Published: Thu, May. 07, 2009
The News Observer
End an enduring shame
By Patrick O'Neill
WASHINGTON -- Many of the tourists filing past the White House since Barack Obama's inauguration have been taken aback by the weekday sight of silent, orange jumpsuit-clad, black-hooded protesters standing on the sidewalk as a reminder to the president that approximately 240 men are still being detained at the notorious
When my daughters joined me Easter Monday morning to be part of the Catholic Worker 100-Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo, we donned our jumpsuits and hoods and proceeded slowly through Lafayette Park to take our positions along Pennsylvania Avenue. Children gawked in wonder, asking their parents why we were there. Hundreds of people took out their cameras to snap pictures of us. It was a solemn and shocking sight, but one Americans have come to associate with one of the worst of many terrible things carried out by the Bush administration since 9/11.
What was most surprising to me, however, was the number of people who walked by our line and asked aloud why we were there -- since Obama has already closed
So great is their despair that approximately 50 detainees have been on a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention. About three dozen of these men are being force-fed through nasal tubes twice daily, a painful procedure.
The history of
Step One: Order the immediate release of the Uighurs (WEE-gurs), the 17 Chinese Muslims who have already been cleared for release from
Step Two: Obama should allow groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch open access to all
Obama has not allowed judicial oversight at
Step Three: Obama should order an investigation into why detainees are on a hunger strike and take measures to improve conditions so these men will end their hunger strike .
Finally, Obama should immediately move the process forward that leads to the release of the innocent men the United States is detaining at all prisons.
I have no way of knowing whether Obama has been looking out the window of his new home and seeing the daily lineup of hooded protesters, but my hope is that his two daughters might have asked their father about those people standing on the sidewalk each day. We stand both as a reminder of the promises Obama has made and of the corrective action still not taken. It is my hope that he will do the right thing and reverse the shameful Bush legacy at
Patrick O'Neill is co-founder of Garner's Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker House, a pacifist, Christian community that provides hospitality to women and children in crisis. He can be reached at Garner Catholic Worker House,
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs