From The Nation:
“I don’t want these individuals to die,” Obama told reporters on April 30, adding that “the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can.” He also recommitted to closing Guantánamo, calling on Congress to “step up and help.”USA Today:
It’s true that lawmakers on both sides have fought hard to make transfers impossible. But Obama’s words ignored how his own policies set the stage for the crisis. “He has said the right thing before,” Guantánamo lawyer Pardiss Kebriaei of the Center for Constitutional Rights told The Nation. “It’s time now for action.” The CCR is calling on Obama to end his “self-imposed moratorium” on releasing Yemenis and resume prisoner transfers. It has also called for Obama to appoint a senior official to “shepherd the process of closure.”
As the hunger strike approaches its hundredth day on May 17, more than 100 of Guantánamo’s 166 prisoners are refusing food. The president must start living up to his rhetoric about closing the prison, the CCR warns, or “the men who are on hunger strike will die, and he will be ultimately responsible for their deaths.”
Some progress has been made. The detainee population is down to 166 from a peak of nearly 800.More analysis below the fold.
Of the prisoners who remain, 46 are deemed too dangerous to let go but impossible to prosecute, even under the looser standards of military commissions, for lack of evidence or because evidence is compromised by torture. If released or repatriated, there's a high probability they'd resume jihad. What to do with this group — prisoners of war in a war without end — is a question with no satisfactory answer. They have to be held.
But both Obama and Congress could do more to winnow down the rest, including 86 prisoners cleared for transfer three years ago who remain incarcerated. If Obama is still serious about closing Guantanamo, there are obvious steps he can take, many without congressional assent.
L. Michael Hager at The Christian Science Monitor:
Guantánamo also comes at a high price to American taxpayers, costing them $177 million per year. That's an annual cost of more than $1 million per prisoner. Now the military is requesting another $200 million for prison renovation. [...] While Americans naturally want to minimize the risk of another 9/11, we need to ask ourselves whether the indefinite detention of prisoners, most of whom were rounded up in response to US bounty offers, will really enhance our national security – or impair it.Switching topics, Dan Glickman, former Secretary of Agriculture, Chair of the Board of the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), and board member of Oxfam America, says we need to do more for the nation's invisible poor:
We should question whether our security needs, as assessed today, trump the traditional American values of justice and the rule of law. Only a lawless society would condone indefinite detention, forced-feeding, and solitary confinement.
As taxpayers, we should ask ourselves whether Guantánamo is worth the hundreds of millions of dollars it has already cost – and will cost if the prison is renovated, as the US military recommends.
We have a broad, inchoate sense that our economy isn't doing well, but we too rarely consider what this means for one-third of our people – jobs that are insecure and pay little, unaffordable housing, no benefits, parents skipping meals so children have enough to eat and lives barely held together by going into unsustainable debt, turning to charity and cobbling together government benefits. Budget battles get all the headlines, but the battles to escape poverty that millions of Americans fight every day are much less discussed. This is a very disturbing trend, for humanitarian, practical, fiscal, economic, and political reasons.
On to Republican obstruction, Timothy Egan at The New York Times looks at the "House of Un-representatives":
[J]ust look at how different this Republican House is from the country they are supposed to represent. It’s almost like a parallel government, sitting in for some fantasy nation created in talk-radio land.[...] On the economy, the Republican majority has been consciously trying to derail a fragile recovery. Their first big salvo was the debt ceiling debacle, which resulted in the lowering of the credit rating for the United States. With sequestration — which President Obama foolishly agreed to, thinking Congress would never go this far — the government has put a wheel-lock on a car that keeps trying to get some traction.Susan Milligan at US News:
Meanwhile, not a day passes without some member of this ruling majority saying something outrageous. Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, for example, has endorsed the far-side-of-the-moon conspiracy theory that the government is buying up all the bullets to keep gun owners from stocking their home arms depots. As for Gohmert, earlier this year he nominated Allen West, a man who isn’t even a member of Congress (he lost in November) to be Speaker of the House. Harvey, the invisible rabbit, was not available.
The practice on the Hill to deny the president even the most non-controversial things – such as nominations for U.S. Marshalls – shows that there is more going on here than an effort to stop some wildly liberal agenda.Meanwhile, The Los Angeles Times editors demand real filibuster reform:
Republicans repeatedly use the word "fail" in their characterization of this president and this administration, hoping, perhaps, that is will become inexorably linked with the word "Obama" in history. This was petty, but somewhat understandable, when the GOP had a political goal in mind – the defeat of Obama for a second term. [...] Do Republicans in and out of Congress really hate Obama? Or do they just hate what he represents, a country that is undergoing dramatic demographic and social change? Vying to make Obama fail may succeed in tainting the legacy of the first mixed-race president. But it doesn't stop the changing face of America. Latinos, other minorities and women are becoming more powerful, both in numbers and in political representation. Gay marriage is becoming more acceptable. That may be world-shaking for social conservatives. But making Obama fail won't halt the trend.
Senators need to return to their rules and amend them again. If they're unwilling to abolish the filibuster, they must fashion limits that allow Americans to be represented by their Senate, not thwarted by it.