“As president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions,” said presidential candidate Barack Obama in August 2007. Yet here we are, five and-a-half years later, with husbands, fathers, sons and brothers still awaiting trial while being held in cages and tortured, ironically in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.
Despite being ignored by almost all major news outlets last week, the White House announced that it will reassign its committee, which was originally charged with organizing the closure of the detainment camp, to focus on Iranian and Syrian sanction policy. This essentially ensures that the prison camp will remain open indefinitely — no pun intended.
Appearing to fulfill his pledge, Obama promised yet again in January 2009 that Guantanamo would close, creating a special commission to oversee its dismantle. But the move proved to be pure political pageantry, and exactly two years later, he signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, which prevented it from being shut down. Not only has the president gone back on his original campaign promise, he has actively sought to ensure that fair trials for the detainees have been delayed or stopped completely — pushing groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International to seek justice in what they call “a human rights scandal.” In late 2009, the International Committee of the Red Cross released evidence of activities it said were “tantamount to torture” and included physically beating prisoners and holding them in cells enduring extreme temperatures.
Despite the reality of Obama’s performance as president, the anti-war, anti-torture groups around the nation remain silent. Today, the Department of Justice says there are still more than 150 “terrorists” being held in Cuba without charge or trial, while their families await their return home. It’s time to call out this administration for its complete and utter failure to protect the human rights and civil liberties of those enduring this injustice, lest we all become guilty of failing to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.