After years of activism and campaigns, religious groups have mixed reactions to the White House’s proposed closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison. The blueprint for closure, submitted to Congress on Feb. 23 for review, would establish a U.S. location for detainees currently held at the detention facility located at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
President Obama promised to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility at the beginning of his presidency. Seven years later — nearly to the day — he released a plan to do it.
“For many years it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay does not advance our national security,” Obama said.
“It undermines it.”
The Pentagon plans to submit a report to Congress on Feb. 23 detailing how to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the plan will call for the closure of the prison and offer several different ways to go about doing so.
The men in black uniforms stand behind their prisoners, who kneel on the beach. The kneeling men wear bright orange jumpsuits. The men wearing black, terrorists affiliated with ISIS, hold knives. A subtitle on the video reads: “The people of the cross, the followers of the hostile Egyptian church.” The spokesman addresses the camera, and then the prisoners are beheaded.
We are in Cuba. More specifically, 14 members of Witness Against Torture are in the Department of Guantanamo, at the Mirador overlooking the U.S. Naval Base. We are being hosted by the staff of La Gobernadora restaurant and lounge. From the lookout, we can see the U.S. base that has occupied more than 100 square kilometers of Cuban land for more than a century. We can orient ourselves toward the camps where the Abd and Mohammed and their brethren are being held. We are camping. We are praying. We are acting. We are transforming a random international tourist spot — one more site to click photos, drink a beer, and move on from before heading to the beaches — into a place to honor and connect and extend ourselves toward the men our nation has demonized and then forgotten.
According to Gallup, Pope Francis’ favorability ratings have dropped from 76 percent in 2014 to 45 percent in 2015. America magazine writer Kerry Weber explains the pontiff’s recent dips in the U.S. polls.
"America loves to defend those it perceives to be the most vulnerable — i.e. young white girls — at the expense of and detriment to young girls of color. … Though some may say this is just a pointless Instagram beef between children, this mentality of putting white womanhood on a pedestal has violent, real-world ramifications."
Wait … what, now? According to NASA, its Kepler spacecraft has identified a planet some 1,400 light-years away — the first "nearly Earth-size planet to be found in a habitable zone of a start similar to our own," according to CNN.
A military judge ruled Tuesday that Pfc. Bradley Manning was not guilty of aiding the enemy. In 2010, he was arrested for allegedly passing classified materials to the website WikiLeaks. If Manning had been found guilty of aiding the enemy, he could have been sentenced to life in prison. The sentencing phase of the trial will begin Wednesday.
The New York Times reports:
Private Manning had already confessed to being WikiLeaks’ source for a huge cache of government documents, which included videos of airstrikes in which civilians were killed, hundreds of thousands of front-line incident reports from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, dossiers on men being held without trial at the Guantánamo Bay prison, and about 250,000 diplomatic cables.
But while Private Manning had pleaded guilty to a lesser version of the charges he was facing, which could expose him to up to 20 years in prison, the government decided to press forward with a trial on a more serious version of the charges, including “aiding the enemy” and violations of the Espionage Act, which could result in a life sentence.
In an effort to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, President Barack Obama has called to action one of Washington’s most resourceful lawyers, Clifford Sloan. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are confident in their decision to employ Sloan as the State Department's envoy for Guantanamo's closure. The Huffington Post reports:
"It will not be easy, but if anyone can effectively navigate the space between agencies and branches of government, it's Cliff," Kerry said. "He's someone respected by people as ideologically different as Kenneth Starr and Justice Stevens, and that's the kind of bridge-builder we need to finish this job."
Read more here.
CLAREMONT, Calif. — Last Sunday, Timothy Murphy began a fast of solidarity with the Guantanamo inmates who are on a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention. As one of our Ph.D. students and an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Timothy felt spiritually called to the hunger strike. He is drinking water and nothing else.
