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Guantanamo detention center remains a stain on our national character

Nearly 10 years ago, I reacted with horror and disdain as President George W. Bush gleefully took credit for extra-judicial killings and indefinite detention of suspected terrorists. I thought: "How could a president throw away the basic principle of trial by jury and shred our Constitution?" I agreed with those who saw the detention center at Guantanamo Bay as a terrible stain on our national values and called for its closure.

As a supporter of the Green Party, I did not vote for President Obama in 2008. However, I cheered when Mr. Obama thanked President Bush for his service and promptly announced the order to close Guantanamo within a year. Perhaps I too was feeling the "hope."

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama has more than failed to live up to his promise. His failure led to the hunger strike by 106 Guantanamo prisoners, of whom 40 are now being force-fed through tubes in their nose.

Many of these men had been cleared for release years ago. A federal judge recently acknowledged that force-feeding is painful, humiliating and degrading. Like the American Medical Association, I see force-feeding as akin to torture.

Mr. Obama is showing himself to be more a despotic authoritarian and shredder of constitutional rights than his predecessor. The N.S.A. voraciously hordes our communications and erodes all notions of privacy. Meanwhile Mr. Obama relentlessly pursues and prosecutes those with the courage to expose the truth (Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning). Secrecy, authoritarianism and now torture rule the day once again in America.

I wish Mr. Obama would make me a liar by showing he is in fact the wise and just leader his supporters hoped for. Stop the torture at Guantanamo. Put the men on trial or release them. Close the prison once and for all.

Vincent Tola, Baltimore

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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