To be honest, I was chomping at the bit when I took this assignment. I wanted to rail against the machine and speak truth to power. When President Barack Obama was running for office back in 2008, his platform was one of reform. He was going to reform health care, and he promised to shut down the Guantanamo Bay. With it now being pushed as a priority, I am wondering: why did it take so long?
In a single word, my opinion would be Congress. Obama was sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2009, and just two days later he signed the executive order to close the detention facilities, according to the CNN article “Pentagon expected to transfer several Gitmo detainees next week.”
So right off of the bat, the president took a swing at this infamous prison in which interrogation techniques, a government euphemism for torture, have been questioned time and time again. After years of questioning the legality behind the practices at Guantanamo Bay, what possible reason would there be to oppose closing the center?
In a Rolling Stones Magazine article titled “Inside Guantanamo: America’s Shame,” writer Janet Reitman detailed the rejected proposals suggested as alternatives. Most involve building a new facility here in the U.S. rather than on an overseas naval base, like the facility the president proposed to build in Illinois. The White House recently rejected the Department of Defense’s cost estimate for moving the inmates to existing federal buildings, even if it could get congressional approval.
As part of the current spending authorization, Congress bars federal funds for transferring or building a facility in the U.S., as well as barring transferring any of the inmates to several countries. This means that even though the cost of housing them on a naval base in Cuba is estimated to $3.4 million per prisoner with 90 inmates remaining after current transfers go through, we have no way of moving them, according to the Rolling Stone article.
Because there is no agreement, the center remains open while some inmates are relocated overseas or transferred to countries that will take them. It presents more problems than can be solved by closing Guantanamo Bay.
Jessie Gittemeier, junior in political science and president of the K-State Young Democrats, said the delay in closing the detention center starts with fixing problems here at home.
“We have seen pushback from Congress like this before,” Gittemeier said. “I would hope it was because their constituents were against it rather than for a political gain. One thing that I think could be a consideration is that here at home we have problems with overpopulated prisons along with legal issues like mandatory sentencing.”
Gettemeier said that having to house terrorism suspects along with dealing with those issues could be problematic; however, the current situation presents its own conundrum.
“In general, the detention center doesn’t reflect well on our nation or on humanity while it is in operation,” Gittemeier said. “I understand the necessity for keeping war prisoners such as these, but don’t understand the way it has been conducted as such.”
Laura Meyers, senior in public relations and president of K-State College Republicans, said the issue brings about mixed feelings.
“When the reports of waterboarding and other acts broke, I felt that was something we as a country should not be doing,” Meyers said. “What I’m also afraid of is a decision being made just to fulfill a legacy goal or campaign promise.”
While many prisoners have been moved or released, half of the remaining prisoners won’t be. According to the CNN article, 59 of the remaining 90 have been deemed ineligible to be transferred.
“I don’t want to cut corners because when it comes to terrorists you can’t cut corners, and you can’t be lazy,” Meyers said. “Until we have a plan put together, the reaction I think people are having is that they are not comfortable with terrorists close to home.”