Guantanamo Is Still a Stain on America's Character

President Barack Obama must keep his campaign promise and close the prison.


When I cast my vote for a guy named Barack Obama the first time he ran, one of the promises I wanted him to keep was the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detainee facility. As promised, he signed an executive order days after getting into office. But that is where the promise ended.

Although I know the president alone is not to blame for this (allies that didn't keep their promises, states too afraid of the political windfall, etc), it was one of the items that never sat well with me.

So yesterday, the president's 100th day in office in his second term, I was happy to hear he hadn't forgotten his promise to those of us who voted for him in 2008 and again this past year and that he is still committed to and believes in closing Gitmo.

I truly don't understand why Americans feel we are safer with the detainees at Gitmo. Since we rounded up hundreds (a total of 779 people imprisoned ), and released hundreds (171 remain), we have had thwarted attacks from terrorists using shoes, cars and even underwear, as well as a successful terrorist attack on April 15th. So how did having those 171, 89 of whom have already been cleared for release, keep America safer?

[See a collection of political cartoons on defense spending.]

The president said that keeping Guantanamo Bay open does not keep us as a nation and a people safer. It certainly doesn't help us in the war on terror and it gives more reason for our enemies to hate us and attack us again.

With the terror attack in Boston and the fertilizer plant explosion in West Texas making the headlines, many Americans didn't even know that nearly 100 of the detainees have been on a hunger strike. What do they want? Some want soap and a toothbrush. Some want to be charged and tried, to have their day in court. And some, at least the 89 who have been cleared for release and waiting since Bush was president, want their freedom.

As a world leader, we are looked at as an example of freedom, democracy and fairness, three things Gitmo does not contain. 

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Middle East.]

Now I know some reading this will think – let them starve, as these people were tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion after that horrific date of 9/11. Our anger allows us to forget that we too signed the Geneva Conventions. We too believe that even an enemy combatant deserves his day in court.

What further perplexes me is the fear we as a nation and a people seem to have about trying these men in the U.S. and, if found guilty, sentencing them to federal prisons within our borders. As if locking these men in prison and throwing away the key would result in justice? Maybe that is why lady justice is blindfolded, because of our hypocrisy?

We have legal systems that work, whether it be a military tribunal for an enemy combatant or even trying a terrorist in a federal court of law. And our prisons, with all their faults, keep the bad guys locked away.

But don't take my word for it. Let's just look at a few current terrorists housed within our borders: Omar Abdel Rahman, leader of the terrorist organization al-Gam'a al-Islamiyya, convicted in 1995 of seditious conspiracy for masterminding a foiled plot to bomb high-profile targets in New York City, currently a resident in Butner, North Carolina; John Walker Lindh, convicted in 2002 of fighting with Taliban forces during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and Abdul Murad, both in Terre Haute, Indiana; El Sayyid Nosair, an al-Qaida associate in Marion, Illinois, and his fellow prisoners Fares Khallafalla and Wali Khan Amin Shah.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Is America Safer Under Barack Obama?]

These are all terrorists who were tried, convicted, sentenced and are currently serving out their sentences in federal prisons within the U.S. borders. Would we be any safer with them in Gitmo as opposed to the facilities they're currently in?

Two more points about Gitmo. We are additionally breaking laws by asking (and they by abiding), medical professionals to force feed these prisoners who are on a hunger strike. And since the Republicans are always so worried about cost, would anyone like to know how much it has cost to house these prisoners at Gitmo year after year after year? $800,000 per prisoner, per year. Think about that the next time you're waiting in line at the airport. I wish Congress would.

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