Closing Guantanamo Bay and transferring its prisoners to other countries or to facilities within the United States has long been a goal of the left. A recent tactic has been to attack the costs associated with running Gitmo in the midst of government austerity measures. In a piece for Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald recently called Guantanamo an “irrational celebration of failure—one that robs this country of our moral standing worldwide and our expressed commitment to justice—that is untouchable because it’s good for rounding up votes from the uninformed.” “Guantanamo Bay is a stunningly expensive failure,” stated the Newsweek headline.
And, in a recent piece for The New York Times, Charlie Savage exposes what he calls the “decaying” facility that is Guantanamo, and how officials perceive it as maybe staying open for another 20 years or so. Savage’s piece also focused on how “Obama has argued that Guantánamo should be closed because of its high costs, nearly $3 million per detainee annually, and because it endangers national security; it has become an anti-American symbol of past torture and other detainee abuses.” Savage is more than happy to continue in that vein and support the President’s justifications.
“Extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, who beheaded an American reporter in Syria last month, exploited those sentiments by forcing him to wear orange clothing like the garb worn by some Guantánamo detainees,” writes Savage. The Washington Post recently did a feature on the use of the Guantanamo-inspired orange suits as propaganda props by radical Islamists, and their utility in the propaganda efforts surrounding journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley. The latter has been confirmed as having been beheaded by ISIS—the Sunni jihadist group that has taken over much of Iraq—and as of this writing a video believed to be that of the beheading of Sotloff is currently being analyzed for authenticity.
The video, which purports to show the death of Sotloff, also features David Cawthorne Haines, described as a British aid worker, “in the same kneeling position and wearing the same orange jumpsuit as Sotloff and Foley before him,” reports The Washington Post. The message is clear: Haines is the next high-profile ISIS victim.
Allowing ISIS to claim the Guantanamo orange as a publicity stunt without mentioning the improvements that have been made at Guantanamo Bay is irresponsible journalism. American soldiers and prison guards have not publicly executed detainees on the worldwide stage, disseminating the footage as a spectacle for terror recruitment, as ISIS appears to have done.
Savage and the liberal left seem more concerned with the alleged human rights abuses perpetrated by the United States at Guantanamo than those crimes against humanity which caused the detainees to be placed there in the first place. Savage and others seem to downplay the atrocities committed by those either connected to the detainees, or the detainees themselves. Instead, Savage writes, “half of the inmates who are detained, according to a 2010 interagency review group report, were probably just foot soldiers helping the Taliban fight the Northern Afghan militias.” What about the other half detained there? What is their story?
And while Savage is concerned with the number of prisoners freed from Guantanamo, he does not seem overly concerned about the recidivism rates of those who return to fight abroad. As of last September, the “total rate of recidivism” was at 29 percent, with the recidivism of “those transferred during the president’s time in office” standing at 10 percent. Savage also ignored the release of five of the worst Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, when he wrote that Obama’s “administration has managed to free just one low-level prisoner this year” (emphasis added). Bergdahl’s release was determined by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to have been illegal, since Congress was not informed in a timely manner, as prescribed by law. Bergdahl was described by members of his unit who went public as a deserter, and none came to his defense.
“From the moment Barack Obama assumed the presidency, the conservative meme of Gitmo as the true symbol of toughness and Americanism became encased in concrete,” argues Newsweek’s Eichenwald. “Since the facility was never intended to be a permanent structure, it’s starting to fall apart. Take just the troop quarters, where the soldiers responsible for running Gitmo are housed: According to the Senate report, the rooms are overcrowded; the air conditioning is wheezing; the metal support structure is dilapidated; and the plumbing is corroding.”
In a similar vein, Savage reports that “the unit that houses the most notorious detainees is built on unstable ground—a floor is described as buckling—and will need replacement for any long-term use. In the kitchen building, temperatures soar to 110 degrees at midday, steel supports are corroded, and workers must cover dry goods with plastic tarps during storms because of a leaky roof. In the troops’ quarters, some guards are required to live six to a small shack, with poor ventilation and no attached bathrooms.”
And, while both Eichenwald and Savage cast the medical facilities and others at Guantamo as inadequate, they conveniently forget the $750,000 soccer field that was built there and the hunger strike participants’ ability to play video games and watch movies while the facility managers try to ensure their survival. As they’ve already proven, ISIS would hardly treat any of us as well should they capture or detain us within the areas that they dominate.