Posted by CODEPINK Staff
by Frances Mendenhall
Everyone knows the story of Amanda Berry, Gina deJesus, and Michelle Knight, the three Cleveland teens, now adults, who were kidnapped and held captive for 10 years or so by a sadistic sexual predator and his two brothers. The joy and relief of their families, to have their daughters back is unimaginable, and the rest of the country celebrates with them.
What we also need to remember, on this Mother's Day, is the 170 prisoners still held in Guantanamo, in our name, with our tax dollars. Very few of the detainees at Guantanamo have been charged with anything, let alone brought to trial. Eighty-six of them have been cleared for release. Their plight is so desperate that over 100 of them have been fasting for the last three months, seeing death as the only way to escape their misery.
Many detainees have been at the prison for more than a decade, with no prospect for release or transfer, or even trial, in their future. Meanwhile, they have seen President Obama promise to close the prison in the first year of his administration, only to blame his failure to do so on divisive party politics. While blaming Congressional obstruction for blocking plans to close Guantanamo, he has even been reluctant to fight the political battles necessary to make any progress on the issue.
Who are the detainees? One cleared detainee is a British citizen, Shaker Aamer. He has been cleared for release twice, but is still behind bars after 11 years. Kuwaiti prisoner Fouzi Al Awda, has been held for 11 years while the Kuwaiti government, another US ally, has repeatedly called for his repatriation.
Many Americans believe that anyone detained at Guantanamo must be guilty of terrorism. However, just as the three women in Cleveland did nothing to deserve their abuse and captivity, many of the prisoners held in Guantanamo were picked up because someone in their village had a vendetta against them, or someone who wanted the reward, turned them in to the US military. For the most part, any detainee who has enough court-admissable evidence against him, has already been tried.
We all know how we feel about the injustices done to the young women in Cleveland. But for most of the detainees in Guantanamo, the injustice is also great, also deserving of our compassion. More compelling, however, for the detainees, we, whose elected officials act in our name, bear the responsibility.
What to do?
What can President Obama do? Congress has imposed unprecedented restrictions on detainee transfers, but President Obama still has the power to transfer men right now. He should use the certification/waiver process created by Congress to transfer detainees.
Nonetheless, repeated efforts to prompt the President to do the right thing have failed. Now, on Mother's Day, it is time to lobby the First Lady.
Contact Michelle Obama:
Tell the President to Close Guantanamo
Fax # 202-456-2461