This past Sunday was the a 7th anniversary of the arrival of prisoners to the Guantanamo Bay detention center. It also marked just over one week until President-elect Obama is inaugurated. In his campaign, Obama promised to close Guantanamo within 100 days of gaining office, but the task is looking a little more complicated than the average person imagines, explained Obama this weekend.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PROTEST 2008 COURTESY OF www.edgeofconsciousness.net
In an interview with ABC on Sunday, Obama softened his promise only a little, saying it would be a “challenge” to close the detention center within 100 days, but the presidential order should at the very least get the ball rolling. Obama will probably issue a presidential order for its closing within his first week in office, suggest his advisors, but according to the NY Times, some analysts suggest it may take as long as a year to transfer the estimated 240 detainees who are being held at present to other countries or incarceration facilities within the US.
Reports estimate that 70 inmates are on hunger strike in protest of the conditions of confinement, potentially in response to the anniversary (January 11, 2002) or to draw attention to their cause in hopes that Obama will carry through with his promise.
What makes the closing of this prison facility so hard are the decisions and complications of who will be moved where and how they will be tried. Rumours that Australia is refusing take some of the detainees who cannot repatriate seem to be true – and the UK is having a hard time agreeing to rehabilitate ex-detainees. How the US will deal with the approximately 15 so-called “high-value” detainees is unclear.
My opinion? Although Obama’s promise was to close the prison within the first few months of office, it makes sense that cleaning up a mess like this is going to take longer. It is surprising to me (maybe I’m naive) that the US has spent the last seven years demonizing the inmates and now expects European and Western countries to accept them for rehabilitation. Obviously they’re going to have to lead by example.
Meanwhile, as detainees – many of whom are not charged with anything – no doubt wait in agony for news of change, George W. Bush is preparing for his own move, to a new house in Dallas, Texas. There, he hopes to get out of the limelight, avoid more shoes to the head, no doubt keep his own backyard detainee-free, and generally hand the mess over.