorf in “A Prisoner Calls President Obama Out on Guantanamo Bay”
Glenn Greenwald details his [Obama’s] particular role in Gitmo, and the way that some of his supporters obscure it. "The people in the faction who spent years denouncing it as a Great Evil now instead rush to exonerate President Obama for any responsibility or blame," he writes. "They insist that the fault rests with Congress for preventing Obama from fulfilling his pledge." He goes on:
This claim, though grounded in some truth, is misleading in the extreme .... Obama sought not to close Guantánamo but simply to re-locate it to Illinois, and in doing so, to preserve what makes it such a travesty of justice: its system of indefinite detention.
The detainees there are not protesting in desperation because of their geographical location: we want to be in Illinois rather than a Cuban island. They are sacrificing their health and their lives in response to being locked in a cage for more than a decade without charges: a system Obama, independent of what Congress did, intended to preserve.
Obama's task force in early 2010 decreed that "48 detainees were determined to be too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution" and will thus "remain in detention": i.e. indefinitely imprisoned with no charges. Given these facts, one cannot denounce the disgrace of Guantánamo's indefinite detention system while pretending that Obama sought to end it, at least not cogently or honestly.
But Obama's responsibility for the Guantánamo disgrace extends beyond that. Moqbel, the author of this Op-Ed, is Yemeni. More than half of the remaining 166 detainees at the camp are Yemeni. Dozens of those Yemenis (along with dozens of other detainees) have long ago been cleared for release by the US government on the ground that there is no evidence to believe they are a threat to anyone. A total of 87 of the remaining detainees -- roughly half -- have been cleared for release, of which 58 are Yemeni. Not even the US government at this point claims they are guilty or pose a threat to anyone. The Yemeni government not only is willing to take them, but is now demanding their release .... But Obama announced a moratorium on the release of any Yemeni detainees, even ones cleared for release.
The United States now has three options with respect to the prisoners who are cleared for release and engaged in a hunger strike. Is the most moral, prudent course of action to release them, to let them starve to death, or to force a feeding tube down their throats twice a day, indefinitely?
Obama has not chosen the moral option.
Pepe Escobar in “A post-history strip tease”
We have the Muslim-only concentration camp - as in Guantanamo.
As for a real concentration camp, once again we don't need to look further than Guantanamo - which, contrary to Obama's campaign promise, will remain open indefinitely, as well as some among the vast number of Bush-era CIA "secret" prisons.
James Carroll in “Americans must take responsibility for Guantanamo and here’s how”
At a recent news conference, President Obama denounced the policy over which he presides and claimed a kind of humanitarian moral high ground in wanting the protesters to live.
“I don’t want these individuals to die,” he said. But the way to respond to the threat of their dying from self-imposed starvation is not to torture them with feeding tubes forced into their nostrils, but to address the legitimacy of their demands.
The news conference amounted to yet more handwringing. No policy change was announced. ...
In fact, Obama already has the authority to act on dozens of individual Guantanamo cases that have previously been reviewed; to waive restrictions imposed by Congress; and to issue certifications needed to transfer the detainees to foreign countries willing to receive them. Any number of the prisoners could be released from Guantanamo in this way.
.... men are literally dying to have it heard — and because no one makes the case for its moral rightness better than President Obama himself. For some reason, he does not yet feel pressed to turn his moral repugnance at Guantanamo into a program of change.
Marc Jayson Climaco in “President Obama Close Guantanamo Now Petition”
Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino “.... His immediate leadership could both end the hunger strike and begin to remove the Guantanamo albatross from around the nation’s neck.”
Guantanamo damages U.S. credibility on human rights every day that it remains open. And operating Guantanamo at a cost $150 million per year, more than thirty times the cost of keeping captives on U.S. soil, is financially irresponsible. Last year’s defense authorization bill gives the President power to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo.
Of the 86 detainees cleared for release, 56 are Yemenis. Obama can work with the Yemeni government, a strong ally in the U.S. fight against al Qaeda affiliates, to provide security assistance that would allow Yemeni detainees to live safely in their own country.
Jon Stewart on Obama and Gitmo
[cross-posted on open salon]