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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?

By Marc Thiessen  | June 8, 2010; 4:14 PM ET
Categories:  Thiessen  | Tags:  Marc Thiessen  
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Thiessen says that 95% of the inmates at Gitmo have actually been "95 percent of detainees are terrorist leaders, operatives or fighters." That leaves 5% who are not. Shall we punish the 5% of the innocent the same as we punish the 95% of the guilty? Is it fair or reasonable to use the word "terrorist" for an innocent man?

Posted by: michael_chaplan | June 8, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

No respect for Geneva.
Guilty until proven innocent.

Thiessen is as much a terrorist as anyone.

He plays right into jihadist hands...willing to dump what made us great for a little safety.

Maybe Jesus should have just decided not to forgive our sins to avoid stigmata...
Maybe its ok to overturn every thing you believe in just cause your scared.

Thiessen has no guts.
THis guy would be hiding in fear if anything went down in his neck of the woods.

Its easy to act tough when you write speeches that others must fight and die for...

Posted by: kreator6996 | June 8, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I suppose every torture regime or human rights violator is able to find a torture apologist who will defend the indefensible, but it's sad Thiessen has used his talents for this odious role.
What is wrong with GITMO? It's sad you need to ask. If any other country abducted only Muslim individuals many who were far the battlefield, were held incommunicado w/out access to courts or a trial, were tortured and sadistically abused, many of whom were mistakenly abducted, in a remote island we'd be right to say...sounds like there's been a coup, their democracy and rule of law is nonexistent.

Posted by: Civilius | June 8, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

If we have enough evidence to say that 95% of the detainees are terrorists, why not put them on trial & verify it? Locking up people & throwing away the key is not the way we do things , but it does have a preecedent: it's what Stalin did when he sent tens of thousands to the gulags.

Posted by: bigfish2 | June 8, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

6,500 calories-per-day diet? Really, Theissen?! If this isn't a blatant lie, then the detainees at Guantanamo are being tortured by being force-fed like fois-gras geese of Toulouse.

The average American male - renowned (or infamous) worldwide for his hearty appetite - consumes about 2700 calories per day. See and 6500 calories, therefore, represents 241% of the average caloric intake of an American male. I think it is reasonable to also assume that the average American male is of larger stature, in terms of both height and weight, than the average male from the Middle East or Southeast Asia (where most of the detainees originate). The caloric needs and the capacity to consume those calories without distress are, therefore, higher for the American male than the average detainee at Guantanamo.

To give the reader an idea of what 6500 calories represents, consider a McDonalds BigMac with cheese. One sandwich is approximate 700 calories. To consume 6500 calories, a detainee would have to eat approximately 9 and 1/3 BigMacs with cheese. I have a hearty appetite, but that is an exercise in food consumption that I could scarcely achieve on any given day, let alone every single day. Indeed, I doubt even a man of Marc Theissen's prodigious girth could pull off such a feat on a daily basis without serious physical strain and metabolic and physiological injury.

Given this, I find it hard to believe Theissen's claim of detainees consuming 6500 calories per day, regardless of whether that number is a figment of his imagination, pulled out of thin air, or a number disclosed to him by one of his mysterious unnamed sources. Even the most gluttonous of detainees would have tremendous difficulty consuming that many calories on a daily basis, no matter how desperately he tried. Unless the detainees are being force-fed, Theissen's claim is completely ludicrous.

If Theissen does not post a correction, then please, dear reader, feel free to take this into account when evaluating the credibility of the entire article.

Posted by: atlasfugged | June 9, 2010 3:23 AM | Report abuse

BTW: Washington Post, way to go! Theissen is such an insightful columnist, what with his phalanx of unnamed sources. Has he written a single column or a single post on this blog that hasn't relied on the words of unnamed sources as its basis? Indeed, his magnum opus "Courting Disaster" (aka "Torture Gives Marc Theissen An Erection") is based almost entirely on the words of unidentified former officials, officials who asked not to be identified, officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, and the rest of the unnamed lot. For all we know, everything Theissen has written since leaving his ultra-top-secret post as one of Bush's many *assistant* speechwriters, is entirely based on conversations he has had with his imaginary friends and stuffed animals.

