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Close Guantanamo NOW

Close Guantanamo NOW

By Dennis Loo (5/8/13)

A major initiative is being launched by World Can't Wait to alter the balance of political forces in this country over the ongoing existence of Guantanamo, the prison/concentration camp created under Bush and continued for five years now by Obama. Despite his claims recently that he really does want to close it, really, but Congress won't let him, Obama has the power to shut it down as Commander in Chief. If you look at his actions since taking office, highlights of which are put forth in the ad copy that follows, it is very apparent that Obama's claim that he would close it if Congress would just let him, is a lie.

When authorities refuse to do the right thing and are in fact the perpetrators of great crimes against the people of the world, then all of us everywhere will suffer the consequences of that unless the people rouse themselves to create an alternative moral authority to those who now run things. I urge you to sign the ad,, to donate generously to the costs of placing this as a full-page ad in The New York Times, and to share this with everyone you know. The plan is to run this ad in the Times, the Paper of Record, on the 100th day of the hunger strike, Friday, May 17. Imagine the look on Obama's face when he reads the Times that morning in the White House and sees the names of prominent individuals on this ad/statement - and the thousands and more who have also signed it.

I drafted this ad/statement with the assistance of three others. Let it not be said that the world stood silent when the hunger strikers took a last desperate stand for justice. Here is the text of the ad:

Stop the Torture! Close Guantanamo! End the War Crimes and Violations of Fundamental Rights!

166 men remain imprisoned at Guantanamo. Most are 100 days into a hunger strike.  Some are near death, many imprisoned for more than ten years. They have lost hope of being released, although a majority were cleared to leave years ago. As Adnan Latif, a detainee, wrote during an earlier hunger strike, "Where is the world to save us from torture? Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?" Mr. Latif was cleared for release as well, but he died in September 2012, still waiting for justice.

President Obama had said nothing about Guantanamo for years.  Facing a growing outcry, he says that he wants to close it, but that Congress is blocking closure. Even under Congress’ existing criteria, however, Obama could have released most of the detainees years ago. He closed the office responsible for processing prisoners’ releases; recently banned commercial flights to the prison to make it harder for lawyers to meet with their clients; barred emergency calls by attorneys to the detainees; ordered forced feeding through excruciating means and by strapping prisoners down (a violation of medical ethics and torture in itself); and authorized an April 13 assault in which guards fired rubber bullets on hunger strikers. Obama does not need Congressional approval: as Commander in Chief, he has the power to shut the prison down now.

The continuing torture at Guantanamo is part of larger, alarming developments. When he ran for office, Obama promised to restore the rule of law. Instead he has claimed and exercised unchecked executive powers beyond what George Bush used. He refuses to prosecute officials for their use of torture, yet aggressively prosecutes any whistle-blowers who expose war crimes, most flagrantly in the torture, slander and draconian legal charges against Bradley Manning. By signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, Obama made indefinite detention, based on merely an accusation, the law of the land. These actions amount to institutionalizing and, in important respects, escalating, the “Bush Doctrine.”

In the name of “democracy,” our government has tortured at least one hundred people to death. In the name of the “war on terror,” thousands have been detained without a chance to face their accusers or even know what charges they are held under. In opposition to international law, Obama has advanced a policy of targeted killing across sovereign borders, deciding who will die by Hellfire missiles shot from drones - without charges, trials, or any evidence other than what only Obama and his close advisers deem sufficient. At least 176 children have been killed by drones in Pakistan alone and between 3-4,000 non-combatants have died in drone attacks. John Bellinger, who drafted Bush’s justifications for targeted killings, concludes that the Obama administration has decided to kill people with drones so that they don’t have to imprison them.

Fundamental civil liberties have been eviscerated. In the name of safety, fear, or revenge, American presidents cannot be allowed to arrogate to themselves the power of judge, jury and executioner. Actions that utilize de facto torture, that run roughshod over the rule of law and due process, and that rain down terror and murder on peoples and nations, without any declaration of war, amount to war crimes. Such actions cannot in any way be morally justified in the name of “protecting Americans.” The lives of people living here are not more precious than any other nation’s people’s lives.

It is up to people to stand up for principle and morality when their institutions and public officials refuse to do so. The fates of those who are maimed or killed by our government’s policies are inextricably intertwined with our own: we must listen and respond to their cry for justice. We must demand their release now, before they lose their lives as well.

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