By Jamie Weinstein
to his campaign pledge, President Obama signed an executive order soon
after being sworn in that demanded the Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) prison
facilities housing War on Terror detainees to be shut down within a
year. As expected, his many supporters in government around the country
immediately provided help to their new president in achieving this
Ardent Obama champion Democratic Kansas Governor (and now Health and
Human Services Secretary-designate) Kathleen Sibelius, for instance,
stated in January that she stood behind her president and his goal to
close the prison facility. “We’ve got to discontinue the use of
Guantanamo Bay,” she said. “I gotta tell you, I think it gives the
world a real question about how America values our democratic
principles. It seems to violate everything our Founding Fathers said in
the first place.”
Let’s agree to disagree. But on the broader point, Gov. Sebelius,
will you help your president by housing some of the prisoners in
Kansas? No way, Jose.
“I don’t have to want them in Kansas,” Sebelius said. “Closing
Guantanamo Bay doesn’t mean the prisoners come to the heartland of
America. I think we need to find the appropriate place to house those
Yes, wheresoever could we find an “appropriate” place to house the
detainees? Nothing sounds more appropriate to me than Gitmo, but if
Gitmo is out of the question and Kansas is apparently an inappropriate
place, what about America’s most historic prison: Alcatraz?
As luck would have it, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s district
is the site of the famed nearly impenetrable penitentiary. Certainly
she would help her newly inaugurated president achieve their shared
goal of shutting down Gitmo, right?
Well, you see it’s complicated. While Speaker Pelosi thinks closing
down Gitmo is a “brilliant” idea, she doesn’t think Alcatraz is the
right place. "Alcatraz is a tourist attraction,” the Speaker said on
one of the Sunday talk shows in January shooting down the Alcatraz
proposal. “It's a prison that is now sort of like a – it's a national
Oh, I see. It’s a national park.
Liberals agree on closing down Gitmo. They just don’t want to house
the terrorists in their back yard. But is Gitmo really all that bad of
a place to keep War on Terror prisoners?
Last week, Obama’s Defense Department completed a review of the
Gitmo detention facilities in compliance with the president’s January
Executive Order. The report concluded that “the conditions of
confinement in Guantanamo are in conformity with common Article 3 of
the Geneva Conventions.” More than that, the report states, “the chain
of command responsible for the detention mission at Guantanamo
consistently seeks to go beyond a minimalist approach to compliance
with Common Article 3, and endeavors to enhance conditions in a manner
as humane as possible consistent with security concerns.”
Little gems are sprinkled throughout the report that makes Gitmo look like, as Get Shorty’s Chili Palmer might have put it, the Cadillac of prisons.
Detainees, for instance, are given “three hot halal meals per day –
with 4,500-5,000 cal/day” and they have “six menus for detainees to
choose from – specifically: regular, high fiber, vegetarian, vegetarian
with fish, bland, and soft food.” Is this the Ritz Carlton or a prison
“A typical meal includes,” the report continues, “meat, starch (plus
bread), vegetable, dessert, fruit, fruit juice or similar drink.” If
ordinary Cubans knew how well the Gitmo detainees were eating, they
would be clamoring for admittance.
The report even documented how “recently, an additional pillow was
issued to detainees at the camp” because “some of the detainees did not
prefer the pillow built into the foam mattress.” Detainees are provided
a Koran in “the language of their choice,” prayer beads, a cap, a rug
and a prayer schedule. Some detainees are given $100 a month to buy
snacks. Cooperative detainees (the ones not throwing their feces at the
soldiers) can play in a recreation yard that has soccer, basketball,
volleyball, table tennis and foosball facilities. Yes, you heard that
The report does, however, document some recent horrors that
occurred. During two inspections, the report reads, “a small number of
meals delivered to detainees in Camps 5 and Echo . . . were
approximately five degrees under the optimal standard.” For shame.
Look, no one wants detainees who are no threat to America to remain
in Gitmo one day longer than they need to be. Many detainees have
already been released. Unfortunately, many of those who have been
released have returned to the battlefield to fight America and its
interest. One former Gitmo detainee, as the New York Times
reported, became a leader of Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch. This should
remind us that America is still at war and that the prisoners in Gitmo
are not mostly boy scouts. Despite left-wing activists’ desire to paint
Gitmo as an international symbol of depravity, it is far from it.
All of this leads to the obvious conclusion that the best and safest
place to house the Gitmo detainees is at Gitmo. Mr. President, why in
the world are we shutting this place down?
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