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Close Guantanamo now!

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 1:50 PM EDT, Fri May 3, 2013
President Barack Obama signed an executive order on January 22, 2009, to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Five years later, the prison for terrorism suspects remains open, with 155 detainees (as of December 2013). Click through for a look inside the <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/11/opinion/warren-guantanamo-bay/index.html'>controversial facility</a>. Here, President George W. Bush's official picture is replaced by Obama's in the lobby of the headquarters of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo on January 20, 2009, the day the latter was sworn in as president. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on January 22, 2009, to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Five years later, the prison for terrorism suspects remains open, with 155 detainees (as of December 2013). Click through for a look inside the controversial facility. Here, President George W. Bush's official picture is replaced by Obama's in the lobby of the headquarters of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo on January 20, 2009, the day the latter was sworn in as president.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN Radio podcast features CNN Opinion contributors on top three stories
  • Dean Obeidallah: Our guest, Aasif Mandvi, argues that we should close Gitmo
  • Margaret Hoover: Jason Collins was courageous in coming out of the closet
  • John Avlon: Why not give Mark Sanford a second chance - even though he had an affair?

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report and co-host of a new CNN podcast "The Big Three" that looks at the top three stories of the week. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- "Terrorists use Guantanamo Bay prison to recruit new members." Aasif Mandvi, "The Daily Show's" senior correspondent, passionately made this argument as our first guest ever on the weekly CNN podcast "The Big Three." Mandvi thinks it's time to close Guantanamo Bay now -- and I couldn't agree with him more.

President Obama brought this issue back to the forefront when he renewed his call to close the prison facility. Obama explained at his press conference on Tuesday: "It is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. ... It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It is a recruiting tool for extremists."

Mandvi echoed President Obama's sentiments that the United States cannot simply hold people indefinitely without affording them the opportunity to answer the charges against them. "Why can't we try these prisoners in court? We have done that with other terrorists like Timothy McVeigh," Mandvi said.

Mandvi, who appeared in the Off-Broadway play, "Guantanamo," and can be seen in the soon-to-be-released comedy film, "The Internship," spoke about his discussion with the father of a Guantanamo detainee. The father made a simple plea to Mandvi: "Try my son in court, and if you find him guilty of being a terrorist, execute him. If not, then let him go."

There are 166 prisoners in the prison. Eighty-six of them have been cleared for release by our government but have still not been set free.

Many of these prisoners are on a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention. In response, prison officials are force-feeding them by inserting tubes through their nasal passages, a practice that the U.N. Human Rights Office declared as torture.

Should the U.S. government close Gitmo and put the prisoners not cleared for release on trial? That's the first issue in this week's episode of "The Big Three," which features CNN contributors Margaret Hoover, John Avlon and me.

Here is a brief summary of the big three issues we took on:

John Avlon, Margaret Hoover, Dean Obeidallah
John Avlon, Margaret Hoover, Dean Obeidallah

1. Guantanamo Bay Prison -- close it now? Our guest, Mandvi, emphatically argued yes. Hoover noted that more than 40 of the prisoners have been deemed too violent to ever be released. Avlon expressed concerns that national security secrets could be released if these prisoners were tried in open court.

2. Is Jason Collins, the NBA player who came out of the closet, the Jackie Robinson of gay athletes? While all three of us applauded Collins' courage in coming out, we disagreed over its significance when compared to Jackie Robinson. Avlon argued that Robinson was far more important because racism was a much more polarizing issue at the time and also, Robinson was a far superior athlete. We all agreed, though some of the criticism Collins received makes it clear the fight to end homophobia still has a long way to go.

Outrage over Gitmo

3. Who will voters pick in the congressional special election in South Carolina next week? Mark Sanford, a Republican former governor who famously cheated on his wife by sneaking off to Argentina, or Elizabeth Colbert Busch, a liberal-ish Democrat who is the sister of Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert?

Avlon was the moderator of a recent debate between Sanford and Busch. Some were shocked that Busch brought up Sanford's past affair. I'm not shocked. In fact, I think it tells us a great deal about Sanford's character. Avlon argued that many have forgiven Bill Clinton for his escapades, why shouldn't Sanford get a second chance? Hoover noted that the demographics of the district are becoming moderate, which can help Busch win the May 7 election.

We would love to hear your thoughts on these issues. To listen to this episode, click on the Soundcloud audio player on this page. Or you can find us on iTunes.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

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