Guantanamo Bay is Costly and Useless

Guantanamo Bay

Why is Guantanamo Bay still in existence?  It costs the American taxpayers 150 million dollars a year to house and feed 166 men who are detained there, and we’re not sure why.  Obama promised to close it during his campaign, and it remains open.

The 166 men who remain in Guantanamo are now on a hunger strike.  They are protesting the fact that they have been incarcerated with no formal charge.  The hunger strike began 100 days ago,

The President vowed not to allow them to starve themselves to death.  At the present time there are at least 21 inmates being force-fed through tubes in a hospital.

The cost to maintain the Guantanamo facility is about $900,000 a year per detainee.  Costs inside the United States for a typical federal prison inmate run about $25,000 a year; at the “supermax” prison in Colorado that holds domestic terrorists Eric Rudolph and Ted Kaczynski, it’s about $60,000.

CNN reports that instead of closing the camp, the Defense Department is planning to spend millions of dollars renovating the facility.

Much of the money would be spent overhauling camp VII, the most secure and secretive section of the compound.  The inmates held in this part of the camp are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed organizer of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington; accused co-conspirators Walid bin Attash and Ramzi Bin al-Shahb; and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the man accused of leading the plot to bomb the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen, killing 17 American sailors.

These detainees face war crime charges, but the remainder have not been charged with any offense.  In an interview for CBS, Bill Plante asked President Obama if he could understand that these men would prefer to starve themselves to death than to be held in captivity for an undeterminable amount of time.

The President seemed to agree with Plante.

“The notion that we’re going to continue to keep over a hundred individuals in a no-man’s land in perpetuity,” he said, “the idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.”

Obama also called the detention center at Guantanamo “not necessary to keep America safe” as well as “expensive,” “inefficient,” that it “hurts us in terms of our international standing,” “is a recruitment tool for extremists” and “needs to be closed.”

Plante asked him why he failed to close the facility during his first term as he had promised.  “I’m going to go back at this,” he said. “I’ve asked my team to review everything that’s currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively, and I’m going to re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interests of the American people.”

The President is facing questionable opposition from Congress and some foreign nations.  The decision regarding the placement of the 166 detainees is at the core of the process.  The possibilities of how each detainee can leave that limbo is through one of four different routes: a civilian trial, a military tribunal, a foreign country’s prison system or freedom.

86 of the inmates are considered safe to release.  But there is nowhere to send them.  Their own countries either don’t want them, or the U.S. fears they will face torture and possibly death if they are placed in their government’s custody.

Some activist groups claim that the President could bypass Congress and begin to close Guantanamo.

“The president can order the secretary of defense to start certifying for transfer detainees who have been cleared, which is more than half the Guantánamo population,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

James Turnage

The Guardian Express