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Keeping Guantanamo Bay Open Review

Introduction

Guantanamo Bay is located in the Cuba and is one of the oldest overseas naval base of the United States. The bay was leased in the year 1903 with 45 square miles of space for a coaling station. However, today Guantanamo bay is known for a much publicized conversion of the bay to a detainee camp after the war against terrorism was started in 2002. The Guantanamo Bay had three big detainee camps of which Camp X-Ray has been shut down with further orders to shut down the other camps as well. This decision came after the negative publicity about the mistreatment of the prisoners when some leaked pictures and videos were aired on national television. Although allegations of non-implementation of the Geneva Convention and mistreatment of the prisoners are correct to an extent, the benefits derived by doing so are making US and this world a safer place. This paper discusses a proposition for continuing to detain suspected terrorists at Guantanamo bay even in light of several allegations against this.

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Why Guantanamo Bay Should Not Be Closed

On April 2009 President Obama passed a bill issuing the closure of the detention facility of Guantanamo Bay within one year.

Guantanamo Bay’s detention facility should not be closed and following are the reasons for keeping it open. The function served by Guantanamo Bay will be carried out elsewhere

If Guantanamo Bay is closed, where will United States imprison and grill the alleged terrorists? Some kind of alternative would have to be arranged for that purpose by the government. What the government should be doing instead is that they should be carrying out the processes transparently and the problems that are identified should be dealt with publicly, to whatever extent possible. The Pentagon has already taken major steps to ensure that some sort of transparency is present by letting the local and international agencies to have access to the facilities. Also, it has been responsive in terms of the accusations of abuse or mistreatment of prisoners that have been made. Even agencies like the Red Crescent, Congress, Red Cross, and the media practice oversight of the facilities to different extents and any claims of abuse are investigated and those guilty are held accountable. Therefore, if Guantanamo was to shut down and the facilities were shifted, the above mentioned organizations would end up having lesser access to the facilities during the shift than they have currently. (Spencer, Cohen and Phillips, 1)

Shutting down of Guantanamo would not appease the critics

Guantanamo Bay has been a popular target for critics. If, however, the government is of the view that closing down Guantanamo would satisfy the critics, then it is their incorrect prediction. The critics associate Guantanamo with the war on terrorism tactics that are adopted by United States. And it’s actually the approach to the war itself that the critics have a problem with, not Guantanamo. The critics demand a change in the approach to the war. Moreover, the policymakers of America should be aware of the fact that closing down Guantanamo would be equivalent to admitting to the critics of the wrong approach in the war against terrorism. (Spencer, Cohen and Phillips, 1)

This idea was clearly portrayed in an interview of a spokesperson of a “human rights” association when he took the facts and statistics from the wider domain of anti terrorism campaign and related it directly to Guantanamo Bay. He moved on to point out that minimum 28 people passed away in U.S. custody. None of these deaths however, occurred at Guantanamo (Spencer, Cohen and Phillips). The implications were clear: the problem was not with Guantanamo itself. Instead, critics were using different processes in the war against terrorism and relating it to specific places.

The statistics speak for themselves. There have been 187 Congress members and 400 media members (comprising of more than 1000 journalists) who have visited the facilities and it is impossible to carry out any kind of systematic torture to the prisoners under this much supervision. (Spencer, Cohen and Phillips, 1)

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No legal gains for either US or detainees

Even if the Guantanamo Bay is closed, neither the US nor the detainees will gain much in terms of rights. The detainees have already had access to U.S. courts and have been making use of this access. E.g. in November 2004, through use of this provided window, the Bush administration was accused of overstepping its authority in many areas. (Spencer, Cohen and Phillips)

Moving the facility to within the United States will not have any effect on the rights that the prisoners have. Guantanamo is under US control anyway and the rights that would be given if the facility were moved can also be given in Guantanamo. Therefore, even from the legal aspects, the closure of Guantanamo is not justified. (Spencer, Cohen and Phillips, 1)

