Obama: Close Gitmo On Day One. You Can Do It. We've Got Your Back.

(Originally posted on Huffington Post.)

It's already a time-worn cliché when we say that the election of Barack Obama is historic. I still like saying it. Let me share some of my personal reflections on why this election seems historic and hopeful for a sometimes jaded Executive Director.

close gitmo
> Ask President-elect Obama to restore the America we believe in

Like many of you on Tuesday night, I was celebrating the end of the Bush era and the beginning of a historic one. My partner and I went to four festive and fun election parties that night. And then while lying in bed that night, excitedly talking about the world, we reflected on what that night's election meant for us.

My partner remarked that he was born in 1954, and that the year he was born, African-American little boys like him were still legally put in "separate but equal" schools. Then Brown vs. Board of Education changed all that. And today, an African-American ascends to the highest office of the greatest nation. I remarked that when I was a little boy in the Bronx public housing projects, I never thought I could be president of ANYTHING when I grew up. I only believed I could go to college when I was a high school sophomore after receiving a letter telling me I was offered early admission at a community college. That was the first day I realized I would not have to be a waiter like my father who came from Puerto Rico and worked at the Warwick Hotel for 39 years. I told my partner that my Mom still proudly tells me that I was always smart, ambitious, and focused on school. But I never aspired for anything more than a job like my dad's because I never thought it was possible. My dad was the only great role model I knew and I wanted to be just like him.

On Tuesday, all the African-American, Latino, poor of all races, and disenfranchised of all countries got the best of role models. Everyone knows who the U.S. president is, and now literally billions of little boys and girls who may have otherwise set their sights too low will invariably set them higher. If nothing more happens (and our collective job is to make sure a lot more happens), change will indeed happen by having a President Barack Obama inspire new generations of little boys and girls to write, "I want to be President when I grow up." No one will dare ridicule them because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, or convince them that the odds are insurmountable. Tuesday inspired many, but the best of those we inspired we won't know for generations to come.

For our generation, however, we have to help realize the greatness that President Obama represents. It's not all on him. He needs us. He has two raging wars, a failing economy where good folks are losing their homes and can't drive their cars because they don't have the cash to go the pump, and where they avoid going to the doctor because they can't afford the bills that will come in the mail. Those are not ACLU priorities, but they are American priorities that President Obama confronts. Solutions to these problems won't be easy, as he will have to contend with well-moneyed lobbyists from pharmaceuticals, oil companies and military contractors opposing him at every turn. Solutions to those issues will require partisan horse trading with Republicans and Democrats alike — and I worry that he will have to water down what he wants and ultimately give up the Progressive Caucus to get the Blue Dogs and Conservative/Moderate Wing of Republican party, as well as the "Independent" likes of Joe Lieberman (smile).

But our issues and our top agenda are easy by comparison. He doesn't have to contend with lobbyists in client-bought Ferragamos. Our issues won't require partisan horse-trading, congressional action, faux hearings and bipartisan committees that deliberate but never deliver.

Our top issue — closing down Gitmo and shutting down the military commissions — can be done as soon as he lifts his left hand, picks up the new presidential pen and signs an executive order closing Gitmo and ending the military commissions once and for all. Call me naive, but I honestly believe he wants to do it. He promised us that on the campaign trail, and I believe it was more than an empty promise. I believe he knows what he needs to do to restore the America we believe in, to get us on back on track, to give us back our America, an America we never stopped believing in but have sorely missed for the past eight years.

With a stroke of his pen on Day One, a good, courageous president can do that — as long as he listens to himself and to our pleas. As long as he doesn't listen to the centrist and DLC types who tell him, "It's too complicated." "It's tougher than it looks." "Take your time." "We need message discipline — you don't want to do what Clinton did with gays in the military. The nation wasn't ready."

But what these so-called experts might forget is that America IS ready. The world is ready. And we need a courageous, optimistic president ready to say back to them, "I don't want America to live with the stain of President Bush's Guantánamo prison camp and his flawed commissions for one day longer. I'm closing them today. You tell me how we are going to accomplish that and begin cleaning up the mess we inherited."

They're not likely to give him a solution — just their view of the realpolitik. They may play for time, and "get back to him" as he turns his attention elsewhere. But the solution to the stain on America's pride is in fact really easy: criminally charge all the Guantánamo detainees for whom the government has good evidence. Those we can't charge, you have to release. For those being tried in kangaroo military commissions, transfer them to federal criminal courts or to courts governed by the U.S. Code of Military Justice. Those are the best systems of justice in the world where the Constitution still stands for something. Let's use them.

