Laura Pitter writes: President Barack Obama finally broke his long silence on Tuesday on the need to close Guantanamo. Echoing comments he made four years ago — when, on his second day in office he promised to close the facility within a year — he said “Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient…. It needs to be closed.”
Welcome words, but it’s unlikely they will brighten the day of the 100 men currently on hunger strike at the facility. Twenty-one are currently being tube-fed, a procedure that entails being put in a restraint chair while a lubricated plastic tube is inserted down a detainee’s nose and into his stomach. (Detainees are then held in the chair for approximately two hours to make sure the liquid supplement fed into the tube is digested.) Obama’s words might carry more resonance with those who have been lobbying for closure of the facility for the better part of a decade, though perhaps more so if he didn’t seem so keen to apportion blame elsewhere.
In his remarks, made in response to questions at the White House press briefing, Obama pointed the finger at Congress saying it had been “determined” not to let him close the facility, and that he promised to “re-engage with Congress” on the issue. While it’s true that Congress has certainly placed obstacles in the way of closing the facility, such as restricting the use of funds to transfer detainees to the United States for trial, there are still a number of steps the Obama administration could have taken — and can still take now — to begin closing the facility and ending indefinite detention without trial. [Continue reading…]