Next month in January the American people will joyfully celebrate the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama and the end to the criminal Bush Administration. Americans will celebrate the belief in our freedom, our vote, and the conclusion of eight years of an unaccountable regime that brought us into war and occupation on lies. We will celebrate the hope for much needed change. But how can anyone truly celebrate freedom and change when Americans know of the inhumane treatment and torture of the Guantanamo prisoners?
In one month Americans will also mark the 7th year the Guantanamo Bay camp received the first prisoners into that dark, tragic, and shameful place. By now, if Americans are unaware that hundreds of men and some boys have languished in Guantanamo for years without charge, without access to lawyers, without due process or the habeas corpus rights granted to prisoners by law-abiding civilized governments--then these unaware Americans are some place much more tragic and darker than Guantanamo. But for Americans who do know what Guantanamo is and what it represents then January must be the time to commit to closing Guantanamo and places like it. We must take action because we are responsible for Guantanamo.
Keeping Guantanamo open will mean that celebrations and hope for change will be hollow and devoid of meaning. An open Guantanamo will continue to be one of America's immoral hypocracies. Just as in election year 2006 Americans in 2008 expressed their hope for change, an end to war, and the disgraceful undemocratic policies supporting torture, the elimination of habeas corpus, and operating places like Guantanamo. However, those elected to lead in 2006, for whatever reason, failed to lead us away from the continued criminality of the Bush Administration. This continuing type of unaccountable leadership must end--starting this January under the new administration. Americans must actively pressure the Obama Administration to pursue real and meaningful peace measures, restore habeas corpus, and close the Guantanamo prison immediately.
"We're going to close Guantanamo...We're going to lead by example-by not just word but deed. That's our vision for the future." Barack Obama said on the campaign trail. What welcome words! Now let us all welcome the actions necessary to restore justice and accountability.
Electing and celebrating President Obama will not be enough to restore justice. The American people must accept their unique responsibility in restoring justice by closing Guantanamo. Americans must actively exert their influence and pressure President Obama to fulfill his promise to close Guantanamo. Guantanamo can be shut down within the first 100 days as one step in restoring accountability and justice.
But, can this really be done? "Yes, we can!" says Witness Against Torture a group of individuals and groups working to close Guantanamo and end torture. Witness Against Torture announced a 100 Days Campaign that begins on January 11, 2009. January 11 is the date the first prisoners were brought to Guantanamo in 2002. On January 11 a solemn march will process through Washington DC followed by a rally with activists, human rights lawyers, and others working to close Guantanamo and end torture. A fast will begin, carried out by people of faith and conscience who will be in solidarity with the Guantanamo prisoners in an attempt to highlight the issue of their imprisonment. This will be the start of a 100 days campaign waged by Witness Against Torture in which Witness Against Torture will lobby on Capitol Hill, hold educational and cultural events, organize creative actions in Washington DC, in addition to a sustained presence in front of The White House.
Since Guantanamo first opened in January 2002 around 700 prisoners have been quietly released after years of imprisonment without any charges against them. Around 250 still remain in the prison indefinitely. Recently, 17 Uighur men from China were found not guilty by a US District court in Washington DC. They were ordered released. The Bush Administration's Department of Justice has appealed this and effectively blocked these innocent men from being released from the Guantanamo prison. They are still there awaiting the appeal by the DOJ.. When their lawyer goes to visit them they are shackled to the floor treated by the US as guilty criminals if not caged animals. Is this what America will represent under an Obama presidency?
We cannot let the Obama Administration be unaccountable like the Bush Administration. We cannot give Obama a free pass like Bush was given for eight long years. We must actively call upon Obama to shut Guantanamo down within the first 100 days under his leadership.
Doing any less than actively calling upon the new American president to restore justice and accountability by shutting down Guantanamo as a first step is to betray the principles of our Bill of Rights and The Constitution of The United States. The Guantanamo prison eats away at America's conscience because it is wrong. Keeping Guantanamo open makes our liberty a hypocrisy. Join Witness Against Torture's 100 Days Campaign calling on President Obama to fulfill his promise for hope and change by shutting down Guantanamo.