01.09.15

My Word: People of Oakland should help to close Guantanamo

Last summer, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2015 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, containing a section that explicitly prohibits the use of funds for the transfer or release of Guantnamo Bay detainees.

Several days prior, the House version of the Defense Appropriations Act passed with similar provisions, while amendments from Reps. Jim Moran and Alan Grayson to speed up or place deadlines on prisoner trials were easily defeated along partisan lines.

It is a sad pattern, repeated over and over in the past few years, as the current House seems intent on blocking (let alone encouraging) any efforts by the administration to end this chapter in America's judicial and foreign policy record.

One is left to wonder whether this deplorable consistency is due to security concerns (in which case the wanton avoidance of legitimate trials for detainees is hard to explain), or posturing of the sort that divides the world into friends -- and enemies unworthy of human rights and of anything but unconditional contempt.

Or, simply but plausibly, cold political calculation aimed at stopping the president from achieving one of his long-standing promises to his electorate, a promise that many of us are still waiting to see fulfilled.

Nevertheless, the voters of Oakland and surrounding areas can take comfort in knowing that their voice in Congress has always been on the right side of this issue.

From the very beginnings of the "war on terror" doctrine, whose lack of limits and provisions for human rights underlies the ongoing debacle at Guantnamo Bay, Rep. Barbara Lee has been an unflinching opponent of this new and unfortunate way of defining and treating enemies, and prisoners in particular.

Courageous stances, such as her isolated vote against the language in the initial Authorization for Use of Military Force against Terrorists of 2001 or the vote against the Military Commissions Act of 2006, both against considerable political pressure, have established Lee as one of the leading voices for peace, diplomacy and human rights in a House not always friendly to those concepts.

Her spotless voting record on the countless bills and amendments concerning Guantanamo ever since has only strengthened that standing.

As members of Amnesty International, we remain fully committed to seeing an end to indefinite detention without trial of fellow human beings.

In addition to the direct benefits to the lives and dignity of the prisoners, putting an end to Guantnamo Bay would also enable organizations like ours, and even the U.S. foreign policy arm, to more effectively bring pressure on foreign regimes engaging in similar (or frequently much worse) treatment of prisoners. In a real sense, this issue is much bigger than the hundred-odd detainees still awaiting their fate at Guantanamo.

We urge the people of Oakland to continue supporting the efforts of Lee to close this facility.

And we wholeheartedly thank her for being on the right side of history.

 To read this article in its original format, go here.