Obama Renews Efforts To Close Gitmo: ‘I Don’t Want These Individuals To Die’

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that he is renewing efforts to close the controversial military prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in light of the hunger strike being observed by 100 of the site’s 166 inmates.

“I don’t want these individuals to die,” Obama said of the hunger strike participants. “Obviously the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. But I think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this? Why are we doing this?”

President Obama continued:

“The notion that we’re going to continue to keep over 100 individuals in a no-man’s land in perpetuity — even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, we’re having success defeating al Qaeda, we’ve kept the pressure up on all these transnational terrorist networks, when we’ve transferred detention authority in Afghanistan — the idea that we would still maintain, forever, a group of individuals who have not been tried, that’s contrary to who we are, it’s contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.”

Obama called Gitmo a “lingering problem” that is “going to fester,” and admitted that it will be difficult to push closure.

“Now, it’s a hard case to make, because for a lot of Americans, the notion is out of sight, out of mind, and it’s easy to demagogue the issue,” he said.

He’s right, too. According to a 2010 poll, 55 percent of Americans favor keeping Gitmo open, with only 32 percent in favor of closing it. The remaining 13 percent didn’t know how to answer.

Additionally, several observers earlier this year argued that Gitmo’s continued operation is necessary, even if it is a necessary evil.

Writing for CNN, former attorney general Edwin Meese III argued that Gitmo has been “invaluable” during the War on Terror, which he conceded is “different from all previous wars in the sense that we would need to rely more on tactical and strategic intelligence to thwart and defeat the enemy than traditional military might.”

He also argues that under the “law of war,” the capture of enemy combatants is fair play, and as applicable to al Qaeda as to Nazi POWs in WWII.

He also says that neither the Bush nor the Obama administration have provided a feasible alternative to Gitmo, which would need to be considered before the site’s closure.

For the New York Times, Jennifer Daskal, a Department of Justice lawyer and former member of the “Al Qaeda 7,” a group of DOJ members who advocated the closure of Gitmo, reverses her opinion, arguing that Gitmo should stay open after all.

She makes a case that Gitmo’s continued operation isn’t really our fault, because nothing can really be done about it. Under an Obama administration review, many prisoners were found too dangerous to be released or unable to be prosecuted. Others cleared for transfer have been delayed due to increasing instability in home countries like Yemen.

What do you think? Should Gitmo close, or should it stay open?

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