Why are we closing a gold-plated Gitmo?
Yesterday’s Post story on the cost of Guantanamo detailed how many U.S. tax dollars had been invested in the naval base. When I traveled to Guantanamo last September, I also saw a lot of money being spent -- mostly to improve conditions for detainees who were supposedly leaving in a few months.
Visiting Camp 4, I saw bulldozers lined up for a construction project. The officer in charge explained they were preparing to bulldoze away the gravel in the exercise yard and replace it with sand. Why were they going to such expense, I asked, since the facility is supposedly going to be closed in January? He said the terrorists -- 95 percent of detainees are terrorist leaders, operatives or fighters -- had complained that it was too hard to play soccer on the gravel, and they wanted sand instead.
The food the terrorists receive at Guantanamo is better than what American forces eat in the camp dining facility -- and twice as expensive. The chef in charge of detainee food showed me how she prepared exotic Middle Eastern meals according to the Islamic standards of halal. In addition, terrorists receive special communal “feast” meals twice a week. According to one officer I spoke with, the military at one point spent $125,000 on baklava for the terrorists to enjoy each night during Ramadan.
Guantanamo officials have purchased satellite televisions for the terrorists, with access to al Jazeera and Arabic news and sports channels. Camp officials actually TIVO the soccer matches of the terrorists' favorite teams for them. They also get the same medical care as our troops. In fact, their care gets higher priority. During my visit, one officer told me he was suffering from an impacted tooth, but his dentist appointment that day had been canceled because the dentist had to go see a detainee. A nurse at the detainee hospital -- a state-of-the-art facility built at a cost of $18.2 million for the exclusive use of detainees -- said the biggest health problems the terrorists face are sports injuries and becoming overweight from their 6,500 calories-per-day diet.
Indeed, conditions are so good at Gitmo that when one high-value detainee, Ahmed Ghailani, was transferred to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City to stand trial for his role in the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, he was so unhappy he that he asked he be returned to Guantanamo while he awaits trial.
So I have a hard time feeling bad when I read that the government also spent some money to improve the lives of our troops serving at Guantanamo, be it for a new swimming pool, a new Starbucks, or a KFC/Taco Bell. They deserve every penny. They are serving in a remote and isolated post, watching over some of the most dangerous men on the face of the earth. They are attacked by the detainees -- head-butted, punched, kicked, and splashed in the face with “cocktails” of urine, feces and semen. They do not retaliate. They clean themselves up and go back to work.
As for the millions spent on courtrooms and hotel facilities for lawyers, journalists and dignitaries that are sitting vacant because there are few trials, blame the lawyers who held up military commissions for seven years. Or blame the Justice Department officials who want to spend millions trying KSM and his cohorts in New York City instead.
The biggest question the Post article raises is: if we have invested so much in making Guantanamo what it is -- the best and most humane detention center in the world -- why on earth would we shut it down and spend more tax dollars to build another facility here in the United States?
| June 8, 2010; 4:14 PM ET
Categories: Thiessen | Tags: Marc Thiessen
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