Guantanamo Bay cannot be compared to Gulag

Irene Zubeida Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty International labeled the Guantanamo Bay as the “Gulag of our times” (Spencer, Cohen and Phillips, 1). Gulag was the Soviet committee that oversaw the labor camps during Stalin’s time. Hundreds of these concentration camps were made where prisoners were detained and made to work on agricultural and industrial areas. These camps are reported to have suffered millions of people of whom many died. The comparison of Gulag and Guantanamo resembles in unauthorized capturing of prisoners and mistreatment. Much of this criticism was also shared by William Schulz, Amnesty Washington director. These criticisms, however, are baseless. It is stunning to even compare the two facilities. Where Gulag was the camp where tens of millions of naïve Soviets and civilian of other countries were killed, Guantanamo gives proper rights and access to US courts to file accusations against any mistreatments faced by those detained. What these critics are clearly discounting is the threat to human rights that the people, especially women of the Islamic world, are likely to face if these terrorists are released. Statistics show that many of the detainees released join terrorist organizations. (Spencer, Cohen and Phillips, 1)

Effect on US and the world if the problem is not addressed

There are many obstacles that need to be dealt with in closing the Guantanamo Bay and many resources will have to be spent in doing so. Even if it’s achieved, though, the horrendous costs on society are extremely hard to justify (Auster, 1). One of the possible solutions that are discussed is the freeing of the detainees. This is not as simple as it seems and is prone to have dreadful consequences.

History shows that many of the detainees, when released, head back to their own countries, join terrorist organizations, and continue to terrorize civilians. As stated in the Washington Post, more than 10 out of the 202 prisoners set free from Guantanamo were captivated again or killed in combat in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Moreover, around 25 of the 202 released have gone back and continued terrorism. (Spencer, Cohen and Phillips, 1)

In 2003, an ex Taliban field commander was released from Guantanamo after he managed to convince the officials that he will not be associated with any kind of violence from then onwards (Spencer, Cohen and Phillips, 1). Similarly, Maulvi Ghafar was also released in early 2004. Both these prisoners were later killed in the combat in Afghanistan fighting alongside the terrorists (Spencer, Cohen and Phillips, 1). Also, Abdullah Mesud, a Pakistani, was released in the March of 2004. He, at that time, was not considered a big threat because he had an artificial leg. On returning to Pakistan, he led a group of terrorists against the government and kidnapped two Chinese engineers who were working in the construction of a dam (Spencer, Cohen and Phillips, 1). It is, therefore, very evident that the detainees must not be released, at least without ample amount of considerations and cost benefit analysis. They pose a serious threat to the safety and security of the US, as well as the rest of the world.

Another possible solution talked over is the possible transferring of the prisoners to another location within the United States. Again, this is much easier said than done. Firstly, what difference will transferring the detainees to another location make? It will only be the name of the facility that is changing. Moreover, either the other high security prisons in the country are not ready to accept such high threat prisoners or they just don’t have the resources required to keep them.

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The mere names of the detainees and the image they carry spawn of enough protest against transferring them. For instance, the planners had to take down the name of Leavenworth prison from the prospective prisons because of the immense amount of protest encountered by the citizens and the political representatives of the region. (Cuculu, 1)

One option that was considered was Michigan’s Standish Maximum Security Prison. However, the Standish City Council members did state that they would prefer taking in normal prisoners from other states over the Guantanamo terrorists. Additionally, California also labeled the facilities present at the prison as unsuitable for the dangerous terrorists. (Cuculu, 1)

The locals, too, oppose the idea. They do not want to see their small town turn into a terrorist target. This could happen by revenge attacks like in 2004 when the Chechen radicals carried out a mass destruction of a school house (Cuculu, 1). No town would want deadly terrorists to be imprisoned on their soil, especially in place of normal prisoners.

Bill: H.R.2294 – Keep Terrorists out of America Act

As discussed previously, there are too many disadvantages and problems associated with closing down Guantanamo Bay. The Bill number H.R.2294 “Keep Terrorists out of America Act” sheds light on the Congress’ sense that the prisoners currently in Guantanamo Bay detention should not be discharged and set free in the United States territory. (Boehner, 1)

The conditions laid forward in such a scenario state that the president’s designee or the president himself would have to give a 60 day notice before the release or transfer of any prisoner in Guantanamo Bay to any of the states. Along with the notice, the president would have to meet certain requirements also. (Boehner, 1)

One of the requirements is that the president or his designee would have to submit a certification, along with required documents to justify the state governor and legislature to which the transfer is made, that the individual poses no threat to the security of the United States. After the certification, it would be the decision of the State legislature and governor of that state whether to allow the transfer. (Boehner, 1)

Also, the president or his designee would have to submit a detailed report to Congress specifying detailed information regarding the individual and the transfer. (Boehner, 1)

Alternative Practices (Solutions)

There are other alternative solutions to the problem also. If Guantanamo Bay were to remain open, we could simply introduce the following practices as solutions.

