Obama to Give Delayed Speech on Guantanamo, Prisoners Still Starving for Justice


President Obama will give a major speech Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington, reportedly about drones and Guantanamo.  The Washington Post reports that

“Obama was prepared to deliver the speech earlier this month, but it was put off amid mounting concerns over a prisoner hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay and more recently the Justice Department leaks investigation — both of which the revised speech may address.”

The Post also reports that an anonymous White House official says the President

“…will discuss the policy and legal framework under which we take action against terrorist threats, including the use of drones. And he will review our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.”

World Can’t Wait has been pondering hard on what more we can do to create a political situation where Obama has to back down, release at least some of the men at Guantanamo, and be forced into closing the prison.  The use of indefinite detention and targeted killing is an affront to generally recognized precepts of international law.  Usually, the administration answers, as Eric Holder did last year, makes a claim that “we can do whatever we want,” essentially, when “national security” is at stake.

Obama promised to close Guantanamo more than four years ago.  We have been led to expect, over the last four years, that it’s really not that important to him to do so.

But along comes the prisoners’ hunger strike — a dynamic factor neither Obama’s people, nor the millions of us outraged at Guantanamo’s continued existence expected.  Their action could bring a possible change in the administration’s plans to maintain indefinite detention, at least for some of the men in Guantanamo.

A major missing ingredient in this moment, though, has been the collective voices of artists, intellectuals, politicians, religious and cultural figures who are respected and beloved for being voices of conscience, speaking as one to demand that the torture of Guantanamo be ended. It’s time and past time, as more than 100 days of the prisoners’ hunger strike have passed, that we provide a way for them to speak out together, and for that message to be seen.

Dennis Loo of Cal Poly Pomona drafted a message which will run this week as a full page ad in The New York Times  this week which could serve as such a vehicle. Demanding “Close Guantanamo,” it has been  signed by  1100, including John Cusack, Alice Walker, Wallace Shawn, Junot Diaz, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Eve Ensler, Kara Walker, Dave Eggers, Glenn Greenwald, Paul Haggis, Bianca Jagger, Ariel Dorfman, Erica Jong, Michael Moore, Ron Kovic, Tom Morello, Mark Ruffalo, Coco Fusco,  Peter Selz, James Schamus, Carl Dix, Oliver Stone, Cindy Sheehan, and Cornel West, joined by attorneys for the Guantanamo prisoners, law professors, clergy and academics.

The message powerfully challenges us to look at Guantanamo as “part of larger, alarming developments” including the NDAA, targeted killing by executive order, and the prosecution of whistle-blowers, “most flagrantly in the torture, slander and draconian legal charges against Bradley Manning.”

It says, “It is up to people to stand up for principle and morality when their institutions and public officials refuse to do so. The fates of those who are maimed or killed by our government’s policies are inextricably intertwined with our own: we must listen and respond to their cry for justice. We demand the release of the cleared Guantanamo prisoners now, and an end to indefinite detention without charge for the others, before they lose their lives.”

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