Posted by: atlasfugged | June 9, 2010 3:43 AM | Report abuse

"...a new Starbucks, or a KFC/Taco Bell"

Ooooo! Don't ever let people say Neocon's aren't pro-military!

And here I thought Thiessen was yet another hack writer who's earning well beyond what his talent would ordinarily draw by being a Neocon hack and wingnut apologist.

We need to close the "legal limbo" detention facility at Gitmo because for the foreseeable future it has the same world-wide reputation as the Soviet Gulags, no matter what the truth may, or may not, be.

Posted by: pclement1 | June 9, 2010 4:56 AM | Report abuse

I agree.....GITMO should not be clcosed. It should be kept open for the Israeli lobby in the USA. One day, Americans will come to their senses and lock these criminals up.

Posted by: usnr02 | June 9, 2010 6:52 AM | Report abuse

" why on earth would we shut it down.."


If you respond only to propaganda you will be a fool. If you are still alive, that is.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | June 9, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

"lock these criminals up."


First you have to state the "crimes" and prove the charges.

Otherwise, I suspect you do not like those who will not agree with your propaganda.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | June 9, 2010 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Thiessen, we're closing Gitmo because it has become a highly effective recruitment tool for terrorist groups.

Posted by: TylerHealey | June 9, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

If the military did not "give" the inmates this special care and treatment I am certain that the ACLU and the world's "human" watch thugs would be screaming how the military is mistreating them. If you want to blame someone for this "waste" start with yourself, the press certainly has contributed to the problem. And by the way, go to an American prison and see how much it costs to house and feed murders and drug dealers thanks to the ACLU and other "watch dog" radicals. A prisoner in a US prison gets better quarters than a sailor on a ship or submarine.

Posted by: staterighter | June 9, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

We should not close Gitmo. As for the half a billion dollars being wasted there, we have an out of control government to thank. And these are the people we want to run our Heathcare? Also, you don't get a construction contract unless you are a member of a Union. I am sure we could do it much better and cheaper if that law changed.

Posted by: joanz3 | June 9, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Some topics are properly labeled "perennial"
Among them, "the weather" and "Guantanamo",
The first of which Obama thinks he can change,
But the second, away, just won't go!

A note from last year:

Where should Gitmo residents go? A place in Illinois
By Special K
Disassociated Press
February 28, 2009

Illinois' highest-security prison a study in isolation
Picture not shown here
John Smierciak, Chicago Tribune
"Damien Terry is unshackled before being returned to his cell at Tamms Correctional Center in Illinois. When inmates at the maximum-security prison are moved, they are restricted by leg chains and handcuffs and are guarded by two officers. The state's most dangerous inmates live with sparse human contact, no jobs and little chance for education at Tamms."
By Gary Marx
February 28, 2009,0,4430105.story

As Obama considers closing Guantanamo
Just where the terrorist inmates will go
Is a pertinent question
(Cause for stress indigestion)
The answer to which none now seems to know.

This reporter now believes they should enter
Cells reserved for them at Tamms Correctional Center
Behind an iron gate
In Obama’s “home” state--
Vis a vis Gitmo, different as summer from winter!

It seems likely that the ACLU
Would be aghast at the unpleasant view,
And petition Barack
To send ‘em all back
With the usual amount of uncalled for ado.

And the fellows, themselves, would soon see
That back at Gitmo they’d, better off , be
Having communal fun
Under the southerly sun
Roaming about the vicinity shackle-free.

With periodic visits from well-meaning folks
Anxious, from them, tales of torture to coax
And spread far and wide
To that audience outside
In which sympathy such reports always evokes.

This scenario likely won’t materialize
But to make it happen Barack would be wise,
It would put Tamms on the map,
And mirabile dictu, mayhap,
Serve to cut Guantanamo critics, inside and out, “down to size”.

And almost certainly, back to Guantanamo
The erstwhile detainees would be happy to go
Having seen real prison life
With unpleasantness, rife,
They’d finally appreciate what they have at Gitmo.

Barack could then turn his unfettered attention
To alleviating conditions in a place of detention
That (a) with Geneva’s conventions actually may not comply
(b) As a quasi-torture chamber may actually qualify, and
(c) At least , seems deserving of dishonorable mention.

