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Guantanamo: What I Knew was Scant and False

Guantanamo: What I Knew was Scant and False

By Leslie Becerra (2/18/14)

Editor’s Note: This is one of many student papers written in response to the Close Guantanamo Now! National Tour’s Last Stop at Cal Poly Pomona on January 17, 2014. Reprinted by author’s permission.

When 9/11 happened I was only eight years old and unable to understand what exactly it meant. I don’t remember much about where I was when I saw the news or whom I was with but I do remember when the war began. There is an image that has always stuck with me about the war. I was watching the news in my mother’s room one night when the broadcast was suddenly interrupted by the news and behind the anchor in a big screen played live images of the first bomb being dropped in Iraq. It’s been that image that I think of when anyone mentions 9/11, until recently. As my education has progressed I have learned more and more about what 9/11 did for this country. Those events brought our entire nation together in solidarity for those who lost their lives and their families but it also did something horrible. The events of 9/11 made our nation hate and fear an entire group of people for no real reason. Due to the government and the media’s manipulation of events we all began to think of American lives as more valuable than the lives of these people. It is that very belief that allowed our government to commit atrocities against other humans without anyone putting into question their motives.

The talk given at Cal Poly Pomona in regards to the closure of Guantanamo Bay made three very important points. One, Obama has been lying to the nation from the moment he took office by blaming Congress for the continued use of Guantanamo. Two, the responsibility to make sure Guantanamo Bay is closed does not only rely on Obama and our government but it also relies on us as a people. Finally, the talk made me realize that the information that was given to me about such facility was very scarce and the very little that I had was false.

I want to speak on the first point made by the talk, Obama and his real intentions. From the beginning of his campaign Obama sold himself as a president of the people and for the people. He stated that if made president he would seek to close Guantanamo Bay and free those detained there but a year into his second term Guantanamo Bay remains open. Why? Well, according to the President of the United States, we are to blame Congress. Despite the many requests for the complete closure of Guantanamo Bay Congress has decided to keep it open. Although Congress may have an interest in keeping Guantanamo Bay open we can easily place the blame on Obama. Again, why?

As commander in chief Obama, our president, has the power to order the closure of Guantanamo Bay with or without the approval of Congress. So the real reason behind Guantanamo Bay keeping its doors open over 10 years later is because Obama does not want to shut it down. He has the power to free the detainees yet has chosen not to use it and instead closed down the office responsible for transmitting the releases. This is one of the most important points made during the talk, if not the most important, because it is an example of how our government no longer has the people’s interest in mind but rather its own personal gain.

We live in a country whose people are taught that the government governs with our best interest at hand but how often is that true? In whose interests is it to maintain Guantanamo Bay open? Because it is not in any human’s interests to allow any government to do what our government has been doing to these people. We are all human beings therefore our lives are all equally valuable. If we continue to allow our government to act as they please and ignore our requests we will have no guarantee that they won’t do the same to us. Obama’s failure to close Guantanamo Bay shows how the people who run our government are no longer the common day civilian but rather those few with power and money. Capitalism has allowed for money and corporations to have a say in what our government does thus the people’s best interest gets ignored. It is because of such reason that we must take responsibility to get Guantanamo Bay closed.

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0 # Daniel Gomezzzzzzzzz 2014-02-19 02:17
I feel that an important question is: WHEN did the government stop having the people's interest in mind?
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+1 # Dennis Loo 2014-02-19 02:59
It's true. If you look at the history of those who have become US presidents, for example, there is only one who did not come from at least the upper middle class, Andrew Jackson.
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0 # KG7 2014-02-19 03:45
If Obama truly wanted to close GTMO..it would be closed.
Case in point: When Obama was Sen.,D-Illinois , said an alteration of the filibuster rule "would change the character of the Senate forever" creating what he called "majoritarian absolute power...that's just not what the founders intended".
