Obama & GOP clash over Guantanamo

When President Barack Obama took office in 2008, he promised to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention center. As his second term nears its conclusion, Obama hopes to finally fulfill that promise.

However, fellow elected officials like Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona oppose any plans to shutter the Guantanamo Bay facility.

Just last month, McCain threatened to sue Obama if he closed the prison down.

“It is a political issue on the part of the Republicans to embarrass the president,” said Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan. “I don’t think it has anything to do with security or any other issues that exist.”

Guantanamo Bay itself has attracted some wide criticism since its wide opening in 2002. Only three of the 166 are prisoners with convictions while the rest are detainees.

Under the Obama administration, the federal government spends around $150 million per year on the prison.

“The biggest problem with Guantanamo Bay is that it denies the humanity of people and it compels us, in turn, to deny the humanity of those people,” said Matthew Armstrong, a graduate student at UNCG and tutor at Guilford. “And by doing to so, it makes us a dehumanizing example.”

Human rights activists claim that Guantanamo Bay is a violation of international law.

For instance, many prisoners participate in hunger strikes, who are then force-fed through tubes.

On the other hand, the Republican Party thinks it is necessary to hold the detainees.

“Closing Guantanamo Bay would be a step in the right direction, but would not solve some of the bigger issues that are at play here,” said Associate Professor of History Damon Akins.

One of those issues is terrorism, which has opened a new discussion after the recent Paris attacks.

Many pro-Guantanamo Bay activists find the prison necessary to hold supposed terrorists while also sending a message to radical Islamist groups such as the Islamic State.

“As the administration continues to search for a more effective response to ISIS, it will be interesting if we return to a debate about Guantanamo and the proper disposition of those accused of terrorist acts,” said  Associate Professor of Political Science Kyle Dell.

Though McCain and fellow Republicans have reasons to keep the prison open, away from continental American soil, Obama has humanitarian and legacy issues shaping his decisions about the future of Guantanamo Bay.

Whether Obama is able to close the prison or not, this issue will affect his legacy as president.