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article imageOp-Ed: Obama unlikely to close Guantanamo before his term ends

By Ken Hanly     Jul 8, 2016 in Politics
Washington - A sign that Guantanamo Bay is not set to close anytime soon are new construction contracts to build new facilities and repair old buildings at the naval base in Cuba.
There has been $240 million budgeted for improvements and repairs to buildings used by personnel assigned to work on the base. Contracts awarded to five different firms stretch over five years.
One contract awarded to Munilla Construction Management of Miami is for $63 million to build a new school for children of civilians and military working on the island. Even though there are already two schools for those at the base, U.S. officials claim that the facilities are not enough for the 6,000 people at the base.
Base Commander Captain David Culpepper said: "The quality of life for our residents and their families is of the utmost importance and the new school will provide a great opportunity for our children for many years," Construction at the base would indicate that the prison is not to be closed soon or there would not be the need to build a new school. If the base were being closed soon one would think that the present two schools would be more than enough for those who remained working at the base. Cuba has repeatedly asked for the return of the territory as part of normalizing relations between the two countries but there is no sign of that happening. Obama promised to close the base during his 2008 presidential campaign but has yet to do so.
Donald Trump has condemned Obama's plan to close the base and claimed he would keep it open. In February Obama outlined his plans to Congress for closing the base but it immediately was criticized by many Republicans and even some Democrats mostly because it involves bringing some of those held to the continental United States. Congress is vehemently against such a move even though as Obama points out on the appended video, there are a number of convicted terrorists already held in the continental United States without any problems. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was not willing to accept bringing suspected terrorists to the US. He said: “The bipartisan will of congress has already been expressed against that proposal.” The plan does not set out exactly where the prisoners might go but even the suggestion to where they might go brought rejections and outcry from the areas named.
Hillary Clinton, who claims to support the closing of Guantanamo, said that she backed Obama's effort to close the prison but also stressed that terrorist suspects would not necessarily be transferred to a military jail here. She is obviously trying to avoid the fact that Obama is intending to relocate some prisoners to the continental U.S.
Senator John McCain, who has been generally supportive of Obama in his attempt to close Guantanamo, was nevertheless critical of his plan. “What we received today is a vague menu of options, not a credible plan for closing Guantanamo, let alone a coherent policy to deal with future terrorist detainees. The president has missed a major chance to convince the Congress and the American people that he has a responsible plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.”
Some have pointed out that Obama could simply use his executive power to close the base and transfer the prisoners to the U.S. However, such a move is too politically dangerous for him to try. It could damage the chances of Hillary Clinton to be elected president and create a huge outcry in Congress, and even give rise to court challenges. An article earlier this year in Time, goes through the reasons why Obama will not be able to close Guantanamo and concludes:... expect the President and his Team to publicly anguish over closing Guantanamo unilaterally; expect them to decide in the end that the rule of law — which the President holds dear and will play up in his memoirs — forbids it; and expect fifty or so dangerous terrorists to be locked up in indefinite military detention in Guantanamo when the next President assumes office on January 20, 2017.
In the appended video, Obama speaks of Guantanamo violating American values. However moving the suspects to the US and closing down the facility does not change the fact that he is still violating the basic right to be charged if you commit a crime and be able to defend yourself in a court of law. Obama's plan continues the scheme of indefinite detention of those thought a danger to the US with no charge being brought against them and no way for those accused to prove their innocence. If you are a terror suspect you are guilty until those who arrested you think you are no longer a danger and can be released.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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