Top General: Guantanamo Is a 'Psychological Scar' and Must Be Closed

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Top General: Guantanamo Is a 'Psychological Scar' and Must Be Closed

Prison's 'ongoing operation... extends injustices that are hardly now in the past,' human rights activist said.

A demonstration Sunday, Jan. 11, to protest the start of the 14th year of operations at Guantanamo Bay.  (Photo:  Susan Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

As the 14th year of operations at the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay gets under way, another voice has been added to the chorus calling for its closure: Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Speaking to "Fox News Sunday," Dempsey said that the offshore prison presented a "psychological scar" on the nation.

Asked by host Chris Wallace if "this White House is in too much of a hurry to close Gitmo," Dempsey responded: "I've been in the group that believes that it's in our national interests to quote—to close Guantanamo. It does create a psychological scar on our national values. Whether it should or not, it does."

Yet, he said, the prison holds some men "that simply should not be released. We're going to come to a point, though, where we've got dozens of these individuals who just have to be detained. And we've got to figure that out."

"Our elected officials need to find a way to detain them," he later added.

Also on Sunday, human rights advocates marked the 13th anniversary of the first arrival of detainees at the prison with a rally outside the White House and march to the Justice Department. Among those speaking at the event was investigative journalist, author and co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, Andy Worthington. He wrote Sunday at his website:

All decent people can only hope that, as 2015 — and the 14th year of Guantánamo’s operations — unfolds, the 59 men approved for release — including Shaker Aamer, the last British resident and the focus of my most recent campaign, We Stand With Shaker — will be freed, and serious efforts made to approve others for release through the Periodic Review Boards (because few of the 68 others genuinely pose any kind of threat, and only ten are facing trials), and to persuade Congress that the remaining prisoners must be transferred to the US mainland so that Guantánamo can be closed for good.

This is because, as I never tire of saying (although I look forward to the day I no longer have to say it), the prison at Guantánamo is a legal, moral and ethical abomination, and every day it remains open — with its arbitrary system of indefinite detention, its prisoners cleared for release but still held, its brutal force-feeding, and its essential nature as a prison built on torture — ought to be a source of profound shame for all decent Americans.

Jeremy Varon with Witness Against Torture, one of the organizations sponsoring the event, added in a statement: "With the Senate report on CIA interrogations, we decisively know that the United States committed torture. The ongoing operation of the prison at Guantanamo extends injustices that are hardly now in the past."

"The eyes of the world are vigilantly watching to see if President Obama fulfills his pledge to close the prison, and will judge his presidency and the country he leads based on whether he succeeds," he said.

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