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U.S. President Barack Obama announced to close Guantanamo Bay

By Tajuddin
In SPOTLIGHT
Feb 28th, 2016
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U.S. President Barack Obama (C) discusses administration plans to close the Guantanamo military prison while delivering a statement at the White House in Washington Feb. 23, 2016. Obama had pledged to close the facility at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since he took office in 2009. Standing with the president, are Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Defense Secretary Ash Carter. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) discusses administration plans to close the Guantanamo military prison while delivering a statement at the White House in Washington Feb. 23, 2016. Obama had pledged to close the facility at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since he took office in 2009. Standing with the president, are Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Defense Secretary Ash Carter. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Washington (Xinhua + DIPLOMAT.SO) – U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan announced this week to shut the American military prison at Guantanamo Bay, southeastern Cuba, in a final push to persuade Congress to help him close the site will be a tall order before he leaves office.

While urging the Republican-controlled Congress to give his plan a fair hearing, Obama, a Democrat who is bent on fulfilling a campaign pledge, said he didn’t want to pass the issue, which has been viewed as a stain on America, to his successor.

The Pentagon-drafted plan proposes 13 potential sites on American soil to hold about 30 to 60 detainees in maximum security prisons but does not disclose locations of the proposed facilities.

In making his case, Obama called the Guantanamo prison “counterproductive to our fight against terrorists,” adding that the closure of the prison was about “closing a chapter” in U.S. history and would enhance America’s national security.

The new proposal would be cheaper, said officials. It cost 450 million U.S. dollars to keep the military prison running in Cuba last year, which was a big financial burden. Obama said moving the detainees to a prison in the U.S. would cut cost by 85 million a year, saving 1.7 billion U.S. dollars over 20 years.

The proposal has nevertheless been considered to be short on specifics and strategy, and has met with staunch opposition from lawmakers who don’t want detainees to be transferred to the United States.

Guantanamo prison was opened in January 2002 to detain prisoners captured in Afghanistan and once held nearly 800 people. The U.S. is now holding 91 inmates there. While 35 detainees have been approved for transfer to other nations, the plan proposed moving the remaining detainees to one of 13 unnamed prisons in the U.S.

While people who oppose Guantanamo argue that it serves as a recruiting tool for terrorists, proponents of keeping it open believe that it helps prevent future terrorist attacks against America.

Also, the Rasmussen Reports poll showed Thursday that 56 percent of Americans want the Guantanamo prison to stay open. The poll was conducted after Obama unveiled his plan to shutter the Cuban facility.

Obama had failed to persuade Congress to help him close the prison since he took office on Jan. 20, 2009. Congress in 2015 passed measures that ban the administration from moving detainees from Guantanamo to U.S. soil.

Obama’s new proposal was derided by Republicans though closure of Guantanamo used to be a bipartisan cause. George W. Bush supported its closure but he failed to accomplish it before he left office.

Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House of the Representatives, said after Obama’s announcement of the latest plan that Obama had yet to convince the American people that moving Guantanamo prisoners to the United States was smart or safe.

Given the election year, it is typically impossible for Obama to fulfill his campaign promise of shutting the infamous Guantanamo with cooperation of the legislature.

The White House has left open the possibility that President Obama would use an executive order to circumvent Congress and get the closure of Guantanamo done unilaterally.

Ryan disclosed Wednesday Republicans in the House are preparing legal action in case President Obama tries to transfer detainees from Guantanamo to the United States.

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