President Obama reiterated his desire to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. PHOTO: Reuters
President Obama is speaking up again about how we should close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"It is not a surprise to me that we are having problems in Guantanamo," Obama said at a press conference, referring to the ongoing hunger strike at the prison, which now involves at least 100 of the 166 inmates there.
"I think it is critical for us to understand," Obama continued, "that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed."
Obama also spoke about how closing Guantanamo was an oft-mentioned desire of his as a candidate in 2007 and 2008. This seemed like something that would be done quickly once Obama was elected: he promised he would close Guantanamo as a candidate, and reports of abuse and torture were fresh on the voters minds.
So why is Guantanamo still open? Because Obama made an initial attempt to close the prison once he was elected, but ran into opposition from Congressional Republicans, who were wary of bringing those prisoners to the U.S. Not that we didn't have space for them, we just didn't want to give them rights (and they didn't want to give Obama any victories to showcase during his 2012 reelection campaign.
Now, a hunger strike, which is successfully drawing attention to the brutal conditions at the prison has brought it back into the public's eye, and Obama has another chance to close it. Will it happen this time? I wouldn't get too hopeful. That would involve the consent of Congress, and, as you might have noticed, Congressional Republicans are still ideologically opposed to being on the same page as Obama, whatever that page happens to be.
Meanwhile, inmates are suffering, and not just from their own hunger. The only way there will be enough political will to close Guantanamo is if there is a big public outcry. So tell your friends. Tweet. Make some noise. Guantanamo has got to go.