Medea Benjamin (second from left) and members of Code Pink participate in Witness Against Torture's 2013 Fast For Justice campaign. Credit: Creative Commons/ Justin Norman.

It’s remarkable how President Obama, pressed heavily by activism and public commentary on the crisis of Guantanamo, can make a major speech offering the most minor and insufficient of actions toward remediation of one of the worst human rights outrages of the past decade. Remarkable, really.

Thankfully the passionate outcry missing from Obama’s presentation was provided by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the activist group Code Pink. For a decade now, activists of Code Pink have made every effort to be a loud, theatrically in-your-face voice for the conscience of the United States. For a decade now, their cri de coeur for the world has resounded in Congress, in front of the White House, nationwide and abroad.

Medea Benjamin was there at the Defense University in Washington D.C., to break into the President’s mellifluous meliorations with calls to our hearts: “Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives?”

It isn’t that Obama disagrees with Medea on the depravity of Guantanamo, even though he claimed to disagree with her on most of what she’d said. He concurred that the facility “should never have been opened”… He said:

“Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike. I’m willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it’s worth being passionate about. Is this who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave our children?…our sense of justice is stronger than that…”

As we Jews say, Alevai, it should only be so. Such nice, nice words. Obama’s got his act together. But let us examine the speech to determine what sort of walk he’s offering to walk on this issue, and this crisis.

“I am appointing a new senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries…” He informs us he’s felt the heat of our outrage enough to re-open an office he quietly closed in January of this year.

“I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen so we can review them on a case-by-case basis…and we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee.” He’s obfuscating the fact that 86 Yemeni detainees already passed judicial reviews and were slated for repatriation….prior to an arbitrary moratorium on their freedom. How long will these revolving reviews go on?

Basically what he’s indicated is that he’s willing publicly to commiserate with us – you know, the old “war is hell” canard. But he glosses over the enormity of the immorality in question. And he will not do much.

He will not go to the wall for our national soul. He will not go to the wall for the lives of men already proven innocent, and languishing in torment and despair.

Does he plan to stand even for the Constitution, which he pledged to preserve, protect and defend? He mentioned that “The original premise for opening Gitmo, that detainees would not be able to challenge their detention, was found unconstitutional five years ago.” Well?

The only way, it appears, for the detainees to challenge their detention is for them to starve themselves to death. That’s justice?

The Military Authorization Act gives the President the power and the werewithal to order waivers for detainees, and to expedite the release and repatriation of detainees… without consent of Congress.

Presidents of the past 50 years have thought nothing – or little – of declaring and waging war without the consent of Congress. That is also unconstitutional.

But we get all coy and careful about ceasing our torture and torment of men who’ve already been proven innocent of any crime. Suddenly that great big, unwieldy Congress is just so difficult….

Walk the walk, Mr. Obama. Forget the military and civilian judical reviews. Get the men back to their homes, in safety and with replenished health. Now. Not in a year or two or…. Now!

Lynn Feinerman is a San Francisco Bay Area independent media professional, whose company, Crown Sephira Productions, has emphasized ecology, peace, and social justice. Her recent writings have appeared online at Common Dreams and UFPJ.

Bookmark and Share