This is the year the United States should close down the Guantanamo detention center for good.
That would be a pretty good New Year’s resolution for anybody in the White House or on Capitol Hill who believes in the American Way — the rule of law, human rights and a fair day in court.
We see promising signs that this might happen. On Wednesday, five men who had been held for a dozen years without charge were released to Kazakhstan in Asia. In all, nearly 30 prisoners who couldn’t be returned to their home nations were released last year to other countries. Last month, Pope Francis’ Vatican asked the United States to come up with a “humanitarian solution.”
Over the years, 779 prisoners have been brought to Guantanamo, but the camp’s population is down to 127.
That’s still 127 too many. To simply call anybody, even the worst terrorist, an “enemy combatant” and lock him up for years on end without charge or trial, letting our fears get the best of us, is an offense against our most cherished values.
As a group, the men remaining at Guantanamo are no saints. Many, we do not doubt, would strike out against America in every possible deadly way, given the chance.
But holding prisoners for years without trial or formal charges runs counter to everything we stand for, everything we ever learned in a civics class. It’s a virtual recruitment poster for terrorists. Complaints of abuse and torture echo around the world. With America’s global image sullied by the Iraq War and the torture of captives, we don’t need the Guantanamo camp sitting out in the Caribbean continuing to shame our nation.
It’s been nearly six years since President Barack Obama ordered the Guantanamo detention center closed. It’s been six years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the prisoners are entitled to a day in court, where the government would have to show it has a legit reason for keeping the inmates behind bars.
But Congress, generally opposed to anything Obama is for, shut off the funds needed to move the prisoners to detention facilities in the United States. Congress also has thrown up other roadblocks designed to keep anyone from being moved to the mainland. What small and fearful creatures they must be.
So there the prisoners remain, in a naval base camp 500 miles from Miami. And here we remain, with a prison that mocks U.S. values and makes the United States look like a shady operator with little interest in following international or even American law, untroubled by the use of indefinite detention without trial.
Guantanamo has been a stain on our national honor since we opened it for business nearly 13 years ago after the 9/11 attacks. The stain grows every day the camp remains open. Shut down Guantanamo – this year.