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Conduct Fair Trials

Guantanamo has been known to keep detainees without charge under the claims that it is in the national interest. If this keeps going on, it is going to give United States a very bad name especially when compared to Europe and North America.

Europe and North America do not carry out detention without accusation unless it is in the immigration’s perspective (Mariner, 1). Terrorism, by far, is handled by following the criminal justice system. United Kingdom and Canada have been reported to have held people under detention without charge for a long time, but neither one has held captives for as long as Guantanamo has. Also, at this point in time, neither one is holding detainees for an indefinite period. (Mariner, 1)

Even France, which allegedly relies on preventive detention, follows a well defined structure. in France, keeping an individual under detention without any charge is limited to only 6 days (Mariner). The France system puts emphasis on stopping terrorist activities from happening instead of punishing the involved parties after they have been committed.

The Guantanamo detention system should learn from the above mentioned examples. Fair trials should be held as they are the right of every individual. It will be just unwise to continue this practice of detention with no charge or trial as it is only going to cause hatred amongst the masses for the American government and act as a hindrance for America to gather support from other countries which is crucial in the war they are fighting. Fair trials would also help keep the critics distant and also help United States rebuild its reputation as a role model of human rights.

Clear Misconceptions

Is Guantanamo really that brutal for the prisoners? Are the critics right about Guantanamo for treating the detainees extremely harshly? These are questions that must be addressed by the United States government.

Author James Glassman, mentions in his article “Obama’s Guantanamo Problem—And Ours”, about his trip to Guantanamo. He writes about how clean and properly maintained the facility was and how the detainees were allowed to communicate, exercise and practice their religion freely. The detainees were given foods of proper standard, read and learn, and watch videos. (Glassman, 1)

He then talks about how Islam is respected by the security personnel and how visitors are requested to lower their voices down when the religion is being practiced. The health care facilities are also above par. The doctors there say that an average detainee is healthier than an average American.

The detainees in Guantanamo have access to the US courts also. And they can raise allegations if they are mistreated. With all this in place, why does the general public have a bad reputation about the place? It is because the government does not do enough to convince the general public and to counter the criticisms that are made continuously against it. The government should get involved in documenting and airing on television, the true picture of the prison and should carry out campaigns in order to remove the negative feelings from the general public’s minds.

The government should make sure that the public is kept informed, to whatever extent possible, about the processes carried out in Guantanamo. The reason why critics are so effective in giving the prison a bad name is because the government cannot respond as it does not want the enemies to get the information on what is going on inside the prison

The government wants to keep the processes and other information hidden, claiming it to be in the interest of national security. But won’t the nation feel more secure if it actually knows what is going on and how much success has been accomplished? This way, the public will have a feeling of being involved in the entire process and this will help them in understanding that the sole purpose of the prison is the security of their own selves.

It is understandable that a lot of confidentiality has to be maintained in many areas, but the government should try and give some information to the general public as well to keep the critics from accusing it.

My Opinion

I am in support of the bill.

This bill keeps every state responsible for its own security. As mention previously, transferring the detainees to any state in the United States would be a cause of concern for the locals of that state. According to the bill, the final authority for allowing or disallowing the entry of the prisoners in the state is in the governor’s and the state legislature’s hand.

There is always opposition by the public for letting in detainees. For example, the name of Leavenworth prison was taken down from the list of prospective prisons because of the protest and opposition shown by the citizens and political representatives of the region (Cuculu, 1). Therefore, the bills proposition that the governor and state legislature would have to be justified and convinced in order to let detainees in the state.

There is a great deal of pressure from the locals also. They are not in favor of seeing their small town turn into a target for the terrorists like it happened in 2004 when the Chechen radicals destroyed a school house (Cuculu, 1). There is no town that would want deadly criminals.

There is consensus among most of the world that Guantanamo should be closed. This consensus, however, is not directed towards Guantanamo as a prison. It stresses a great deal of discomfort from Guantanamo as an approach (Mariner, 1). Guantanamo Bay should not be closed. Instead, the practices discussed previously should be used to remove the doubts and misconceptions regarding Guantanamo and create an overall positive image of the prison.

