Close Gitmo

The following editorial appeared recently in the Philadelphia Inquirer .

When a U.S. military commander suggests medical facilities at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may have to be upgraded to care for aging terrorism detainees, it's a clear sign that President Obama needs to redouble efforts to deliver on his 2008 campaign pledge to close the embarrassing facility.

Even more compelling, before beefing up health care services for the retirement set, prison authorities may need to expand their morgue. A hunger strike by many of the 166 men being held at the island naval base without trial has entered its fourth month. That means the years-long delays in moving ahead on shuttering the prison could yet give America's enemies the new martyrs they have always desired.

Even the recent decision by the Defense Department to force-feed some detainees is subjecting U.S. antiterrorism policy to more harsh, global scrutiny. Putting a feeding tube up inmates' noses is viewed by human-rights activists as "a painful process that could be perceived as torture ... in violation of international law."

Only a handful of detainees have been brought to trial, and more than half were cleared for release to other countries several years ago. A third of those detainees were given the green light to leave even before President George W. Bush left office.

Despite congressional moves to bar repatriation, the president is believed to have greater authority under his executive powers to move ahead with the releases. The Obama administration needs to explore all those options - the sooner, the better.

For congressional opponents, the interminable delay in closing Guantanamo has disproved their fears that former detainees would return to the terrorist fold. Indeed, the recidivism rate for felons released from domestic jails is far higher than any documented among Guantanamo detainees.

Lawmakers - in particular, politically partisan critics of Obama - simply have to understand that the situation in Guantanamo grows more and more untenable as the months and years roll on.

The prison's existence remains an affront to America's standing in the world community, dimming what should be a beacon of democracy.

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