Redux: Mr. Obama and Guantanamo

Oh! The power of a hunger strike. Take note: If you don’t like something just threaten to stop eating over it and watch how the round pegs start falling into the square holes after all. Maybe you missed it—news that the prisoners at Guantánamo are on a hunger strike. They are not happy. Their lives are not good in prison. Suddenly something is all wrong.

It’s amazing, really, that with a decade passing we have forgotten how we first felt about these self-declared enemies of the United States. It is remarkable how a people, attacked in cowardly and indiscriminate acts of terror—directed unapologetically at civilian targets—could so soon forget its collective outrage.

Twelve years or so ago there was a unified voice and it wanted justice over the events of 9/11. All of America wanted these people found, whoever they were, wherever they were, and wanted them put to justice. Those short years ago people weren’t clamoring about the “rights’ of these criminals and they really didn’t care whether they rotted in some prison for what they did. In those days there was a consensus that having them under special guard and under special circumstances was a good idea because it was our best chance to understand exactly what happened, who these enemies were, and to put an end to it. One people came together in this resolve to justice – above issues of race, religion, political leaning, or any other divisive demographic. We were bloodied then and our conviction was that having these terrorists in a military prison was just.

What Does it Mean to Close Guantanamo?

And today we are talking about closing Gitmo. The Boston Globe noted in a recent editorial that Obama could close Gitmo all by himself with a “national security waiver.” Our president has the power to transfer prisoners using the national security waiver. What our President does not have is courage to stand up to Congress on Guantánamo.

Despite his longstanding rhetorical commitment to closing Guantánamo, Mr. Obama has not seriously addressed the issue since 2009. The president has shown no resolve to keep his campaign pledge of his first term—that of closing Gitmo. Now that his second term is underway, and now that the bells are ringing about a hunger strike at Guantánamo, he is saying “I’m gonna go back at this.”

In his comments to the press, President Obama noted we have many convicted terrorists in maximum security prisons throughout the United States, many serving life sentences, and we have had no problems with those arrangements to date. He told those present that Guantanamo is a stain on national honor that requires action. We have to ask, “why now…especially since this has been a completely forgotten issue on his part for more than three years? Does the hunger strike really change anything substantive?

“I’ve asked my team to review everything that’s currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively, and I’m gonna re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interest of the American people,” he said. “It’s not sustainable. I mean, 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, and we’re having success defeating Al Qaida core.”

These enemies of the United States are on a hunger strike. Evidently our President feels like the hunger strike changes everything. Does it change everything? Does their hunger change anything? The neat thing about justice is it is just. And these enemies to our nation have their just condition for the ideology they profess and the actions they have pursued. These prisoners say they are suffering in their military prison. I ask, “what’s wrong with that? Wasn’t that the idea in the first place?”

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