Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

President and Prison

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

President and Prison

Article excerpt

Obama promises to close Guantanamo -- again -- but defends the force-feeding of inmates on a hunger strike.

President Obama said a lot of important things on Tuesday about the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It is a blight on the nation's reputation. It mocks American standards of justice by keeping people imprisoned without charges. It has actually hindered the prosecution and imprisonment of dangerous terrorists. Even if Guantanamo seemed justified to some people in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, those justifications are wearing thin. It is unsustainable and should be closed.

We were pleased that Mr. Obama pledged to make good, finally, on his promise to do just that. But that reaction was tempered by the fact that he has failed to do so for five years and that he has not taken steps to transfer prisoners long ago cleared for release. Mr. Obama's plans to try to talk Congress into removing obstacles to closing the prison do not reflect the urgency of the crisis facing him now.

As of Tuesday morning, Charlie Savage reported in The New York Times, 100 of the 166 inmates at Guantanamo are participating in a hunger strike against their conditions and indefinite detention. Twenty-one have been "approved" for force-feeding, which involves the insertion of a tube through their nostrils and down their throats. Mr. Obama defended the practice. "I don't want these individuals to die," he said.

Most people don't. But a recently published bipartisan report on detainee treatment by the Constitution Project said "forced feeding of detainees is a form of abuse and must end." The World Medical Association has long considered forced feeding a violation of a physicians' ethics when it is done against a competent person's express wishes, a point that was reinforced on April 25 by Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, president of the American Medical Association, in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. …

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