President Obama said Tuesday he doesn’t want suspected terrorists on a hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay to die, and he vowed to redouble his efforts to close the detention center in Cuba.
“I don’t want these individuals to die,” Mr. Obama said at a press conference at the White House. “Obviously, the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. All of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this. Why are we doing this?”
He decried the U.S. policy of holding the suspects without trial “in a no-man’s land” in perpetuity.
“That is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop,” the president said.
Many of the more than 100 detainees at Guantanamo have been refusing food for weeks, protesting conditions there and their prolonged detention. Mr. Obama campaigned on a pledge in 2008 to close the facility, but Congress has resisted his efforts, with many lawmakers uneasy about bringing the suspects to be tried and imprisoned in the mainland United States.
“I continue to believe that we’ve got to close Guantanamo,” Mr. Obama said. “Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe, it is expensive, it is inefficient, it hurts us in terms of our international standing. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.”
He said he is “going to go back at this” issue with Congress. The president said the U.S. has tried and convicted other terrorism suspects on U.S. soil without incident, and they are serving long terms in federal prisons.
“We’re now over a decade out [since 9/11],” Mr. Obama said. “We should be wiser… in how we prosecute terrorists. This is a lingering problem that is not going to get better, it’s going to get worse.”