Fair trials and justice are the rights of every individual. This has been the biggest criticism towards Guantanamo Bay. The practices, however, shed light over the problem and discuss solutions for it. They discuss the different justice systems followed by the major countries in the world and how United States should adopt them as its own practices.

For example, as discussed previously, if Guantanamo were closed and the detainees were set free, it has very high probability of back firing, as indicated by the past records. Guantanamo holds some of the deadliest terrorists in the world. And the interrogation that they have been through in their time serving as prisoners would only make them hate the Americans more and they would end up picking up weapons against them again.

Furthermore, the countries to which the detainees belong are not ready to accept these prisoners because they will be nothing more than a threat to their national interest and a liability on their soil.

Also, as author James Glassman observed in his visit to the facility, the detainees and prisoners are not exactly ill treated (Glassman, 1). Hence, with the right kind of process adopted, the problem of Guantanamo Bay will be handled effectively and the facility will not have to be shut down just to please a few critics.

Argument against my position

One of the most major arguments given in support of shutting down Guantanamo is that the terrorists would kill more people because of their hatred and anger over Guantanamo. It is true that Guantanamo has been portrayed to be an icon of American cruelty by the media and critics but if historical data is analyzed, the claim that Guantanamo would cause terrorism to increase is false.

The World Trade Centre bombing, on to the assault on the U.S.S Cole, the destruction caused by bombings of the embassies in Africa and finally the 9/11 incident itself. All these major terrorist attacks were committed before any U.S. detention centre was present at Guantanamo or at any other place for that matter. (Glassman, 1)

Therefore, to say that Guantanamo should be closed because that would reduce the number of terrorist attacks is absurd. If anything, giving in and closing down of Guantanamo would give a flavor of success to the terrorists and would boost their morale causing them to plan and carry out even bigger attacks against America and other parts of the world.

Conclusion

On April 24th, President Obama passed a bill where he made a promise to close Guantanamo Bay detention facility within one year. There are, however, many problems and severe negative effects of closing Guantanamo down. Therefore, this should not be done.

Firstly, closing it would not achieve any of the things that are expected to. The critics, who accuse it for ill treatment of prisoners and detainees, are indirectly accusing United States’ approach to war on terror and Guantanamo is just one of the tools used to criticize the war.

Then there is the question of what will be done with the detainees. If they are transferred to another location in the United States, that defeats the purpose of closing down the detention facility. If they are freed and are sent back to the countries they are originally from, then they could very easily pick up weapons again and fight alongside terrorists, as seen in the past.

Therefore, the bill proposed in this essay, and the alternate solutions, is the correct way to go. The governor and the state legislature should be convinced and given justifications to accept the transfer of detainees onto their soil. Also the alternatives mentioned, such as fair trials and justice should be given to the prisoners and detainees and no individual should be kept under detention, indefinitely, without proven guilty. United States should adopt these practices from the other major countries in the world like France.

Also, government should respond to and tackle the criticisms thrown at it regarding ill treatment of prisoners at the facility. In future, the criticisms should be properly handled and public should be kept aware, as much as possible, about the on-going processes at the facilities. This would make them feel a part of the war against terrorism, remove their misconceptions about the prison and would help to make them realize that it is for their own good.

Works Cited

Auster, Lawrence. “WHY GUANTANAMO CANNOT, AND MUST NOT, BE CLOSED.” 2009. Web.

Boehner, John. “H.R.2294 – Keep Terrorists Out of America Act.” 2009. Web.

Cuculu, Gordon. “The trouble with closing Gitmo.” 2009. New York Pose. Web.

Fabian, Jordan. “House votes to allow Guantanamo Bay prisoners to stand trial in American courts.” 2009. the hill. Web.

Glassman, James. “Obama’s Guantanamo Problem—And Ours.” 2009. The American. Web.

Mariner, Joanne. “Global Views on Closing Guantanamo (the Right Way).” 2009. FindLaw. Web.

Morgan, David. “Pentagon urges Congress to keep Guantanamo open.” 2007. Reuters. Web.

Spencer, Jack, et al. “No Good Reasion To Close Gitmo.” 2005. The Heritage Foundation. Web.

Tribune, Oakland. “Guantanamo prisoners deserve day in court.” 2006. Web.

Waxman, Matthew. “Closing Guantanamo is way harder than you think.” 2009. Web.

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