In his sixth annual State of the Union address to Congress, the United States President has avoided mentioning the burning issue of Guantanamo and its future. In his previous speeches Barack Obama had promised to close it down, but again failed to do so. Millions of African-Americans were expecting him to say something about the persistence racism in the country, particularly in view of the two recent unarmed black young men shot dead by the racist police in two different cities.Those people have no voice of their own.
Obama could have easily become their voice, but he has failed to fulfil their expectations once again. The human rights campaigners, lawyers, academics and the public at large who expected him to enlarge on the basic human rights issues we are confronted with in today’s world must be deeply disappointed.
During his administration more wars and conflicts of interests in Africa, Asia and also in Europe (Ukraine) have occurred, and there seems no end to the continual US drone bombings and air strikes in several countries, resulting in thousands of women and children dead and injured.Obama cannot match the generosity and farsightedness of Nelson Mandela, but he can do something extraordinarily memorable in the dying days of his presidency so that after his departure millions may remember him as an independent thinker and a visionary, by taking steps to close down Guantanamo concentration camp and go down in history as his own man and not as a token black president.
Obama cannot match the generosity and farsightedness of Nelson Mandela, but he can do something extraordinarily memorable in the dying days of his presidency so that after his departure millions may remember him as an independent thinker and a visionary, by taking steps to close down Guantanamo concentration camp and go down in history as his own man and not as a token black president.
Before he vacates the Oval office in less than two years, it is within his power to overcome the opposition from the neocons in Congress and the Pentagon and do the unexpected as F. W. de Klerk, the former South African president, did by releasing Nelson Mandela at the height of apartheid. He had overridden powerful racist opposition from his own party and clan, but he paved the way in very difficult circumstances for releasing Mandela from Robben Island prison after prolonged secret negotiations.
De Klerk, no friend of blacks or of Mandela, did the right thing absolutely unexpectedly in a new radical move. Being a shrewd politician, he persevered and continued negotiating with the African National Congress, and Mandela, both of whom were regarded by the successive apartheid regimes as dangerous “terrorists” and achieved a smooth and peaceful transfer of power to the majority black population. For this impressive achievement, both men were jointly awarded Nobel Peace Prize. It was after his release that we actually knew the real stature of the man, whose statutes were to be built in many countries, including two in London.
Obama has also received that coveted Peace award, but the difference is that he has not earned it, he was given it on a plate, as it were, for virtually doing nothing for peace and he is personally responsible for increasing drone bombings relentlessly to this day.
He can take a leaf out of de Klerk’s book and do the right thing in a similar radical move to close down Guantanamo. He has also the responsibility to examine the case of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist arrested in Afghanistan for allegedly snatching a machine gun from a seven feet tall American soldier. Because she had shown such bravery and symbolic defiance against the occupation of Afghanistan she was framed, falsely accused, brought back to the US mainland, abused, and a judge jailed her for 86 years in the “land of the free”.
She is an unfortunate woman who has been unjustly sentenced for an awfully long period of time. This is the longest prison sentence ever handed down to a Muslim woman anywhere in the entire history. Obama and the justice system have a moral and legal duty to investigate this incident properly and let her go back to her family and children.
If Obama leaves without honouring his promise, not only will Guantanamo comeback to haunt him in later years, but it will remain a stain on him.He still has a limited time left to earn his Nobel Peace Prize by bravely closing down Guantanamo cage and releasing Aafia Siddiqui, a victim of gross miscarriage of justice.