Sami al-Haj, a journalist for Al-Jazeera, who was held prisoner by the United States government at the Guantanamo Bay prison for alleged terrorists. He is taking legal action against former President George Bush for false imprisonment and torture., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Havana. May 23, 2013
A ghost from the Bush era pursues Obama
DALIA GONZÁLEZ DELGADO
GUANTANAMO is robbing Obama of sleep. Ten years after the opening of the prison, on illegally occupied territory in Cuba, the issue had been forgotten by many until a hunger strike by hundreds of prisoners returned it to the public consciousness.
Referring to Guantánamo, The New York Times wrote in an editorial that the detention center "became the embodiment of his [Bush’s] dangerous expansion of executive power and the lawless detentions, secret prisons and torture that went along with them."
Obama, hoping to indicate that he had not forgotten his campaign promise, recently said, "I continue to believe that we've got to close Guantanamo. I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing…
"The idea that we would still maintain, forever, a group of individuals who have not been tried - that is contrary to who we are."
Not everyone agrees with the President. Washington Post journalist Benjamin declared, "Even if Guantanamo itself miraculously closes, we’ll have to build it again somewhere else."
"Guantanamo Bay prison does not serve American security interests," according to Ken Gude, from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington think tank.
But his reasoning, like Obama’s, is pragmatic, not humanitarian. Even BBC Mundo stated that there was no need to keep the prisoners in Guantánamo, commenting that the site would inevitably be closed at some point.
The reality is that no steps have been taken in the direction suggested by Obama. In fact University of California professor Raúl Hinojosa commented to Russia Today that the hunger strike has made clear that the U.S. is not in control of the situation, given that the administration "has no answer at this time."
According to General John Kelly, of the U.S. Army Southern Command and the commanding officer at the prison, the detainees had hope that Obama would close the facility and "were devastated... when the president backed off."
The prison was opened after the September 11, 2011 attacks, to house those suspected of terrorism, although no evidence existed against them. The indefinite detentions, and testimony given by those released, have earned the detention center an appropriate reputation as a concentration camp. Different forms of torture are practiced there, including isolation within cells at extreme temperatures and waterboarding.
Guantánamo is one of the worst legacies of George W. Bush, who showing no sign of remorse, recently stated that he felt fine about the "hard decisions" he had made "to protect America."
The legal limbo in which 166 prisoners live – there had been more than 700 – has generated criticism internationally, from countries as well as human rights organizations.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), president of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has requested that the administration re-start the process of transferring and releasing 86 prisoners who, three years ago, were granted permission to return to their countries of origin.
Although Obama may not have the political will to close the prison, he could at least exert pressure to reinitiate this process halted two years ago.