As the clock counts down to the New Year and the world welcomes 2016, another clock will continue ticking, counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds since May 23, 2013, the day President Barack Obama promised to free all those prisoners at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay who have been cleared for release.
That clock was created by independent journalist Andy Worthington, and is on the Internet at gtmoclock.com. Jan. 22, will mark the seventh anniversary of the day Obama signed Executive Order 13492, ordering the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison within one year.
As Obama’s time in the White House winds down, the prospects of closing the notorious gulag grow bleaker. Currently there are 107 men imprisoned there, 48 of whom have been cleared for release for almost six years. While the Republican-led Congress has long thwarted efforts to close the island prison, Reuters recently reported that the Pentagon itself, which is supposed to be under the civilian control of Commander-in-Chief Obama, may be resisting the order to close Guantanamo.
Obama’s executive order in 2009 created the Guantanamo Review Task Force, chaired by then Attorney General Eric Holder. It included representatives from the departments of Justice, Defense, State, Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All prisoners cleared for release have received unanimous consent from those authorities. While some of those prisoners have been released, it shocks the conscience to think that scores of men are suffering indefinite detention with no charges against them, many held for more than a decade.
Tariq Ba Odah is one of those men who was cleared for release. “He was assigned to Guantanamo in February of 2002. He’s nearing the 14-year mark of indefinite detention, nearly nine years of that time on hunger strike and detained in solitary confinement,” his attorney, Omar Farah of the Center for Constitutional Rights, told us on the Democracy Now! news hour. “The president has to insist that the Department of Defense and all other agencies fall in line behind what he says is his objective and ensure that Mr. Ba Odah is released immediately.”
The hunger strike Farah described has reduced Tariq Ba Odah to a shadow of his former self. “I visited Mr. Ba Odah in March and April of this year and found him in utterly disastrous physical condition,” Omar Farah said. “According to the government, not me, Mr. Ba Odah is just 74 and a half pounds, and that’s 56 percent of his safe body weight.” Ba Odah is forcibly fed twice daily through a nose tube. The force with which the U.S. military jailers insert the tube causes extreme pain, and has been deemed torture by the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
Tariq Ba Odah is from Yemen, but, because of the civil war there, the Obama…