Retired Military Leaders Urge President to Stand Strong In His Commitment to Close Guantanamo Detention Facility

(Washington, DC January 21, 2010) Nearly three-dozen retired Flag and General officers today urged President Obama to stand strong in his commitment to closing the U.S. detention facility at Guatanamo Bay, noting that the goal he established one year ago tomorrow must not be derailed by fearmongering because it continues to be a national security imperative. Among those signing the today’s letter are members of the group of retired military leaders who stood with President Obama in the Oval Office as he signed Executive Orders to end torture and CIA secret prisons, and announce his intention to close the Guantanamo Bay prison facility.

“As the original deadline you set for closing the facility approaches, we write to reiterate our support for this important national security imperative,” wrote the retired military leaders. “We are deeply concerned by the hysteria permeating the public debate around these issues. Opponents of your plan to close Guantanamo are using the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as an excuse to renew their calls to keep the Guantanamo prison facility open and to oppose bringing terrorist suspects to justice in federal courts.  We are especially troubled to hear some advocating that we return to the use of torture against such suspects in hopes of garnering useful intelligence.  These strategies are self-defeating.”

Those signing today’s letter are members of a group of retired Admirals and Generals formed over concerns about the treatment of enemy prisoners in U.S. custody after learning of the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. The group was formed out of a shared sense of responsibility to ensure that our Nation’s interrogation and detention policies comply with the Geneva Conventions and reflect our laws, values and security interests.  Collectively, members of the group have served in every war the United States has waged since 1941, against every kind of enemy.

“We know from experience that torture does not produce reliable intelligence, and acting on information derived through such abuse is dangerous, to our troops, and to our Nation,” the group noted in their letter to President Obama. “We welcomed your decision to set January 22, 2010 as a deadline for closing Guantanamo, and we appreciate the progress you have made toward that end. While it is clear that Guantanamo will remain in operation beyond this deadline, your actions are bringing us closer to the day when we can deprive the enemy of this very effective recruiting tool. You made clear by taking action on these issues in your first days in office that ending torture and closing Guantanamo were among your highest priorities. They must remain so, until the job is done.”

In their letter today, the retired military leaders urged President Obama to see past the fearmongering that has muddied the nation’s debate about national security in recent months, including the suggestion that suspects like Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab did not deserve the protection provided in the United States’ federal courts and should instead be subject to military tribunals.

“Abdulmutallab and his ilk should be treated as the would-be mass murderers they are.  To bestow on him and others like him the designation of “enemy combatant” reinforces their claims to be jihadist warriors.  They are not warriors.  There is neither nobility nor ideological justification in murdering innocent civilians. These critics also claim that a trial in federal court will provide a platform for these terrorists to spread their message of hate. On the contrary, we are confident that these trials will showcase America at its best, a nation of laws.  In the war of ideals, we can only lose if we forfeit ours,” the letter stated.

Those signing today’s letter are members of a group of retired Admirals and Generals who have spent years working with candidates, elected officials, and policymakers to strengthen national security. The group’s primary priorities include closing the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, ending the use of torture, and driving the number of detainees help without charge down to zero.

Their letter to President Obama concluded, “These are difficult and momentous issues that will define our Nation for decades to come.  We stand ready to support you as you work to close the Guantanamo prison facility and bring terrorist suspects to justice.  Doing so will make Americans more secure on the battlefield, in the skies and on our own soil.”

For more information about these military leaders, visit Human Rights First’s website about their work.

Read the letter.


Published on January 21, 2010


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