Fast forward to 11/13: The Democratic party spear headed by Obama and US Senate majority leader forced a party line vote to strip the minorities right to speak from the US Senate rules (filibuster 224 year-old vision). Vote was 52 to 48 Demo. majority abolished the rule...such debate under filibuster rules could only be ended by 60 Senators.
My point is...Obama is saying that Congress is blocking him in regards to the closure of GTMO. Obviously, closing GTMO doesn't benefit his agenda or he would swipe his pen as he did when he did away with the filibuster rule.
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0 # debdawg91 2014-02-19 05:48
I agree that GTMO should be closed. GTMO has been there for many years now and during the campaign President Obama, then senator Obama campaigned on a promise to close GTMO Bay if he was elected president. He has been elected President and it has been 5 years and he has not closed GTMO Bay. Why? I think one of the major reasons is that he is trying to keep the focus off oh his incompetence and lack of leadership so they keep blaming congress and also blame congress for anything else he can think of to keep the focus off of himself. After 5 years in office all he has to do is give an executive order and sign it off and it will finally be closed.
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0 # debdawg91 2014-02-19 05:48
During the SOTU speech, Obama pretty much said screw you congress, I don't know your approval, I will do whatever I want to do. I got the pen and the phone. If that is true then what is your delay? With GTMO Bay we were at war (although not a declared war) still a war, nonetheless, these people were captured and put into GTMO Bay, the war is over and that he has taken the troops out of Iraq. If it is over, then in any War you send the prisoners back home. He cannot have it both ways. These detainees need to be released and be done with it.
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0 # mart909 2014-02-22 16:25
It seems like all Obama wants to do is hype up the people to make them feel like Obama is doing the best he can. He will just keep pointing fingers and not close out GTMO Bay. He declared himself as the person that will make a change yet he is not, or maybe he is making a change but not for the good of the people but for the interest of his office.
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0 # debdawg91 2014-02-19 05:49
Oh and btw, Obama need to stop blaming congress for his failures and 5 years into his administration and he still blaming George W. Bush. It's time to put Bush out of the equation and be responsible for his administration and got forward. Be a man and stand up. Make decisions and stand by them. STOP WITH THE DECEIT.
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0 # KG7 2014-02-19 16:29
debdawg91: Obama's a sand bagger. Obama's promise to close GTMO or "You can keep your current health plan" reflects yesterdays lecture regarding: What was the appeal to get proletariats to join the bourgeoisie:lib erty, democracy, freedom, equality, etc. In essence, tell the people what they want to hear as a means to further their own personal agenda. As you know, I'm not a supporter of Obama and conversations like these only enhance my disgust. Checks and balances...has is lost all of it's meaning, importance and power?
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-02-19 16:42
To give the bourgeoisie credit where credit is due, there IS a sense in which they meant these slogans. They really were the rising class in contradiction to the nobility and monarchs/empero rs and they did want more liberty and equality. It's just that the upper limits for the realization of those goals is bourgeois society so equality becomes bourgeois equality which compared to the aristocracy was an advance but it's not equality for classes, just more equality relative to feudal castes. (By the way, "proletariat" is already plural. "Proletarians" is another plural you could use.)
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0 # KG7 2014-02-19 16:51
Point noted and darn it..I really thought about the spelling of proletariat/pro letarians and I still got it wrong :lol:
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0 # bmcotran13 2014-02-19 20:06
I have to agree with Leslie, we were both very young at the time and did not fully understand what was going on. On 9/11, I remember waking up to my father saying that "they crashed into the twin towers". Who had? I did not realize what was going on. I remember G.W.B telling us that it had been a terrorist attack. Sadly, I also remember my father of middle eastern decent, being worried that something like the Japanese internment would going to happen to him. What I do NOT remember is anything about Guantanamo. Not a word. I was so young, I did not pay attention. The only thing I remember about GTMO, is the Harold & Kumar movie. After seeing that movie, I knew it was a prison, but I still did not know details. I never thought to research it. "If it doesn't effect me, it doesn't matter", was sadly my mentality. I was not fully aware of GTMO until the speech given by Loo & Worthington. Being in Loo's class has made me realize that these things DO effect me! Continued.....
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0 # bmcotran13 2014-02-19 20:26
Being aware of the truth behind GTMO is very important because it is just one of the many scandalous ordeals that is occurring by our gov't. Simply being in Loo's class for 7 weeks has taught me so much more than I have ever known about the truth of our president and gov't. Sadly, I did not care about any of the problems in our government simply because I was not aware. Now that my eyes are opened to these things, they cannot be closed. I was not aware of the harm that capitalism brings to both the people & the Earth. Marx explains the dialectics of class struggles as, "in a word, oppressor and oppressed". Pg. 39 McIntosh. When saying "class struggles", this would be referring to the bourgeois and the proletarians. As mentioned, as long as we have Capitalism, we will continue to have problems with our government and the sufferings of our citizens. How can we abolish Capitalism and move to a Socialist society?
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0 # sintricity08 2014-02-20 04:21
In response to bmcotran13, to even begin to start moving towards socialism, I feel there needs to be a grand social movement. Awareness of these problems need to be brought to the proletariats, our nations working and middle classes. People are unknowledgeable about things like GTMO and therefore do nothing. Once a bigger number of people start realizing all these truths the government hides, then we can hope for some sort of change. Change in which allows for better things like the more equal distribution of wealth and universal health care.
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0 # Wolfian 2014-02-20 04:34
After 9/11 I was one of those people who believe everything that the government said about the “enemies of America.” I didn’t know much about GITMO, but I knew that terrorist were held there. I knew about the abuse happening in Abu Ghraib, however I used to think that “they deserved it.” They attacked America and war is war. They had it coming! Once I started to take Soc classes in JC my view of gov changed. Forward to 2014- I was so glad I attended the CGN talk. I brought my daughter to it. She was very surprised to hear the story of GITMO and the abuse and irregularities that go on there. I still believe that terrorism should be punished, but never based on partial or circumstantial evidence.
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0 # Beks113 2014-02-20 05:31
I know that I was not alone in realizing what little I actually knew regarding GTMO and the inhumane practices that go on there. It is easy to believe the things that the government says at face value, it easy to believe that the people we elect into power have our best interest at heart, however it is also naive and ignorant to take this approach. We as a general public for years have been told that keeping GTMO open is crucial to our safety as it houses the worst of the worst terrorists. What many don't know is that our gov't is holding prisoners captive that legally should have been cleared and released a long time ago. The inhumane treatment that is being done to these men resembles quite closely the unjust treatment prisoners in prisoners right here at home face. Prisoners in GTMO fear for their lives on a daily basis due to the torture that is inflicted upon them by the guards, where people in our own prison systems fear for their lives on a daily basis due to other prisoners.
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0 # dgjr_91 2014-02-22 02:39
I believe your right it is naive and ignorant. It is very easy for us to believe what the government and those in power say to us, because we expect those who are in government and power to be trustworthy. What other options do we have? Like you mention we elect those into power because we believe they have our best interests at heart, what amazes me is we continue to believe these people although we are failed upon time after time. When will we ever have someone elected into power and a government that really does want to do something that is in the interests of the people and not their own, that's a questions I ask myself.
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0 # Denisse Adue 2014-02-20 06:22
Before attending the talk on campus about GTMO I knew very little about the prison, mostly because I didn't care to find out. I am one of those people that feels that "ignorance is bliss." When it comes to GTMO I feel that the government is way too powerful and civilians don't even have a voice. It saddens me to think of how cruel and unjust our government is. Moreover, I know that congress can not be trusted, and they disclose very little when it comes to issues that rest solely in their hands. As Weber stated, "every bureaucracy seeks to increase the superiority of the professionally informed by keeping their knowledge and intentions secret." Congress and Obama both have a way of telling us everything we want to hear without ever revealing their true intentions. They lead us to believe that the decisions they make are in the best interest of the people when really they are only working to benefit themselves. GTMO needs to be closed indefinitely as it will never benefit us in any way.
