President Barack Obama should keep his promise on this score. For he was right – the camp should never have been opened in the first place.
The premise of Camp Gitmo is worth recalling.
Following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001, the Bush administration invaded Afghanistan to rout Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network and the Taliban who harboured them.
Several hundreds of the prisoners captured in that war were declared by the Americans as illegal combatants and, therefore, not subject to the Geneva Convention, the rules that govern war.
Instead, they were detained at Camp Gitmo, in a sort of legal limbo, rather than in jail in the United States where they would have had full access to America’s legal system. Some were reported to have been tortured or endured something close thereto.
Much has changed since then. Most of the detainees have been freed, or passed on to other countries and a handful put in the US legal system to face criminal charges. About 170 remain at Camp Gitmo – in part because the US Congress has resisted efforts to close the camp and the Obama administration has not been aggressive enough in ensuring that it is done.
The existence of Camp Gitmo, of itself, and the continued detention of people there are un-American. It flies in the face of one of the fundamental principles on which the US was built – natural justice.
It cannot be right, rather it is wrong, for a country to detain prisoners in a presumed foreign jurisdiction in order to avoid its own laws. Although in this case, while Guantanamo Bay remains nominally Cuban territory, the terms of its ‘lease’ to the United States, which the Castro regime rejects, gives Havana no say in what takes place there.
Camp Gitmo, like America’s continued control over the 45-square mile Guantanamo Bay, is morally flawed, legally tenuous and unbecoming of the United States, which President Obama should put right.
Yes, he can!