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It's A Gray Area: It's time to take back America's moral high ground

Closing Guantanamo, revamping drone policy are the right moves — finally.

June 07, 2013|By James P. Gray

President Obama has recently renewed his plans to try to close our military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba, and has also promulgated new guidelines for our government's use of drones to assassinate people in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.

Good. It's about time!

Not only is our prison at Guantanamo a huge and festering sore upon the soul of our country, it is also ridiculously expensive.

Throughout my lifetime, America has professed to hold the moral high ground. We may not always have lived up to that promise, but I believe that mostly we have tried.

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Until now.

In many places around the world, Guantanamo has become a symbol for injustice. Men have been held without trials, or even charges being brought against them, for more than 11 years. Most people have seen pictures of these men in shackles, and have heard stories about how they have been waterboarded and otherwise tortured while in custody.

During those 11 years, some of the prisoners have been sent back to their native lands, including England, where they have promptly been released without causing any harm to anyone. Of course, others who have been released have subsequently engaged in terrorist acts against our country.

But if hearings had been provided to them, maybe we could have determined who the actual terrorists were and were not. And besides, it should offend us as Americans that we are holding anyone off the battlefield for years without affording them the due process of law.

Now there are 166 prisoners left at Guantanamo, of whom 100 are on a hunger strike based upon this situation. The world has also noticed this strike, adding to our country's self-inflicted public relations nightmare.

As if that isn't enough, the Pentagon is requesting $450 million in next year's budget to maintain and upgrade Guantanamo. That means that it is costing the taxpayers more than $2.8 million per prisoner peryear! In this time of deficits, this certainly is not money well spent.

During his initial campaign for the presidency, Obama said he would try to close Guantanamo immediately. In fairness, I believe he tried, but was outflanked by Congress' refusal to spend any money for prisoner relocation. But now in his second term, Mr. Obama is talking about trying again. Better late than never. Even though Congress recently voted once again to keep Guantanamo open, he should maintain his resolve.

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