Cyprus Mail
Recommended

Obama makes final attempt to persuade Congress to close Guantanamo

US President Obama delivers statement on plans to close the Guantanamo military prison at the White House in Washington

By Jeff Mason and Ayesha Rascoe

President Barack Obama launched a final push on Tuesday to persuade Congress to close the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but lawmakers, opposed to rehousing detainees in the United States, declared his plan a non-starter.

In White House remarks, Obama, a Democrat, pleaded with the Republican-led Congress to give his proposal a “fair hearing.” He said he did not want to pass along the issue to his successor next January.

The Pentagon plan proposes 13 potential sites on US soil for the transfer of remaining detainees but does not identify the facilities or endorse a specific one.

“We’ll review President Obama’s plan,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “But since it includes bringing dangerous terrorists to facilities in US communities, he should know that the bipartisan will of Congress has already been expressed against that proposal.”

Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, said Obama had yet to convince Americans that moving the prisoners to the United States was smart or safe.

Obama pledged to close the prison as a candidate for the White House in 2008. The prisoners were rounded up overseas when the United States became embroiled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. The facility in years past came to symbolize aggressive detention practices that opened the United States to allegations of torture.

“Let us go ahead and close this chapter,” Obama said.

“Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values … It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law,” he said.

EXECUTIVE ACTION?

Obama is considering taking unilateral executive action to close the facility, situated in a U.S. naval station in southeast Cuba, if Congress does not vote to allow transfers to the United States. Republicans oppose any executive order.

The White House has sought to buttress its argument for closing the prison by focusing on its high cost. Obama said nearly $450 million was spent last year alone to keep it running. The new plan would be cheaper, officials said.

The transfer and closure costs would be $290 million to $475 million, an administration official told reporters, while housing remaining detainees in the United States would be $65 million to $85 million less expensive than at the Cuba facility, meaning the transfer bill would be offset in 3 to 5 years.

The prison, which Obama said once held nearly 800 detainees, now houses 91 detainees. Some 35 prisoners will be transferred to other countries this year, leaving the final number below 60, officials said.

Obama noted that his predecessor, Republican President George W. Bush, transferred hundreds of prisoners out of Guantanamo and wanted to close it. Republican Senator John McCain, Obama’s 2008 presidential opponent and a former prisoner of war during US involvement in Vietnam, also wanted it shut.

The plan would send detainees who have been cleared for transfer to their homelands or third countries and transfer remaining prisoners to US soil to be held in maximum-security prisons. Congress has banned such transfers to the United States since 2011.

Though the Pentagon has previously noted some of the sites it surveyed for use as potential U.S. facilities, the administration wants to avoid fueling any political outcry in important swing states before the Nov. 8 presidential election.

e did not want to pass the issue to his successor when he leaves the White House next year.

The Pentagon proposal proposes 13 potential sites on US soil for the transfer of remaining detainees but does not identify the facilities or endorse a specific one, administration officials said on Tuesday.

Obama pledged to close the prison and move the detainees as a candidate for the White House in 2008. Lawmakers largely oppose moving the prisoners to the United States, however, and his final attempt to get congressional backing is unlikely to gain traction.

“Let us go ahead and close this chapter,” Obama said in White House remarks. “I don’t want to pass this problem on to the next president, whoever it is.”

Obama leaves office in January 2017.

The Guantanamo prisoners, held at a US naval station in south-eastern Cuba, were detained by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The facility came to symbolize aggressive detention practices in years past that opened the United States to allegations of torture.

The transfer and closure costs would be $290 million to $475 million, an administration official told reporters on a conference call. Housing remaining detainees in the United States would be $65 million to $85 million cheaper than at the Cuba facility, the official said, so costs would be offset in three to five years.

Some 35 prisoners will be transferred from Guantanamo to other countries this year, leaving the final number below 60, officials said.

Obama is considering closing the facility by executive order if lawmakers do not back his proposal.

The plan would send detainees who have been cleared for transfer to their homelands or third countries and transfer remaining prisoners to US soil to be held in maximum-security prisons. Congress has banned such transfers to the United States since 2011.

Though the Pentagon has previously noted some of the sites it surveyed for use as potential US facilities, the administration wants to avoid fuelling any political outcry in important swing states before the Nov 8 presidential election.

Related posts

Trump ex-adviser calls Ukraine election interference theory ‘fictional narrative’ (Update 2)

Reuters News Service

‘One in four’ in Europe hold anti-Semitic beliefs, survey finds

Press Association

Trump says he will release ‘financial statement’ before 2020 vote

Reuters News Service

Labour unveils ‘radical and ambitious’ plan to remake Britain

Reuters News Service

Google bars elections ads from using political leanings, voter data

Reuters News Service

Halkbank seeks to challenge U.S. jurisdiction before entering plea to charges

Reuters News Service

3 comments

Comments are closed.