One of the earliest goals of President Obama’s first election, was to close Guantanamo. Or at least do something about the hundred or so prisoners who have been sitting there for years with no suggested conclusion in sight. This goal eventually made it to the bottom of the goal list, and with the closing of the office that was designed specifically to close Guantanamo, some would say it was kicked off of the list completely. However, today President Obama announced during a press conference that he, once again, planned to somehow close down the prison.
It is believed that the president’s previous silence on GITMO matters has contributed to a hunger strike. There are currently at least 100 prisoners currently on hunger strikes, with over 40 medical personnel at the facility whose jobs are force-feeding the detainees. According to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the painful process of strapping and restraining a prisoner to a chair and pushing tubes up their noses and pumping liquids down their throats, is torture.
The president addressed the concern of the hunger strikes saying "I don't want these individuals to die,” while defending the Pentagon’s practice of dealing with the hunger strikes by forced feeding.
Of course, President Obama will still need to find some way to convince Congress that measures need to be taken. Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said that the opposition in Congress to closing Guantanamo was likely to remain because the president "has offered no alternative plan regarding the detainees there, nor a plan for future terrorist captures." Congress has already passed laws restricting the prisoners from being transferred somewhere else. With silly excuses such as these coming from the opposition, it isn’t going to be easy gaining the support needed to actually shut down the prison. The hope is that some of the complaints such as the hunger strike and forced-feeding can be addressed for the time being.
In any event, eternal detainment at Guantanamo Bay is no longer an option that many of the prisoners are willing to accept. It’s becoming clear that unless measures are taken, in one way or another, by starvation or otherwise, the prisoners of GITMO are going to find their conclusion, with or without the help of the president, or Congress.