President Obama has announced he will refuse to authorize this year’s defense spending bill funding the military unless the House of Representatives votes to close the detention facility and military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Obama’s threat to withhold military funding comes at a time when Vladmir Putin has moved into Ukraine and Crimea and launched a massive intervention in Syria that threatens to further destabilize the Middle East.

The move sends a signal that he will continue to weaken America’s role in the world, and suggests that his legacy remains his most important priority in the remaining fifteen months of his presidency.

Obama made his vow to close Guantanamo a part of his 2008 presidential campaign, calling it “a sad chapter of American history” and one of his first moves following his inauguration as president was to sign an order to close Guantanamo within one year.

The prison was established in 2002 in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America for the express purposes of housing, interrogating and prosecuting “extremely dangerous prisoners.

Congress blocked the necessary funding for the transfer or release of “Gitmo” prisoners, as well as barring the housing of them on U.S. soil.

Obama’s announcement specifically cited the “efforts to prevent the closure [of] the prison at Guantanamo Bay” as one of the “principal reasons” for his intended veto of the military funding bill.

To date, President Obama has vetoed just four pieces of legislation during over six years in office, less than any president in over one hundred years.

Obama has acted to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba in the past year, reopening the United States embassy, as well as easing business and travel restrictions to the island where Guantanamo is located. The military prison could be handed to Raul Castro’s government if the U.S. removes the remaining prisoners.

President Obama was able to reduce the prisoner population of “Gitmo” with the release of five of the most senior Taliban fighters, the so-called “Taliban Five,” in exchange for the return of U.S. solider, Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban after walking away from his post in Afghanistan.

As of now, 116 prisoners remain in custody and 15 months remain in Obama’s presidency for him to make good on his campaign promise to release them and close the military prison.


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