Gitmo is primo
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. complained April 21 that he can’t move enemy combatants from the Guantanamo Bay detention center until Congress appropriates money for another facility. Lawmakers should welcome Mr. Holder’s complaint as proof that inaction will have positive consequences. Congress can save taxpayer funds by continuing to use Guantanamo for as long as terrorists pose a threat to America.
The only reason to close the Guantanamo facility is pure politics, married to cheap and demagogic symbolism. Even Mr. Holder admitted in February 2009, when first visiting the prison while in office, that “the facilities there are good ones” and “well-run,” that he was “impressed with the people who are presently running the camp” and that he saw “a very conscious attempt for these guards to conduct themselves in an appropriate way.” So why close it? The truth is that the main reason Guantanamo has a bad reputation is because people like Mr. Holder and President Obama spent so many years telling the world it was a veritable torture chamber. They gave it and our country a bad rap. Sure, in the first few months after U.S. forces started dethroning the Taliban — and before the Pentagon issued permanent and reasonable rules for detainee treatment — the temporary facilities of Guantanamo’s Camp X-Ray were the site of some less-than-cushy conditions. But on April 29, 2002, Camp X-Ray was replaced by brand-new quarters under new rules. Since then, for just shy of a full eight years, Guantanamo has been a su- perb detainment center.
Official international observers from various European parliaments repeatedly reported that they found Guantanamo “a model prison” with facilities better than in normal prisons in their own countries and with top-notch medical care. “The camp is run with the utmost professionalism,” said European Parliament member James Elles in 2006, “and the conditions under which detainees are being held are clean and humane.”
Prisoners are afforded reading materials (even Korans in several languages), a choice of culturally sensitive and nutritious diets, daily recreation periods of at least two hours, prayer time and helpful arrows pointing toward Mecca, and, in some cases, access to board games and their own garden. Far from being a torture chamber, the interrogation room has the feel of a plush therapist’s office, with fresh food and drink available during interview sessions. “The only torture done here,” said one guard in 2007, “is when the Starbucks is [served] cold.”
In short, the Guantanamo prison is secure, professional, pristine and humane — probably overly considerate on the last point. The detainees being kept there have been adjudged by military or intelligence agencies to be the most dangerous of terrorists, the ones most determined to do us harm. They must be imprisoned somewhere, and it makes sense to keep them both as secure and as far from our shores as possible. Guantanamo fills the bill perfectly. Americans should be proud of what our soldiers do there and happy to have them keep doing it, right there, as long as foreign terrorists pose any threat at all.