Today marks 10-years since American authorities began detaining enemy combatants and other prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. A decade since the doors opened, why are people still held there, even after Obama vowed to close the facility?
“We’re hypocrites,” Jason Leopold of TruthOut.org told RT. President Barack Obama said time and time again both during his campaign and during the early days of his administration that he would close down Guantanamo after a series of human rights scandals rocked the institution. Obama went on the record to say he would restore habeas corpus in the country, reminded Leopold, but “the administration has actually fought every habeas corpus case that has appeared in a DC courtroom,” he added.
“We’re very good at preaching but not practicing what we’re preaching.”
In his early day in office, Obama successfully passed legislation that ended military tribunals at Gitmo; last week, however, the facility saw its first military trial in months, and with hundreds of detainees still held behind bars without legal assistance or representation, there is no telling when they will be tried like they should be. Should the US be weary of how others perceive America given the circumstances? According to Leopold, both the country’s integrity and credibility are at stake.
“There is a lot of rhetoric; there are a lot of promises that have been made,” said Leopold. “Certainly Obama does not bear all of the blame. Congress has voted time and again to withhold funding that would have allowed some of these trials to take place . . . as well as providing the Defense Department with the money to shut down Guantanamo,” he said. In the end, however, deals between lawmakers and other officials have kept Obama’s promise from going fulfilled, insuring that the world’s most expensive prison remains open, much to the chagrin of human rights activists and advocates worldwide.
A document dump from Wikileaks earlier this year confirmed what many had thought — that some of the detainees at the prison had been held without reason. According to Leopold, it was very clear that America was holding innocent prisoners. He said that they “were basically sold to the US for a bounty,” and although the US has since cleared a number of detainees for release, the tally of those behind bars is devastating.
With the leading GOP candidates for the presidency wanting to continue operation of the prison and keep “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding on the books, next year’s election could mean that the closure of Gitmo could be a long way coming. Leopold isn’t the only one who says that waterboarding isn’t an effective form of getting intellect from detainees—Donald Rumsfeld and Ron Paul are among public figures who have agreed likewise — but as it stands right now, with or without a promise from President Obama, Gitmo could keep its doors open to new detainees for years to come.