Your letters, Nov. 24

November 22, 2013 

Close this dark and shameful chapter

It is long past time to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. A symbol of injustice around the world, it is an effective recruitment tool for extremists. Closing it is a moral imperative.

By the end of President Obama’s second term, the majority of detainees remaining in Guantanamo Bay will have been imprisoned for 15 years. Eighty-four have already been cleared for transfer, yet they remain in the prison.

In May 2013, President Obama renewed his promise to shut down the Guantanamo prison and “responsibly transfer those eligible.” To do so, he appointed two special envoys to oversee the process. In June, Attorney Clifford Sloan was appointed to be the State Department envoy to Guantanamo. Recently, Paul Lewis, a congressional committee attorney and former Marine Corps judge advocate, was appointed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to be the Pentagon’s Guantanamo envoy. A few days ago they met with the president, who reaffirmed his intent to close the prison. But the administration’s ability to live up to its promise is severely hampered by current legislation preventing it from doing so.

The Senate, however, could soon authorize the first steps to close Guantanamo: As currently written, the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act would give the president new abilities to transfer prisoners from Guantanamo for trial in the U.S. or to other countries for release. Unless the current ban on transfers is eased, the prison could remain open indefinitely.

As the Senate takes up the NDAA in the coming days, we urge Sen. Kay Hagan to vote “no” on any amendment that would serve to keep the prison open indefinitely. Now is the time to finally close this dark and shameful chapter in American history.

Judy Bellin

On behalf of Elders for Peace

Chapel Hill

Remark inappropriate

I was moved by our Chapel Hill Police color guard in honor of Veteran’s Day Nov. 11 at the Town Council meeting. I took a few minutes to think of the wars that I learned of secondhand, and I thought of some of the people I have known who experienced war firsthand, some of who were very profoundly affected. After the colors were posted, the meeting continued with Councilman Ed Harrison announcing three public meetings for “Our Transit Future,” held Nov 12-14.

As he made this important announcement, Councilman Matt Czajkowski said something about the cost of this project, Harrison responded, “That’s life,” and then Czajkowski made a disparaging remark at Harrison, which was reprimanded by Mayor Kleinschmidt. Councilman Czajkowski then launched into an off-topic speech about serving in the unpopular Vietnam war, free speech and something else.

For shame, Councilman Czajkowski! As a veteran, on Veteran’s Day, in the presence of our flag, the public, during a business meeting, you were out of control.

I was also disappointed that you don’t support the light rail concept that Harrison was announcing. The Durham-Orange corridor light rail transit project will connect Durham Tech, and N.C. Central University to the bus station at the Friday Center, and then to UNC Hospitals. UNC Healthcare (10,000 staff and doctors, 2,000 volunteers, serving several thousand in/out patients daily) and UNC (12,000 staff plus 30,000 students) is the largest and highest density work campus in Chapel Hill. Many of these employees commute from Durham to Chapel Hill every day by U.S. 15-501, which is currently at capacity at peak hour. Each one of those commuting cars spends several thousand dollars a year to drive from Durham to UNC and back.

Rail is more energy efficient in fuel/power and, has expandable capacity and lower operating costs than either buses or fleets of cars on six-lane roads. We will need this system to move hospital staff and students. We will save millions by not having to widen all of the gateway roads.

After the color guard in uniform, the flags, and pledge, I concluded that there was beauty, commitment, and honor in this world. After the selfish outburst and inappropriate speech, all beauty, commitment, and honor were dissolved.

Sarah K. McIntee

Chapel Hill

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