President Obama needs us. Even for the most extraordinary of men like him, his head must be spinning from the "expert" advice he's getting on a range of issues. Other pressing issues will take time, compromise and horse-trading. Our top issue — closing Gitmo and shutting down the military commissions — just requires us to remind him that that's what we want; that we have his back when the critics come after him for doing so. We can tell him that we understand that the best of presidents who want to do the right thing are better able to do so when the public, fans and supporters respectfully demand action. Like Dr. King forcing the hand of JFK. Both their legacies benefited from that pressure. And the nation remembers them fondly, even if there were tensions between them. We understand that. I have to believe President Obama understands that.

So let's get to work to help Mr. Obama be the best president ever. A courageous commander-in-chief, who tells West Wing advisors sipping lattes in Italian calfskin loafers what they have to do, rather than ask the George Bush question, "What should we do?"

In today's New York Times, we're running a full-page ad urging President-Elect Obama to close Guantánamo Bay and shut down the military commissions on his first day in the White House. Take a look at the ad.

Today, we're also launching the first in a powerful series of short videos produced by filmmaker Robert Greenwald, the award-winning director and producer of documentaries including "Outfoxed" and "Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties." Check out the first video now. You can find Robert's video on closegitmo.com.

We're hosting an open Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, November 13, when concerned citizens from all across the nation will gather via teleconference to brainstorm how we help Barack Obama take the steps we all want towards freedom on Day One. We can help him do the right thing, we can give him cover and we can respond to his advisors that it not as hard to close Gitmo and shut down Bush's military commissions as we're being told. We can't wait. The world can't wait. Our America can't wait. We want it back and need him to get us back on track.

You are invited to this strategy session to help the president do the right thing that's in his gut. Go to www.aclu.org/townhall for more information and to sign up.

For eight years, patriotic Americans have led the battle against the most un-American policies in recent history. The Bush administration created a prison camp at Guantánamo — a place where they claimed the law didn't apply. They have detained hundreds of men without charge or trial, prosecuted others in unconstitutional military commissions and authorized torture.

Now, you can help us and our new president seize a dramatic opportunity for progress. You can help this historic president make history on Day One — not a day too soon. Before the weeds and vines of politics-as-usual creep over our hope and smother its light, let's come together and demand a new beginning and a new day — on the first day. We can and will close Gitmo, and we can shut down the un-American military commissions. It takes a president, but he needs his people. Not his advisors.

Help us reach him. Help President-elect Obama. Help America.

Get involved: Watch our first "Close Gitmo" video, check out our New York Times ad and sign up for our Town Hall Meeting.

If not for us, do it for those legions of little boys and girls who now have a role model they believe in. Let's not lose their hope in him, in us, and let's not let their incipient hope in themselves dissipate. Hope is too hard won. And too easily lost.

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Liberal hater

It's not a matter of if but when America will "fall". It really is sad. This once great nation will become a third world nation thanks to Obama and his radical left-wing agenda which is supported whole-heartedly by the ACLU.

Who gives a damn what the rest of the world thinks about us. They hate us because they are jealous of us.

Under Obama the terrorist will win, abortion on demand will rule, including partial-birth infanticide, gay marriage will be imposed against the majority of Americans due to judicial activism. Liberal judges will dominate the courts. Say goodbye to your 2nd amendment protections, say hello to the "FAIRNESS DOCTRINE". The Constitution will be replaced by some U.N. new world order document, affirmative action forced on us and the list goes on and on.

Yeah, this is a historic presidency. This president will radically change Americas Christian heritage to that of a secular nation. God help us all!

The ACLU is suppose to believe in freedom of speech so lets see if they allow my message to be posted or if they will delete it.

Amazed

Let them go? Maybe they should hand them over to the ACLU. When they cause another catastrophe, we can sue the ACLU!

Stephan Larose

Yeah, how outrageous to let women be in charge of their own bodies, how outrageous to respect international law and the Geneva conventions and not launch illegal wars of aggression, the Supreme Crime, causing over 1,000,000 innocent deaths, how outrageous to encourage equity in the economy and the polity instead of rule by the rich elite, how outrageous to prioritize government spending on housing for the poor and health care for all (Jesus would HATE that), how outrageous to base policy on rationalism and humanism rather than intolerance-spewing religious extremism.

How retarded do you have to be?

