World

Why Obama's Guantanamo Bay Plan Is A Good Idea

| by Nicholas Roberts
Guantanamo Bay Detention CenterGuantanamo Bay Detention Center

President Barack Obama has again presented a proposal to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, calling the prison a "stain on our broader record" and "contrary to our values."

Congressional Republicans wasted no time condemning the president's proposal. Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas said the absence of any specific new location to house current prisoners "proves that there is no suitable location," according to The Hill.

The Republicans are undoubtedly correct that the president's proposal, which comes during his final year in office, amounts to little more than a press release that has little hope of passing Congress. But unfortunately for those same Republicans, Obama is on the right side of history with this proposal.

Closing Guantanamo Bay is a goal shared by Obama, former President George W. Bush, and many of the military advisers in the Pentagon who served under those two presidents.

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Congressional Republicans' seeming unwillingness to entertain any such idea belies the fact that Congress requested an outline of how a shutdown of the facility might proceed in reality -- which is what the Obama administration has provided, NPR reports.

The cost of operations at Guantanamo Bay has long been known to be hugely expensive, amounting to around $400 million in fiscal year 2014, according to Politifact. Each person housed in the detention center there costs taxpayers $3,345,061 per year, according to retired Major Gen. Michael Lehnert in a 2015 Politico article. Fortunately, this cost has been reduced as the number of detainees has gone from 242 at the beginning of Obama's term to just 93 in early 2016.

The question remains of what can realistically be done with the 46 detainees whom U.S. officials deem too dangerous to release, and the 10 detainees who were charged or convicted by military commissions. This is an issue which will most likely last beyond the Obama administration, and eventually congressional Republicans are going to be forced to come up with an actual solution.

As far as places on U.S. soil are concerned, the Colorado "Supermax" prison is one that seems to make sense. Even locals who oppose the idea of bringing terror suspects to the prison understand why the area would make sense for the federal government to look at.

Canon City Mayor Tony Greer said: "I suppose I would prefer not to have war criminals or war prisoners in our community. On the other hand, we are a prison community. And if I were assigned the task from Washington to choose a site, certainly this would be on my short list."

The statement shows just how complicated of a procedure closing down Guantanamo Bay will be, even after a drastic reduction in the number of detainees there.  

Originally planned as a temporary facility, Guantanamo Bay has become an insidious influence in the national debate over foreign policy for the past 14 years.  As the president has mentioned, it has served as a useful recruiting tool for al-Qaida and ISIS, among other groups, while helping to alienate potential allies against those groups. It is time for the U.S. to turn the page on Guantanamo Bay and pursue a smarter, leaner foreign policy that doesn't throw away hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: The Hill, NPR, Politifact, Politico / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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