The time for our congressional leaders to support the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba has long since passed.
As President Obama correctly stated at a recent press conference, it is wholly inconsistent with American values that 166 people continue to be imprisoned with no prospect for trial or release in sight. First, many detainees who have been deemed fit for release continue to be imprisoned. This jostles against our basic notions of justice and human dignity, for the fact that these men have been deemed "fit for release" demands that the United States release them.
Yes, there are practical (nonpolitical) hurdles to releasing these detainees to the countries and communities from which they were taken over a decade ago, but the United States must confront those hurdles and do what is right. After all, if someone in Warren were arrested for burglary and there was not sufficient evidence to bring a charge, the police would release him. The same basic principle applies here.
Second, it is equally disgraceful that other detainees continue to be imprisoned without the opportunity to confront their accusers, hear the evidence against them, and have their guilt adjudicated. Although I believe that civilian trials in federal court are the proper forum, I will not delve into the debate between civilian trials and military tribunals. My only point is that these detainees are entitled to judicial process before an adjudicative body, and the United States continues to deny it to them.
President Obama has expressed his desire to close Guantanamo Bay, and now Congress must act. Our leaders are judged not by how they treat the privileged, the moneyed, or the best and most loved among us, but by how they treat those who are powerless, silent, or hated.
It is much more difficult - and takes real courage - to guarantee the rights of the latter group. But this is what Congress must do. Fundamental rights of liberty, human dignity and justice are merely extensions of privilege unless they apply to everyone.