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George W. Bush was a war criminal, but Republicans are doing everything they can to erase that from the history books, and make sure that Obama shares in the blame for Bush’s war crimes.
Guantanamo Bay is an abomination; A Republican abomination.
Despite the unconstitutional horrors and atrocities that have taken place at Gitmo since it first began taking in prisoners 12 years ago, the prison doors are still open, and the horrors are continuing.
Right now, there are 155 men being detained at Gitmo.
And according to a new report by the human rights group Reprieve, 33 of those men are on a hunger strike, in protest of their detainment and of the conditions at the prison.
That includes 16 men who are being force-fed, which means they’re going through unthinkable pain as military officers shove food down a feeding tube in their throats.
The worst part of all of this is that many of these men have already been cleared for release by the U.S. government.
But because Gitmo’s doors are still open, these men are still prisoners.
And that’s largely thanks to Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Republicans say they’re worried about closing Gitmo because they think Gitmo detainees being released will turn around and attack America.
But that has nothing to do with it.
The real reason why Republicans are keeping Gitmo open is because they’re still concerned about the legacy of George W. Bush, and they know that one of the biggest stains on his presidency are the atrocities and international war crimes that have been committed at Guantanamo Bay.
So, Republicans are trying to pass on some of the blame for Gitmo to President Obama.
President Obama made it clear before he was even president that he wanted to shut down Gitmo for good.
He campaigned on that promise, and has repeated it throughout his presidency.
But Republicans are blocking Obama administration attempts to shutter Gitmo, by passing legislation that prohibits the government from using federal dollars to close down the prison.
They would rather prolong the torture that’s taking place at Gitmo, than deal any more blows to the Bush legacy, or any victories to the Obama presidency.
And that means men like Shaker Aamer are stuck in the worse kind of limbo.
Aamer is one of the 77 men currently being detained at Gitmo who have already been cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations.
These men are not and never were terrorists or criminals of any sort. They committed no crimes against the United States or anybody else. They were swept up when the Bush administration was offering a $5,000 bounty for members of Al Qaeda, and because $5,000 is more than a decade’s income in Afghanistan, a lot of innocent people got sold to gullible American soldiers.
Shaker Aamer is also one of the detainees who is being force-fed, because he is on a hunger strike to protest his illegal detention.
Aamer told Reprieve that, “[I was] strapped to the bed for 24 hours except to use the toilet. The [force-feeding] tube was in 24 hours a day. We would be fed for 30-40 minutes each time, with Ensure cans, two cans, three times a day. Some of the prisoners became zombies, as if they were already dead. I dropped weight to 130 pounds. I told the doctors, ‘I want to die peacefully. I want no intervention.’ But they refused this.”
Meanwhile, as Mr. Aamer is being force-fed, his family is back in the United Kingdom, worried sick about him.
And, because he’s been imprisoned for so long, Aamer hasn’t even met one of his children.
The Aamer family has reached out to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has discussed the case directly with President Obama.
And, there’s an ongoing police investigation in the UK into how Mr. Aamer has been treated by US and UK officials.
Mr. Aamer deserves to be sent home to his family, and to live out his life free of force-feedings and torture.
The fact that Guantanamo Bay is still open is more proof that Republicans are willing to put politics ahead of people’s lives.
Because of their ongoing efforts to sabotage and tarnish the Obama presidency at every chance possible, 155 men are being treated like animals, and are being denied even the most basic of human rights.
The Republican complicity in torture needs to stop; they need to stop passing laws making it impossible for the president to close Guantanamo.
At the same time, President Obama needs to stand up to Republicans, and make enough noise that he shames them into letting him keep his campaign promise and do the right thing for this country by closing Guantanamo.
It’s time to close the book on one of the darkest chapters in American history.
Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning New York Times best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk program on the Air America Radio Network, live noon-3 PM ET.