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Why Congress must close Gitmo

Camp 5, Detention Facility, USMC, Guantama Bay, Cuba
Camp 5, Detention Facility, USMC, Guantama Bay, Cuba
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Pictures

To the honorable congressman Patrick Meehan:

The detention facility located on the U.S. Marine Corps base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has come to represent all things un-American, and should be closed, ASAP.

Familiarly known as Gitmo, this military prison has come to symbolize “America’s unofficial torture chamber”. Whether or not you agree with the fairness and accuracy of this assessment, Gitmo has earned itself a severely (shall we say) ‘tarnished’ reputation on the world stage. Since America claims not to torture people, then it should be shut down, as a general “P.R.” concern, if for no other reason.

We cannot maintain the illegalities and overall lawlessness that have become accepted doctrine at Gitmo. We must restore the very concept of Habeas Corpus as a prevailing legal construct, because it is anti-American, uncivilized, and indefensible for any government to detain anyone without charging them with an actual crime. It is immoral not to allow a defendant his or her proverbial “day in court”, no matter what the circumstances.

Prior to the 2012 election, PA’s 7th congressional district was represented by Joe Sestak, who was rightfully outspoken on opposing the monstrosity that is Gitmo. With your ascension to his vacated seat, but without actually raising the issue publicly, you seem to have adopted the uninspiring “default position” for House and Senate Republicans in their obstructionist trend for opposing any and all initiatives originating from the White House.

When these “terror suspects” began being stockpiled by the hundreds at Gitmo, it was done purposely off-shore, so as to avoid any “constitutional entanglements”, and it was designed to be temporary. The Bush administration openly relied on legally insulating themselves from backlash over the questionable legality of “enhanced interrogation tactics”, treating these detainees as POWs in a vaguely defined, seemingly unending, and virtually unwinnable “War on Terror”.

By the end of his term, President Bush announced that Gitmo should close, but couldn’t fight through the political intransigence that continues to plague the situation.

In 2008, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama promised to close the facility if elected President.

In 2009, President Obama ordered the facility closed with an executive order, but found the effort defunded, and effectively blocked, by Congress.

While the politicians on Capitol Hill baselessly claimed that bringing alleged terrorists upon U.S. soil would somehow endanger American citizens, they also insisted that the matter should be entrusted to USMC “tribunals”, only to then turn around and defund the military’s ability to release those being cleared by these same military courts.

Instead, and in stark contrast to the efforts of your predecessor, your votes on amendments (RC 408, RC 228 & RC 237) for the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 indicated that you have no interest in seeking the closure of this facility. You wouldn’t even vote for the amendment aimed at preventing a further expansion of the base (RC 409).

But let’s momentarily forget about the “injustice aspects” of Gitmo, and focus instead on how fiscally wasteful this perpetual tax-dollar-vacuum has become.

According to the latest study, it costs $2.7 million per inmate per year to be housed at Gitmo (a figure which didn’t even account for costs deemed ‘classified’), factually qualifying Gitmo as the most expensive prison facility in the history of the earth.

Comparatively speaking, the usual expense for housing inmates in a federal “Supermax” facility is calculated in the tens-of-thousands - about 2% of the cost for jailing a Gitmo inmate. That’s fifty times the expense!
How can voters concerned about the national debt justify this continued wasteful spending?

Since 9/11, the total spent on this national travesty fast approaches the $5 billion mark. That this would coincide with the worst recession in our nation’s history only adds to the hypocrisy.

More than 250 years ago, Pennsylvania’s iconic statesman, Benjamin Franklin, forewarned that those “who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

“Indefinite detention” without so much as an indictment marks the demise of “essential liberty”. To “purchase safety” through the use of an illegal detention center only serves to convince our enemies just how right they were about the inherent “evils” of America, while simultaneously weakening our standing as a defender of human rights and a beacon of the “rule of law”.

As a House Representative, a member of the Homeland Security Committee, and chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, you are in a unique position to effect real change on this issue. Please encourage public discourse on the House floor that will ultimately dismantle this unsustainable blight on our national integrity, or clarify your position to the voting public as to the reasoning you will not do so as you go on representing the collective wishes of PA’s 7th.


Joshua Reese, Folcroft, PA

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