The republicans just spent the last eight years plunging your country into a financial crisis and taking away your civil liberties. Liberal Hater, did you have your eyes and brain totally turned off for the last eight years??? You're stupidity and ignorance is literally breathtaking.

The left will be investing in green energy and putting caps on corporate greed and power for the next four yours, I guess you'll just have to put your plans for a right wing totalitarian police state (and rapture) on hold.

got to be kidding

oh yeah, shut it down, bring the enemy here and let the radical left help spring them and release them into the American society and give them all the right that REAL American citizens are provided under OUR constitution. You richard craniums out there need to know that when the enemy is captured without a uniform, he/she is deemed as a spy...well, guess what, spies can be tried and executed on the spot according to the Genova Convention....guess the scumbags from the aclu want to give these terrorists who would much rather cut your head off than to accept your gesture of giving them rights that they do not deserve...
IMPEACH OBAMA NOW
The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery-Winston Churchill

Desde Aqui/ Fro...

From Reinaldo Escobar's blog - A Cuban independent journalist living in Havana.

With the stroke of a pen
Noviembre 13th, 2008

In a full-page ad in The New York Times on Monday,
the American Civil Liberties Union urged Obama to close
Guantanamo Bay on his first day in office, “with the stroke of a pen.”
CNN

In good Spanish we say “de un plumazo” to mean the rapidity with which a decision taken must be guaranteed by a signature. Translated into English, the phrase would be “with the stroke of a pen,” which is the way the American Civil Liberties Union demands that the next president of the United States forever close the infamous prison that country has on a military base located on Guantanamo Bay.

My antitotalitarian scruples, fueled by the understandable prejudice that a person suffers after enduring a half century dictatorship, set off alarms in the face of this request. It frightens me that someone has so much power, even to do good. Don’t you know the strokes of the pen we have had in these latitudes and even more, “strokes of the phone call” and even “strokes of the court.” With the gesture of a hand, waved from the window of a four-door Soviet jeep, crops have been destroyed, ministers and ambassadors dismissed, the construction of dams ordered, events cancelled, wars started, doctors sent to other countries, a book censored, more prisons opened… and more that we do not know.

But sometimes, time is pressing and one has to leave behind certain prejudices. Prison installations should be under the permanent observation of the competent justice system, and not outside the borders, free from control. The closing of this prison is demanded by those who see the prestige of the United States affected as well as by those who are sincerely worried about any outrage that is committed and, of course, by us as well, who are the true owners of the island, the whole island.

When Obama takes the pen in his hand (it doesn’t even have to be the first day in the Oval Office), whether to free his country from the heavy burden of this ignominy or to bring justice to those whose rights have been violated, would that someone would show him on the map where Guantánamo is, and in passing comment that American citizens cannot visit the rest of the island, which is not only the most beautiful part, but also the most interesting; would that someone would explain that over this large alligator in the middle of the Caribbean sea there are millions of people (tens of thousands if you want to be conservative) who breathed sighs of relief to know that it was he who was elected; people who believe very strongly that he has a unique and possibly unrepeatable opportunity, not to solve all our problems with a single stroke of the pen but, with the caress that a pen is capable of, to send a message; to make, it might even be, a gesture of the hand.

The original Spanish text can be found here: http://desdecuba.com/reinaldoescobar/

Barackyo'mama

Desde,

Figures you would like his communist ass. I guess you figure it's time America gets a health dose of what ya' been gettin' 'eh?!?!?!?!?!?

So he wants to release KNOW ENEMIES of the US AND DISARM IT'S CITIZENS !!!!

What's it sound like he wants to do?!?!?!?

Guess you're glad to see us have our Castro.

Ron

YOu release these terrorist and they will kill our troops and you. Our troops should now dont bother interegate them just kill them. What the hell is wrong with you libearls these terrorist will have no problem killing you. THEY WILL KILL ANY AMERICAN they dont care if your with the ACLU. They dont care if your a lib or from the right .YOu wont haave to worry about freedom if your all DEAD. How will you people feel if we have another major attack that kills thousands upon thousands americans you still gonna worry about the terrorist rights?

Ron

I say waterboard them till they drown I dont care about the terrorist rights

Jason

The reasoning that the military commissions violate the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions is bizarre. Rightly or wrongly, agree with or not, the detainees in GTMO were determined by a "competent tribunal" to be unlawful enemy combatants in accordance with the standards set by the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War. Trial by military tribunal for enemy combatants accused of war crimes is not only within international law, the precedent is entirely towards using tribunals instead of civilian courts (See: Quirin and Eisentrager).

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