Timothy intends to continue as long as he is able, or until the Obama administration begins taking action to address the prisoners’ legitimate grievances, including deliberate steps to find homes for the 86 prisoners who have been cleared for release. Timothy says he would be happy to stop the fast tomorrow if the administration indicated that it was taking steps to do this.
I, like Timothy, believe this is a basic human rights issue for the prisoners. I also believe that it is critical for the health of our nation’s collective soul and integrity to get it resolved. Timothy’s deep commitment inspired me, so I decided to join him, but in a more limited fast: I am fasting three days this week, and every Thursday hereafter, until steps are taken to resolve the Guantanamo issues.
In today’s White House press conference, CBS News' Bill Plante raised the questions with President Barack Obama about the growing hunger strike among prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. “Is it any surprise, really,” asked Plante, “that they would prefer death rather than have no end in sight to their confinement?"
"Well, it is not a surprise to me, “ President Obama responded, “that we've got problems in Guantanamo.”
Last week, a military spokesperson confirmed that the total number of irregularly held prisoners at the U.S. Naval prison at Guantanamo Bay has risen to 92 out of the 166 still in detention.
The Guantanamo prisoners began hunger striking on Feb. 6 after guards confiscated their Korans to examine them for contraband. The prisoners reported that their Korans had been desecrated by the guards, which a military spokesperson denies. Fueling the strike is the men’s loss of hope of ever leaving Guantanamo alive, most having been held more than 11 years without charge and Obama refusing to free even the 86 cleared for release.
The myth that President Barack Obama closed Guantanamo his first year in office persists, but four years later the detainees are still there. Can justice be served?
I wanted to find out for myself. Over the past month, the Obama administration has started prosecuting some of the Guantanamo prisoners. They are tried in a specially constructed courtroom at Guantanamo, under military commissions rules touted to restore the rights absent under former President George W. Bush’s tribunals.
The trial logistics are a challenge: the tribunals convene periodically on the Guantanamo naval base under tightly controlled conditions. Additionally, the hearings are simulcast to military bases in the U.S. where members of the public and press are allowed to view.
I went to the Ft. Meade army base in Maryland to view the proceedings via closed circuit TV. While I was there, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, alleged ringleader in the September 11, 2001, attacks, and four other men charged with various crimes related to 9/11, were on trial. The government is asking for the death penalty for all five men.
On Saturday, Feb. 23, Bradley Manning marks his 1,000th day in prison without a trial. Manning, the 23 year-old Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks while stationed in Iraq, spent a full 600 days in prison before he even saw a judge, even though military law requires arraignment within 120 days of a person being detained. (Amid the material that Manning released was the now famous video showing two American military helicopters shooting civilians in Baghdad in 2007, killing two Reuters journalists.) During his confinement, Manning has been subjected to abuse and humiliating treatment.
Amnesty International wrote, “We’re concerned that the conditions inflicted on Bradley Manning are unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment by the US authorities. Manning has not been convicted of any offense, but military authorities appear to be using all available means to punish him while in detention. This undermines the United States’ commitment to the principle of the presumption of innocence.”
U.S. law is based on the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Our Constitution guarantees all persons in U.S. custody (not just citizens — Cole, D., Enemy Aliens, 2003) the rights to due process of law, humane treatment, and a speedy and public trial. Bradley Manning is only one example of how the U.S. is failing our own constitutional standards.
Yale Professor David Bromwich analyses President Obama's foreign policy for The Huffington Post:
Please keep in your prayers those who are fasting and praying at the U.S. capitol between January 11 to 21, keeping vigil for the closing of the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo. As an opening to their prayer vigil Wednesday, they engaged in a little prophetic street theater in front of the Justice Department.
In August 2007, candidate Obama promised to close Guantanamo, saying, "As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists."
In January 2009, one of President Obama's first official acts was to sign an executive order promising to close Guantanamo within one year. "This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it's easy, but also when it's hard," he said.
What does it mean to be a Christian in these times? The works of mercy knock on our door. The hungry, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner demand our compassion -- but more, they demand our action.