On the morning President Obama is to outline and defend his counterterrorism strategy marred with controversy, more than 1,300 activists and politicians signed a call to action singling out the administrations’ record on civil liberties by featuring a full-page advertisement Thursday in the national edition of the New York Times.
The ad, titled “CLOSE GUANTANAMO NOW,” calls to “stop the torture” and “end the war crimes and violations of fundamental rights.” It contends that the president closed the office responsible for processing prisoners’ releases, made it more difficult for lawyers to meet with their clients by recently banning commercial flights to the prison, and has stalled waiting for Congress’ approval to shut down the internment prison.
At the military prison, 166 men still languish, more than 100 of them engaged in a months-long hunger strike in protest of their continued detention. But rather than address their grievances, the U.S. military is now shackling the hunger strikers to chairs to force sustenance into their stomachs through their noses.
“It was the hunger strike that inspired all of us to feel like this demand to close Guantanamo, release the cleared prisoners…had to be delivered right now,” Debra Sweet, director of World Can’t Wait, the group that first organized the call to action, told MSNBC. “We feel it is extremely important to get this message out.”
When the president speaks Thursday at the National Defense University about counterterrorism policies in his second term, he has the chance to recommit to the principles of transparency and human rights that he promised four years ago. During his first election campaign, he said he would close the prison at Guantanamo within a year.
World Can’t Wait is a national movement formed to halt and reverse war, repression, and theocracy initiated by the Bush administration, according to the website. The ad’s call to action began with the Guantanamo lawyers, followed by well-known figures and others who have taken a stand against the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sweet said.
The list includes attorneys for Guantanamo prisoners, former military lawyers, former Guantanamo guards, and famous names including historian Noam Chomsky, actor John Cusack, filmmaker Michael Moore, and screenwriter Oliver Stone.
The group has an ongoing fundraising campaign in hopes of publishing the ad elsewhere in the United States and internationally, Sweet said.
“The exciting part is we were able to gather a lot of young and emerging activists who have not been in this circle of activity before,” she said. “This was a chance for voices of conscience in this society to have a vehicle to make this unified expression together.”
See the full-page ad here.
This article originally appeared on tv.msnbc.com on May 23, 2013. is