Posted by: Gonzage1 | June 9, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

"6,500 calories-per-day diet..."

Wow what an outrageous lie.

"So I have a hard time feeling bad..."

Now this I believe. I don't think nearly anything you could say or do would make you feel bad.

Posted by: Gover | June 9, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

A couple of things. First of all, torture has never taken place at GTMO. Secondly the detainees aren't force fed anything. They're OFFERED 6500 calories a day. The decision to consume the food is up to them.

Mr. Thiessen, you forgot to mention the Playstation 3 consoles and Nintendo DS handhelds the detainees get access to, as well.

I voted for President Obama. I'm all for socialized healthcare, and before being deployed here, I was all for shutting this place down.

But after seeing that these Soldiers and Sailors provide safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody of detainees, and seeing for myself that torture doesn't take place here, my views changed.

As Mr. Thiessen pointed out, the military isn't preventing the trials of the detainees. Look to the Justice Department and attorneys for that.

Mr. Thiessen, thank you for trying to provide the truth, even when it isn't popular.

Posted by: Deucetoo | June 9, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Thiessen, I applaud you for writing this article. As someone who has been to GTMO myself, I can honestly say that TRUE articles about GTMO, such as this one, are rare to see in this world.

All the comments I have read that are negative, are posted by ignorant people who let themselves be fed by media who should be shot for treason.

Think about it:

Service Members are the ones who are fighting for your freedom to slander them.

Service Members in GTMO get "cocktails" thrown at them, clean themselves up and go on about their job so that insignificant ignorant fools can write stories filled with lies about how they are the ones to blame. These fools call themselves journalists, which makes me sick. They are NOT journalists. They are Opinion writers who have forgotten what it truley is to be an American.

If an American was captured by one of these detainees and the roles were reversed, do you REALLY think they would be so kind to us?? Hell no. We would be dead.

What the whole of American society doesn't see is that the detainees in GTMO USE the media. They complain about stuff and service members have to bend over backwards to make sure they are comfortable. If they dont want to be questioned, they aren't. If they want to pray, they do. If they want a Subway sandwich, they get it. If they want almost anything, they get it. And then they turn around and throw feces, urine, and semen in the gaurds faces.

And some of you people call them innocent? how could they be? Are you retarded?

The detainees whole mission is to disrupt our nation, our forces, and the American way in any way they possibly can.

Terrorists succeed at this when Americans turn their backs on their own people.

Posted by: Firefly7 | June 9, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

We really can't afford to close Gitmo. After we have destroyed all of the mujaheddin, we will need it to put away forever our own home grown traitors who are more worried about "world opinion" than the safety of their fellow Americans.

Posted by: BBRADFORD2 | June 9, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

This article implies the vast majority of the people at Gtmo are dangerous terrorists but the Task Force report upon which this claim is based indicates the opposite.

Most of the detainees are scheduled for release because there is no evidence against them and they are NOT considered dangerous. They are waiting for a suitable country to accept them.

Of the rest, only 12 prosecutions have been announced. The remainder are still being reviewed for possible prosecution or they are considered impossible to prosecute (because of lack of evidence), but too dangerous to release for some reason. (Only three detainees out of 779 have ever been convicted by the US and, of them, only one remains in the prison.)

So, how does Theissen get that 95% are dangerous terrorists out of this?

Because the report gives a general profile of what role detainees "appeared" to play in relation to terrorist plots against the US. 10% are suspected of having anything to do with a plot. Most are described as "low level foreign fighters", i.e. people picked up in Afghanistan, often for bounties, who might have been at a training camp or at a safe house, etc.

The report says the information available on many detainees came from the detainees themselves or other detainees.

This information was collected during what are now being called "custodial debriefings", perhaps soon to be known as "friendly chats".

See what the Senate Armed Services Committee had to say about treatment of detainees.

Posted by: Diane1976 | June 9, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

We should keep Gitmo open because we will need to put Obama after he is impeached.

Posted by: NewTexan | June 9, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

I would have no problem sending Marc Thiessen to Gitmo. At 6,500 calories a day, Thiessen might actually lose some weight.

Posted by: tblogg | June 10, 2010 1:42 AM | Report abuse

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