End 15 Years Of Injustice

300 Days of Trump: Join Our Photo Campaign Calling for the Closure of Guantánamo

Just some of the people opposed to the continuing existence of Guantánamo, who have taken photos of themselves urging Donald Trump to close the prison without further delay.

By Andy Worthington, November 16, 2017

What a disappointment Donald Trump is — something that many of us suspected when he was elected as the 45th President of the United States over a year ago, but that does not become any easier to bear with the passage of time.

Largely governing by tweet, Trump has nothing positive to show for his first 300 days in office, as he alienates allies and does nothing to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. His Muslim ban, which he still persists in trying to enforce, remains shockingly racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic, and it is clear that he also extends these prejudices to the men held at Guantánamo.

Uninterested in any nuances regarding Guantánamo — the fact that indefinite detention without charge or trial ought to be fundamentally un-American, for example, or that there are men held at the prison who have been approved for release — Trump has always behaved as though the prison contained "the worst of the worst," turning the clock back to the terrible hyperbole of Guantánamo’s early days under George W. Bush.

On the campaign trail, speaking of Guantánamo, Trump promised to "load it up with some bad dudes," and just weeks before taking office he tweeted, incorrectly, "There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."

He was, unfortunately, true to his word. There have been no further releases, even though the battlefield claim was wrong, drawing on a history of unsubstantiated allegations about recidivism that originate from within the military and the intelligence services, and even though five of the 41 men he inherited from President Obama had already been approved for release by high-level government review processes.

Trump’s other threats have not materialized — he has not yet "load[ed] it up with some bad dudes," and it is to be hoped that he won’t even try, as any new prisoner accused of terrorism should be tried in federal court (as the courts have a good track record of successfully prosecuting terrorists), and any prisoners seized in a military context should be held in a prison that is compliant with the Geneva Conventions, which Guantánamo — a legacy of the Bush administration’s dangerous desire to hold people outside the law, and with no rights whatsoever — is not.

Seven of the 41 men still held by Trump are facing trials, but these are stuck in endless pre-trial hearings because the military commission trial system — unlike federal courts — is not fit for purpose. In the latest scandal to undermine the commissions, a military judge imprisoned the chief defense lawyer, a general, because he had accepted the resignations of three of his team, who quit because they discovered that the government was spying on them.

It would be hard to imagine a scenario more discrediting to the legitimacy of the commissions, but elsewhere at Guantánamo Trump’s dismal leadership is having other damaging repercussions.

As I reported for Al Jazeera yesterday, Trump appears to be in charge of a change of policy at Guantánamo regarding hunger strikers, whereby the prison authorities are refusing to feed them, or even to monitor their health. This is a situation that could lead to them suffering severe organ damage before, presumably, the authorities force-feed them to prevent them from dying, because the death of a prisoner would be bad from a PR perspective.

As a policy, however, it only shows the harshness of the administration’s approach to the prison, because anyone with any empathy would recognize that men held for nearly 16 years without charge or trial might have some reason to demand, via starving themselves, that they should either be charged or released.

We’re currently working on plans for the new year, for the 16th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo (on Jan. 11), and for the first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration (on Jan. 20), but for now, if you want to make your dissatisfaction with Donald Trump known, why not join the many dozens of people who, this year, have taken photos of themselves with out campaign poster, which states, "Donald Trump No! Please Close Guantánamo," and have sent those photos to us to post on our dedicated page for the campaign against Trump.

Your support will be very greatly appreciated, and if you want to do more, you can sign a petition to Trump, initiated by the human rights organization Reprieve, which currently has over 23,000 signatures, calling for him to close Guantánamo, and to allow independent medical experts to visit and assess the health of the hunger strikers, and you can also, if you wish, ask your elected representatives to act. You can find your Senators here, and your Representatives here.