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0 # debdawg91 2014-02-20 06:24
KG7...I agree with you and I too, am not a big fan of him. The student who wrote that paper did an excellent job. It was so good and well put together that I had to share it with my family. It really does open your eyes to the underline meanings of what obama is really saying.
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+1 # KG7 2014-02-20 15:42
debdawg91: Yes, the paper was beautifully written (puts mine to shame :lol: )
I have been thinking about the conversation we had in the hallway prior 2 class starting on Tues. U had said something along the lines of (pertaining to past/present political/histo rical events), "The political discussion (s) we have in class takes many yrs. of living to understand/comp rehend." (pls. correct me if I'm off base). I just wanted 2 say that as a "seasoned" student it's great 2 hear that u r open 2 discourse as it's thru discourse that veils/blinders r stripped away to get to the truth. Once u (people in general) r able to c/understand every aspect of a situation, u have loaded your arsenal/knowled ge becoming a well informed individual. When I was younger, politics were not important as I felt it was my parents responsibility 2 pay attention. It's nice 2 hear that u share w/your family what u r learning in school. Touché! Just wanted to give u props.
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0 # Rod24 2014-02-20 23:53
I am not the only one then that has been fooled by the govt's continuing promises & false accusations. GTMO is said to hold the worse of the worse when in reality some of these ppl are innocent youth and elderly. Prisobers in the US are also held against their will being accused of committing crimes that they did not committ. The goal is to lock up the minorities and keep them in as long as possible. I see alot of correlation between GTMO and the US prison system. They may not be full on tortured but they are definitely being torture in many diff ways through not receiving necessiyies to live and not receiving the physical and mental care that some need.
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0 # ktli 2014-02-22 21:13
As I remember, I could be wrong though, Andy Worthington had mentioned that the detainees in Guantanamo have been used tortures. The tortures are both physical and mental, such as sleep deprivation, detainees are forced to work and not allowed to have sufficient sleep, temperature extreme, hold detainees in extreme hot or cold cell as a form of torture, humiliation by stripping them, use of dogs to scare detainees, isolation, and so on. These tortures are all authorized by the U.S. government
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0 # Rod24 2014-02-22 21:16
In the book Life Without Parole by Victor Hassine, he talks about the way the system has corrupted his friends in emotional, sexual, and physical ways. In one instant while talking about his friend that was addicted to psychotropic drugs, Hassine states, "psychotropic drugs was rapidly becoming the prison administrations 'quick, cheap, and effective' solution to warehousing masses of inmates into smaller spaces, while using fewer and fewer support services." Instead of these men receiving proper medical attention that they need, the system provides them with drugs which relax them and in turn they do not have to provide the inmates with effective practices that can actually save their lives. They rather numb them and this way they gain puppets that do as they say, rather then thinking, living, breathing human beings.
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0 # katgrl15 2014-02-21 05:39
People in power have always been the dominating class that can make and determine the outcome and make important decisions for society. People in politics in power are even worst. They control an aspect of society that people find most issues important such as abortion, legalizing gay marriage, or even legalizing weed. Just like Guantanamo bay, Victor Hassine mentions in chapter 7 that politics will determine what actions are taken towards him, hence not closing Guantanamo Bay. Hassine mentions an incident where simply for a warden not liking him sealed his fate for being on jail cell restriction. Even though one prison demonstrated mere politics it is a worldwide issue that people in politics that have power will determine the faith of others below them. Obama, just like that warden that did not like Hassine, has the control in whether they want to do what is right but chooses to do what’s wrong instead. The warden used his power against Hassine instead of letting the issue go.
