EDITORIAL: Gitmo should take no prisoners
Past the blue water and warm sands of the largest island in the Caribbean lies a dark symbol of the United States’ anti-terrorism efforts: Guantanamo. The military prison within Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay currently holds 93 prisoners from the 775 detainees that have been brought there, but this blight on the U.S.’s record could slowly come to an end as President Obama sent Congress a plan mid-February to close the prison.
Obama made closing Guantanamo a prominent component of his two presidential campaigns. But after finally coming into office, it wasn’t until the final year of his second term that he’s actually created a tangible plan to close the infamous U.S. military prison. He’s made closing Guantanamo part of his agenda even before he was president, and it’s only now that he’s taken real steps to ensure this happens. House Democrats told him in 2009 that he wouldn’t be receiving money to close Guantanamo until there’s a concrete plan, and cut $80 million into closing the military facility. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) told reporters, “So far as we can tell, there is yet no concrete program for that. And while I don’t mind defending a concrete program, I’m not much interested in wasting my energy defending a theoretical program. So when they have a plan, they’re welcome to come back and talk about it.” So seven years later, Obama has a plan — but we know it doesn’t really take seven years to outline a plan, if he was truly invested in it as he had claimed to be.
While it is commendable that he has now sent a detailed plan and budget to Congress — it’s better late than never — his framework to close the prison is reaching a Republican-led legislature that will do what it takes to undermine his effort. The government’s schism between the two parties produces a formidable impasse for what the President proposes to truly come into fruition, and it’s unsurprising in this point in time. You have presidential candidates echoing strong sentiments that assert Guantanamo’s usefulness, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who said, “Don’t shut down Gitmo — expand it,” and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who believes we should bypass due process for suspected terrorists. The chances of the plan passing through Congress are pretty slim.
But Guantanamo violates human rights and causes U.S. taxpayers millions every year, and these issues in tandem prompt the necessity of its closure. It’s a prison that’s tucked away in Cuba, away from U.S. citizens. People don’t think about Guantanamo on a regular basis, if at all, but it has a real effect on each and every person. In 2013 alone, the U.S. spent $454 million, which is roughly $5 million on each detainee, most of whom have been held for nearly 14 years without charge or trial. When there is no meaningful oversight and recourse for prisoners who have been sent to prison, the mysterious internal workings of Guantanamo are incompatible with the ideas of fairness and justice that America claims to uphold. People can’t get out once they enter, even if they didn’t commit any crime. People suspected of acts of terrorism are detained indefinitely, and they’re treated in proportion to this dire act they’ve presumably committed, regardless whether or not their guilt has been proven. Millions of dollars are spent maintaining people in Guantanamo who haven’t been proven guilty, and it makes sense to close even on the financial basis alone.
People against closing Guantanamo mistakenly fear detainees are going to simply be released in the open, but the good news is that prisoners aren’t going to be dropped off in your local neighborhood: They’re going to be transferred to other detention facilities. Even if this plan doesn’t pass during Obama’s term, we hope that the next person who takes his position will continue take up the endeavor and close this wasteful structure devoid of regard for human rights.
The Daily Targum’s editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.