From an editorial in the New York Times on Tuesday:
President Barack Obama said a lot of important things Tuesday about the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It is a blight on the nations reputation. It mocks U.S. standards of justice by keeping people imprisoned without charges. It has actually hindered the prosecution and imprisonment of dangerous terrorists. Even if Guantanamo seemed justified to some people in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, those justifications are wearing thin. It should be closed.
We were pleased that Obama pledged to make good, finally, on his promise to do just that. But that reaction was tempered by the fact that he has failed to do so for five years and that he has not taken steps within his executive power to transfer prisoners long ago cleared for release. Obamas plans to try to talk Congress into removing obstacles to closing the prison do not reflect the urgency of the crisis facing him now. As of Tuesday, 100 of the 166 inmates at Guantanamo are participating in a hunger strike against their conditions and indefinite detention. Twenty-one have been approved for force-feeding.
Obama defended the practice. I dont want these individuals to die, he said.
But a recently published bipartisan report on detainee treatment by the Constitution Project said forced feeding of detainees is a form of abuse and must end. The World Medical Association has long considered forced feeding a violation of a physicians ethics when it is done against a competent persons express wishes.
There is no indication that the inmates being force-fed were unconscious or incapable of making decisions. And virtually all inmates have never been charged with any crime and never will be. Nearly 90 have been cleared for release, and another large group can never be tried because they were tortured or there is no evidence they were involved in a particular attack. Only six are facing active charges before a military tribunal.
Obama correctly said that Congress passed malicious laws that restrict the use of federal money to transfer Guantanamo detainees to other countries and prohibit sending them to be tried in federal courts, which, unlike the military tribunals, are competent to do that.
But if he is serious about moving toward closure, there are two steps proposed by the American Civil Liberties Union that could get the ball rolling. He could appoint a senior official so that the administrations Guantanamo closure policy is directed by the White House and not by Pentagon bureaucrats, the ACLU said, and he could order Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to start providing legally required waivers to transfer detainees who have been cleared.
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