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0 # Ch 2782 2014-02-22 00:28
I agree with everyone’s comment above of how Obama has the power to close GTMO, but has not done so because of his personal selfish needs. I wish I knew his real reason for keeping all those prisoners locked up, at least to understand where his position stands in all of this. I want to understand his reasons, but I simply can’t if he keeps blaming everyone else for the actions he commits.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-02-22 00:32
I don't think it's personal selfish needs. He's not closing it because he would prefer that GTMO remain as a symbol before the whole world of what the USA is willing to do to anyone whether they're innocent or not who gets in the Empire's way. See my talk at the 1/17/14 program.
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0 # mv46 2014-02-22 01:55
I can relate this to the criminal justice system in the way the government uses it as a way of control. Yes, Obama could close the prison, but that would mean letting go of some power. This prison is meant to bring fear to our own country as well as other countries. The criminal justice system in the United States is also a way to bring fear into people, and keep control. Michelle Alexander in "The New Jim Crow" uses evidence to point out how the criminal justice system is a way to control African Americans as so did Jim Crow laws in the past. GTMO is just a part of the prison system that is a symbol to bring about fear in other countries, and keep that control. I knew a little bit before the presentation that occurred at Cal Poly ,but that just opened my eyes to how our government system is really screwing over people all over the world. Discrimination comes in all forms and its being used in prisons in and out of this country.
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0 # Denisse Adue 2014-02-22 17:12
I completely agree with you. It is such a shame to hear that they are holding people without even trying them. They do not even have enough proof to justifiably call them criminals so I don't see any other excuse to continue keeping them there other than the fact that they are trying to scare people. The U.S. Always wants to show other countries who is boss, and they have a tendency to make threats so that other countries will not mess with us. I don't even like watching the news, because aside from it being morbid and depressing, I see a strong correlation between news channels and the government. They both feed us a lot of information that is meant to scare us. I don't feel that keeping Gitmo open is benefitting U.S. Citizens in any way, so the only real excuse I think we can give for it being open is that it is in fact being utilized to solely benefit the government. It is really sad how much power the government holds over us and how little they have our best interest in mind.
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0 # Rod24 2014-02-22 21:23
I agree with you mv46, GTMO is used as a way to instill fear in other countries. It is just a way for the United States to prove that they are the ones "in charge", basically saying you don't want to mess with us. I also agree with the way you attributed "The New Jim Crow" to this article. Unfortunately discrimination does still exist in the U.S. even after so many years of fighting it. If people do not realize that through the way our gov't has handled GTMO I don't know what else will.
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0 # dgjr_91 2014-02-22 02:05
First off, great paper Leslie.
It is amazing to see how many of us knew very little to nothing about Guantanamo Bay prior to having the opportunity to take Dr. Loo. Either because we were very young when it all started or because we were simply ignorant of it and refused to know about it. I hardly remember the beginning of it all, a terrorist attack on the U.S, calling for a war, worst attack in the history of the United States, many lives lost, plain and simple information was all I knew, not once heard of Guantanamo Bay.
It was until towards the end of last year that I finally began to gain some knowledge about the topic. Of course, thanks to Dr. Loo. The Close Guantanamo Now tour at Cal Poly Pomona was absolutely fantastic. I learned so much (shocking information more than anything) as Leslie points out the major points of the presentation.
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0 # dgjr_91 2014-02-22 02:08
Obama is taking too long and who knows how much longer GTMO will remain open. As pointed out in the article, the government working on behalf of the peoples best interest no longer exists. That belief and trust in the government should no longer exist. We were told GTMO was there to hold those who were threats to the country, but the truth is they're not. Innocent men are being held and have been waiting to be released, that's enough, this inhumane torture and treatment needs to stop and we the people, demand the government's attention, to do what actually is in the people's best interests.
