Just hours before President Obama delivers a major speech on national security at the National Defense University, in which he will discuss the drone program and will also lay out his plans for Guantánamo, an international petition calling for the prison’s closure, launched by Avaaz, has secured over 400,000 signatures in just one day.
The petition calls on President Obama “to appoint a White House official whose responsibility it is to close down the prison, and to use the authority granted to you by the US Congress to immediately transfer the 86 men who have been cleared,” which is exactly the message that is required, so please, if you haven’t already signed it, do so now, and then circulate it to everyone you know.
For the first time since a prison-wide hunger strike began over three months ago, President Obama spoke about Guantánamo at a news conference three weeks ago, promising to tackle Congress, where lawmakers have passed legislation designed to prevent the release of prisoners and the closure of the prison, but refusing to acknowledge his own role in preventing the release of any of the 56 Yemeni prisoners, out of 86 prisoners cleared for release by his own inter-agency task force, and failing to mention that a waiver exists in the legislation relating to Guantánamo (the National Defense Authorization Act) that allows him to bypass Congress if he regards it as being “in the national security interests of the United States.”
Below is the text of the Avaaz petition. To reiterate, please sign it if you haven’t already, and then circulate it to as many people as possible.
To President Barack Obama:
As citizens from across the world, we urge you to respond urgently to the hunger strikes in Guantánamo. We specifically call on you to appoint a White House official whose responsibility it is to close down the prison, and to use the authority granted to you by the US Congress to immediately transfer the 86 men who have been cleared. This shameful complex is a scourge on humanity, is destroying lives, and fuels hate across our world. Close it down!
In hours, President Obama could finally move to close Guantánamo — the most notorious prison camp on earth.
With inmates on a 100-day hunger strike and massive calls for Obama to act, our president has been pushed to respond with a major speech about the prison. If enough of us demand a plan — he could free the prisoners already cleared for release, and appoint a White House official with one mission: close Guantánamo down!
We’re at a tipping point. Sign up to demand Obama close this shameful gulag down, and share the shocking facts below so others join this urgent call.
The facts speak for themselves:
• Detainees in Guantánamo now: 166
• Detainees facing active charges: 6
• Detainees cleared for immediate release, but stuck in the camp: 86
• Guantánamo inmates on hunger strike: 103
• Hunger strikers strapped down and force fed: 30
• Prisoners who have died in custody: 9
• Children the US has held at Guantánamo: 21 [at least]
• Detainees tried in civilian court: 1
• “Unreleasable” detainees who can’t be tried for lack of evidence or torture: 50
• Prisoners released by the Bush administration: 500+
• Prisoners released by the Obama administration: 72
• Current annual cost to US taxpayers: $150 million
• Days since Obama first pledged to close Gitmo: 1579
• Time since first prisoners arrived at Guantánamo:
11 years, 4 months, 11 days …
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
On Facebook, after I posted a link to the petition last night, Meg Catfish Lyons wrote:
SIGNED, thank you Andy for all you do in the name of justice for the victims of Guantanamo…
Ginny McCabe wrote:
I still can not believe this is happening under the flag of the United States. We are better than that…our government has failed liberty and democracy. Shameful.
Bogumila Tyszkiewicz wrote:
Lance Ciepiela wrote:
The tried and convicted war criminal and torturer believed he could detain and torture human beings outside the law at Guantanamo but the American flag flies over the base and our colors are raised and lowered each day at Guantanamo.
Cathy Browning wrote:
signed and shared
Sylvia P. Coley wrote:
You know, Andy just how long you have been completely involved with this mission of getting all information out! I am very proud of you, fruition may be soon. I hope so.
Rita Pal wrote:
Signed and shared. Well done Andy…. ur a true superhero!
Thank you, everyone, for caring. And Meg, Sylvia and Rita, thank you also for the very supportive comments!
424,000 signatures now! It’s getting 500 signatures every minute. At this rate we could have a million signatures by tomorrow!
Margaret Heller wrote:
The Pentagon asked for $450,000,000 to fund it this week. Sheesh.
Yes, great timing, eh, Margaret? The Pentagon’s request was heavily publicized in March, but obviously officials wanted to make sure the DoD had a suitable message today to contrast with the President’s position. It reminds me of those bogus recidivism reports that were so damaging, which also emerged from the Pentagon from 2009 onwards, while Obama was trying to close the prison.
Back in March, the request was “only” for $195.7 million: http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/21/pentagon-wants-to-build-new-prison-at-guantanamo/
Wow! A 130 percent increase in just two months! Inflation must really be out of control!
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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