Obama will make the lives of Gitmo detainees worse, not better
posted at 8:34 pm on January 6, 2010 by Cassy Fiano
One of Obama’s biggest campaign promises was to close Guantanamo Bay immediately. And he did indeed issue an executive order to close Gitmo within one calendar year from the date of the executive order. This, like many of Obama’s other broken promises, is not going to happen. Obama had until January 22, 2010 to close Gitmo, transferring all detainees to another country, their home country, or a detention facility in the United States. While he’s conceded that he won’t meet his own deadline, he’s still planning to transfer them out of Gitmo. He’s doing this to appease hippie liberals and pacifist Europeans who feel a misguided sense of compassion for the “torture” that the jihadists are suffering there. Most Americans are ardently against putting the jihadists in a detention facility here in the United States, and most foreign countries don’t want to take them either. So Obama is clearly stuck. He ultimately chose to put them in a prison in Illinois. This is for “humanitarian reasons”, as Gitmo is just such a horrible place for them to be.
Interestingly, living conditions at Gitmo are far superior to the living conditions jihadists will have to endure at the Illinois prison.
Welcome to Camp 4 at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.
The iconic images of Gitmo are not photos of Camp 4, however. The pictures that have captured the world’s imagination are of detainees shackled on bended knee in bright orange jumpsuits with their eyes and ears covered. Those pictures were taken more than seven and a half years ago at Camp X-Ray, in the long corridor that runs down the middle of the camp.
Today that corridor is overrun with weeds and unruly grass, and the rest of the camp is in no better state of repair. Camp X-Ray housed “war on terror” detainees for just four months, from January to April 2002. It has long since been abandoned. Banana rats, which look like some mutant combination of possum and rat, now hang from the cages that once housed the detainees. Gone, too, are the orange jumpsuits. They have been replaced by tan, white, and other neutral-colored clothing. During my multi-day tour of Guantánamo Bay, one official tells me that some journalists from Turkey wanted to take pictures of the detainees in their bright orange jumpsuits. When this official explained the detainees no longer wear those outfits, the Turkish reporters asked if a detainee could be dressed up in one for the photos as that is what their readers expect to see.
… As one of his first acts in office, President Obama ordered Guantánamo shuttered by January 2010. He has since conceded that his administration will not meet that goal. But both he and his team remain committed to the task. The chief rationale they offer is that Guantánamo has so tarnished America’s image that it has become a major recruiting tool for al Qaeda. During a press conference last week, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that al Qaeda’s senior leaders have referred to Guantánamo some 32 times in their recruitment videos since 2001. Gibbs implied that this is a lot. It isn’t. Al Qaeda refers to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the existence of Israel, as reasons to wage jihad far more frequently in its propaganda.
… This past week, the administration confirmed that it had selected an underutilized correctional center in the town of Thomson, in northwest Illinois, as the new home for up to 100 Gitmo detainees. A letter to Illinois governor Pat Quinn announced the administration’s plan for the federal government to buy the prison in Thomson and rebuild one section of it to make the facility even more secure than America’s “supermax” prison in Colorado–where several convicted terrorists are currently housed. This assurance is intended to assuage any concerns over the government’s ability to safely detain the Gitmo detainees on U.S. soil.
Ironically, however, most of the roughly 210 detainees still held at Guantánamo are not in supermax-type facilities at all. At least 70 percent live in communal settings like Camp 4. They can play soccer, basketball, or foosball; exercise on elliptical equipment; and consort with their fellow detainees for up to 20 hours per day in the outdoor recreation area. They can take art classes or learn English. And while tensions flare every now and again, life in Camp 4 is generally calm. Camp officials prefer that the detainees live in this type of setting. It’s easier on the guards and everyone else involved. As the commander of Camp 4 explains, the detainees have to “do something really bad” to get locked up in one of the more secure facilities.
The detainees have access to several satellite television channels and, as one DoD handout notes, a library consisting of “more than 14,000 books, magazines, and DVDs in 18 languages.” During a visit to the library, I noticed a few copies of the poetry of Rumi–a 13th-century Sufi mystic whose writings explore deeply spiritual, ethereal topics. Rumi’s view of the world is diametrically opposed to that of al Qaeda’s jihadists. He searched for the universal deity who he believed resided in us all, regardless of race or creed. Jihadists, on the other hand, believe they are compelled to war against anyone who dares to oppose their intolerant beliefs.
So, Gitmo detainees have it pretty easy there right now. Even the worst camps, Camp 5 and Camp 6 — built for non-compliant detainees — are kept in accordance with Geneva conventions and were modeled after existing facilities in the Midwest. Even Eric Holder was forced to admit that there is no sign of detainee mistreatment at Gitmo, calling it “well-run” and praising the military guards and leadership there as admirable. Detainees that cooperate with interrogations — done on a volunteer basis alone, there are no forced interrogations — are given extra treats, like candy bars. The detainees even have a liaison from Jordan to make sure that their complaints are heard and that the balance between security and respect for Islam is maintained. The liaison said he has never seen a guard destroy or defile a Koran, for example, but the detainees do it on a regular basis. Detainees who go on hunger strikes are force-fed… but they are fed through tubes that go through their nose slightly larger than a spaghetti noodle and are even allowed to choose their own flavor. Oh, and remember — they are in a tropical paradise, too.
So, basically, Gitmo detainees are leading a pretty charmed life in Guantanamo Bay right now. And Obama wants to close Gitmo for humanitarian reasons, to shut up the hippie liberals and pacifist Europeans who are whining about how awful life at Gitmo is. That’s the entire reasoning behind closing Guantanamo. The detainees will be transferred to the Illinois prison, which will be upgraded to a supermax prison. So what will the conditions be at the detainees’ new home?
Well, they’ll be in isolation for the majority of the day. Inmates in supermax prisons are allowed one hour out of their cells a day and are usually kept in solitary confinement. They get their meals in their cells as well. The cells are usually windowless with furniture made out of poured concrete or metal, so comfort is obviously out of the question.
Compare the lives Gitmo detainees will have at Guantanamo Bay to the lives they’ll have at their new supermax prison in Illinois. Which sounds more inhuman and cruel? The treatment of jihadists at the supermax prison doesn’t bother me a bit, but how long will it be before liberals start crying over the inhuman treatment of terrorists in supermax prisons?
Obama is closing Guantanamo Bay for appearances alone — it will do nothing to bolster our national security, and in fact is likely to weaken our national security — and is, ironically, sending them to a more inhumane prison. And while Obama claims that no one has ever escaped from a supermax prison, it shouldn’t alleviate any fears whatsoever. First, just because no one has ever escaped before doesn’t mean that no one ever will. Second, a supermax prison is vulnerable to attack (potentially leading to inmates escaping) in ways that Gitmo is not. It’s known that Al Qaeda has sleeper cells all over the country. What happens if Al Qaeda calls on one of those sleeper cells to attack the Illinois prison where these jihadists are housed? Obama’s plan is to take terrorists who want to kill us and plunk them right down in the middle of the United States and basically pray that they never escape. He wants to do this to pacify liberals who are outraged over living conditions at Gitmo, but the living conditions of the supermax prison they’ll be in are far crueler than the ones at Gitmo. It’s basically an epic FAIL on Obama’s part on every possible level.