Gitmo bringing bad name to US: Obama
WASHINGTON (PAN): The continued existence of Guantanamo terrorist detention center is bringing bad name to the US and sends a signal overseas that America is flouting rule of law, President Barack Obama said on Thursday.
Renewing his call to the Congress to close down the detention center in Cuba, Obama said Gitmo had become a symbol around the world for an America that flouted the rule of law. "Our allies won't cooperate with us if they think a terrorist will end up at Gitmo,” Obama said in his major policy speech on counter terrorism.
“History will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future 10 years from now or 20 years from now when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country,” Obama said in his speech at the National Defense University.
“Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike. I'm willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it's worth being passionate about. Is this who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave our children?” he asked the audience.
“Our sense of justice is stronger than that,” he noted and then listed out some of the terrorists who have been recently tried in US courts. “We have prosecuted scores of terrorists in our
courts,” he said.
Obama said he has tried his best to close down Gitmo, but this is being blocked by the Congress due to opposition from Republican lawmakers.
“During a time of budget cuts, we spend id="mce_marker"50 million each year to imprison 166 people, almost a million dollars per prisoner. And the Department of Defense estimates that we must spend another $200 million to keep Gitmo open at a time when we are cutting investments in education and research here at home and when the Pentagon is struggling is struggling with sequester and budget cuts,” he said.
“As President, I have tried to close Gitmo. I transferred 67 detainees to other countries before Congress imposed restrictions to effectively prevent us from either transferring detainees to other countries or imprisoning them here in the United States.
These restrictions make no sense. After all, under President Bush, some 530 detainees were transferred from Gitmo with Congress' support. When I ran for president the first time, John McCain supported closing Gitmo. This was a bipartisan issue,” he said.
However, Republican challenged Obama’s vision on Gitmo. “Gitmo serves an important function of detaining America’s most dangerous enemy combatants. No individual who continues to pose a threat to the US should be shuttled home at the expense of American taxpayers only to return to the battlefield to kill Americans and our friends, no matter how many dramatic hunger strikes are staged,”
Senator John Cornyn said.
“In making national security decisions, the President’s foremost consideration must always be the safety of the American people, not misguided campaign pledges and attempts to pivot from scandals,” he said.
Senator John McCain said the task of closing Guantanamo has gotten harder over the past few years but it is not impossible. “The Secretary of Defense is required by law to make an important national security certification before transferring a detainee from Guantanamo to either the United States or a foreign country,” he said.
“I also have many questions and concerns about the advisability of transferring Yemeni detainees to their country at this time, even though many are cleared for release.
Yemen has a weak government that continues to face numerous security threats,” McCain said, adding that he would soon be traveling to Yemen in the near future to assess how conducive the conditions in that country are to begin responsibly returning detainees to Yemen.
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