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Monday Morning News and Views: More Broken Promises

This morning I want to highlight the latest presidential broken promise: Obama’s failure to follow through on his executive order of January 22, 2009 to close Guantanamo. Last Thursday, the day before the promised closing date, press secretary Robert Gibbs said the White House still has no timetable for when the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba will be closed, if ever.

This is an excellent essay by Stephen Handelman: The Guantanamo Conumdrum.

Civil liberties advocates warn the President’s failure to close the military prison, as promised, will lead to “grave consequences”

Will Guantánamo Bay ever close? On Jan. 22, 2009, President Barack Obama won worldwide praise when he signed an executive order pledging to close the controversial military prison “no later than one year from now.”

But on the eve of the anniversary of his promise last week, an anonymous “administration official” told The New York Times that up to 50 detainees would continue to be held at Guantánamo without trial for an indefinite period: they were, he explained, too difficult to prosecute, but too dangerous to release.

Last week, Dakinikat blogged about Scott Horton’s recent piece in Harpers about the “suicides” that were really murders. Andy Worthington, an activist and author of a book on the prisoners at Guantanamo also blogged about Horton’s article. Worthington writes that the knowledge of the cover-up of the murders of three prisoners

should lead to robust calls for an independent inquiry, but the problem may be that almost every branch of the government appears to be implicated in the cover-up that followed the deaths.

As Horton describes it, an official “suicide” narrative was soon established, and widely accepted by the media, if not by former prisoners and the dead men’s families. With extraordinary cynicism, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, the commander at Guantánamo, not only declared the deaths “suicides,” but added, “I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.” What was not mentioned were the rags stuffed into the prisoners’ mouths, even though this knowledge was widespread throughout the prison. Horton adds that when Col. Mike Bumgarner, the warden at Guantánamo, held a meeting the following morning, “the news had circulated through Camp America that three prisoners had committed suicide by swallowing rags.”

Truly, is there any hope for our country? Look how far down the road to fascism we have gone! In another piece, Obama’s Countdown to Failure on Guantanamo, Worthington writes:

Barring some frankly unattainable miracle, this will be the week that President Obama’s international credibility, regarding his promises to undo the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” detention policies, takes a nosedive.

The President began well, freezing the much-criticized Military Commissions trial system on his first day in office, and, on his second day, issuing executive orders requiring Guantánamo to be closed within a year, and upholding the absolute ban on torture that had been so cynically manipulated by the Bush administration.

and then he goes on to document the series of cowardly actions by the Obama administration that have led to this point. Will Obama ever do anything to change course from the Bush administration’s cynical policies? It doesn’t look that way. In fact, the latest plan is to hold 47 Guantanamo detainees indefinitely without trial. There were protests from human rights groups.

“If you close Guantanamo but leave individuals detained without charge or trial you’re just making a cosmetic change,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented several Guantanamo detainees in federal court cases, blasted the administration.

“Today was supposed to be the deadline by which President Obama would close Guantanamo. Now it will be the anniversary of the president’s decision to abandon our most fundamental constitutional principles,” the center said in a written statement.

Amnesty International USA chimed in with a stinging criticism.

“If the president accepts the DOJ task force recommendation to hold anyone indefinitely, this policy will not keep Americans safe; instead it will ensure that Guantanamo will continue to be al Qaeda’s top recruiting tool,” said Tom Parker, Amnesty’s policy director for counterterrorism.

I heard a rumor this morning that the WH is now backtracking on this, but I couldn’t find a link. It’s hard to see what they will be able to do at this point–especially as long as Obama wants to “look forward, not back” and continue using his Justice Department to protect Bush and Cheney from accountability for their war crimes. Continue reading

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