November 4, 2015

Cornell Political Union Holds Debate on Guantanamo Bay

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Following a debate and student discussion, the Cornell Political Union voted 18-12-2 that Guantanamo Bay should be closed. The debate, attended by dozens of students, is the recently established political union’s third debate this semester.

The debate began with an introduction on the topic by guest speaker Prof. Joe Margulies, law and government, where he presented arguments for and against the closing of Guantanamo Bay as an academic exercise. According to Margulies, he was asked to take a stance for the debate, and his statements did not represent his own views.

“Think about what the arguments might be in favor of closing the base,” Margulies said. “The first that people will raise is about the conditions. People will say the conditions are horrible.”

Margulies continued to discuss other arguments such as the symbolism of the naval base and its use as a recruitment tool for terrorist organizations.

“There is no question that Guantanamo Bay acts as a lightning rod for al-Qaida and ISIS,” Margulies said.

After Margulies spoke, students were able to ask questions regarding Margulies’s presentation. Questions ranged from the costs of operation, torture techniques used on suspected criminals, and public scrutiny.

One student raised a question on the media, asking “What do you think of the media coverage of Guantanamo?”

“There was once a time where the media did a really good job,” Margulies said in response.

Following the question and answer session, students discussed the points for and against the closure of Guantanamo Bay. Once the students voted that their resolution would be to close the prison, the Cornell Political Union promised to post the resolution on their website.

Reinvigorated this year, the Cornell Political Union is a bipartisan club on campus that aims to hold more debates in the future, according to Nathan Baker ’17, co-founder and co-president.

“We’re basing our events on what students want to hear, and we want to give them the ability to have a discussion panel to discuss the pertinent issues,” Baker said.

The Cornell Political Union plans on hosting debates almost every week and posting its democratic resolutions, modeled after the Oxford Union Society and the Yale Political Union, according to co-founder and co-president Troy LeCaire ’17.

“We just want to encourage the non partisan discussion of issues because we feel like too often, these things are talked about in social circles where people are all of the same political viewpoints,” LeCaire said.