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When President Obama was running for the presidency in 2008 he pledged that his first action as President would be to close our prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. What was done there – torture – was illegal. Gitmo was an ongoing recruiting poster for those who would kill Americans. We were continuing to flaunt our own habeas corpus laws and there wasn’t even a need for the facility, as terrorists could be held in any of our federal maximum security prisons in the U.S. Let’s close it, he told us.
Once he was in office, the Republicans in Congress balked at closing Gitmo on the basis of the national security need to make sure that President Obama would have no accomplishments throughout his entire presidency. Okay, that’s a compelling argument.
The blocking was the result of our statesmen and -women in the House of Representatives, that protector of the national purse, who prohibited any funds from being spent to relocate prisoners, thus ensuring that Gitmo would have to stay open for business, even to today.
According to the New York Times Guantanamo Docket, “Of the roughly 780 people who have been detained at the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, 680 have been transferred [to other countries] and 91 remain. In addition, nine detainees died while in custody.” That’s not exactly a set of statistics to make us proud, especially since so many of the detainees (that’s politik-speak meaning “prisoners”) were just poor schmoes who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They wound up in prison, charged with no crime, they were denied legal representation and were never tried in any court. It was and is indefinite detention. That’s the kind of stuff that we abhorred about the Soviets for their treatment of prisoners, but somehow it’s okay now that we’re doing it. Maybe Gitmo had to be kept open, since what we were doing violated U.S. law and could not be done on American soil.
Wait a second – we claim Guantánamo Bay to be American soil, just as we do our embassies around the world. I guess that American soil argument doesn’t hold water boarding.
There is a solution for what to do with our prison at Guantánamo Bay. Andy Borowitz explains in his New Yorker piece. I promise that you will like his idea.
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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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