Once again I would like to thank Andy Worthington and Dr. Loo for the Close Guantanamo Now tour event as you were successful in spreading the word about GTMO and have attracted many individuals attention.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-02-22 03:17
You're welcome. Now, pass it on. What's it called, pay it forward? Pay it forward.

I do have to say that when you look at history what you learn is that the gov't was never really in the peo's interests. It has become even worse in recent times, however, as neoliberal policies of letting market forces run amok mean that social programs are going to systematically be decimated as capital rules unimpeded. As this leads inevitably to dispossession of the people it must also mean that gov't has to insulate itself more from any supervision or entreaty from the public.
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0 # mart909 2014-02-22 16:20
At the time that 9/11 occurred I was never aware of all the political perspectives that politicians took neither of all the other events going on through the world. Throughout the years I got a sense of what this country was doing. I can say that up until this quarter I was still not fully aware of all the controversial actions these past presidents have been involved in. Having been exposed to these like GTMO and the drones I feel like I want to help make a change because there is no stopping Obama unless we the people unite and speak out for a change. I believe that if more and more people are exposed to this it can make a difference. In the meantime Obama and Congress will not care about anything and just point fingers at each other because there isn't enough against them and this can seriously lead to some other huge unconstitutiona l action as they feel like they have all the power.
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0 # ktli 2014-02-22 21:13
Honestly, before attending the GTMO event, I knew nothing about Guantanamo prison, I didn’t even know such place exist. Also, the event makes me realize that such inhuman treatments are all approved and supported by the U.S. government. I’m not an American, so I doubt if the U.S. is the nation with high level civilization and human rights as I’ve heard? Another fact shocks me is that Obama is the Commander-in-Ch ief, he has sufficient power to shut the prison down without congressional approval, but he blames on Congress blocks him to do so.
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0 # TiffyWiffy 2014-02-23 02:37
The only thing I really remember about 9/11 is that all our teachers at the elementary school stopped class and turned on the news. I didn't really know what was happening, all I knew was that it was something bad. And also that my mom was worried for our family members that live in New York. Then somewhere in between I stopped hearing about the war. In fact, until I got to college I was under the impression that the war had ended. Then I learned about what was happening in GTMO. Needless to say I felt outraged that our government would do such a thing, but what I felt at the time was mostly confusion and anger. Confusion over why our government was detaining these people over nothing. Anger at how power hungry our government is ,and how these detainees were being treated. And lastly I felt ashamed of our government. No wonder the U.S. has such a bad reputation abroad. I feel helpless, because even if GTMO is closed down, what's stopping them from exclusively using black sights?
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0 # PDennis Loo 2014-02-23 04:08
You should take your anger and use it in the positive direction of helping to get GTMO shut down. If we do succeed in mobilizing enough peo in a determined enough way to force Obama to close GTMO then this would be a victory not only b/c it will now be gone, but because we have built a substantial movement of aroused public opinion that will make it much harder for the gov't to continue with black sites. You need to see this not in isolated terms as in - this place is closed - but how building a struggle around this will create a different political balance of forces.
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0 # Ch 2782 2014-02-23 07:52
After reading 1/17/13 program, I do not think Obama has sufficient reason to keep GTMO open. Obama promised to close GTMO, but has not done so just as he promised to help undocumented immigrants. If he would have suggested in helping immigrants or provided support to help all those undocumented individuals, people might have cut him some slack, but he promise he would take actions to solve this problem, which he has not done so either.
Now my problem is, who can we blame and point our fingers to, the government inability to develop a solution or the president lack of caring?
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0 # Crystal 2014-03-09 07:33
Today in society money and power is everything. If you do not have those two things then you are considered a "nobody" and a person who doesn't have a voice. What a shame on President Obama to say one thing but yet act upon another. Due to this Guantanamo bay problem, that is still an issue today in society, it goes to show that President Obama is not a man of his word. The one person, U.S citizens, hope to rely on for future changes in their future, can no longer trust because of his actions speaking louder than his words.
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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12