Gitmo is primo

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

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.

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