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Closing Gitmo By: Jamie Weinstein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, March 05, 2009

True to his campaign pledge, President Obama signed an executive order soon after being sworn in that demanded the Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) prison facilities housing War on Terror detainees to be shut down within a year. As expected, his many supporters in government around the country immediately provided help to their new president in achieving this shared goal.

Ardent Obama champion Democratic Kansas Governor (and how Health and Human Services Secretary-designate) Kathleen Sibelius, for instance, stated in January that she stood behind her president and his goal to close the prison facility. “We’ve got to discontinue the use of Guantanamo Bay,” she said. “I gotta tell you, I think it gives the world a real question about how America values our democratic principles. It seems to violate everything our Founding Fathers said in the first place.”

Let’s agree to disagree. But on the broader point, Gov. Sebelius, will you help your president by housing some of the prisoners in Kansas? No way, Jose.

“I don’t have to want them in Kansas,” Sebelius said. “Closing Guantanamo Bay doesn’t mean the prisoners come to the heartland of America. I think we need to find the appropriate place to house those detainees.”

Yes, wheresoever could we find an “appropriate” place to house the detainees? Nothing sounds more appropriate to me than Gitmo, but if Gitmo is out of the question and Kansas is apparently an inappropriate place, what about America’s most historic prison: Alcatraz?

As luck would have it, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s district is the site of the famed nearly impenetrable penitentiary. Certainly she would help her newly inaugurated president achieve their shared goal of shutting down Gitmo, right?

Well, you see it’s complicated. While Speaker Pelosi thinks closing down Gitmo is a “brilliant” idea, she doesn’t think Alcatraz is the right place. "Alcatraz is a tourist attraction,” the Speaker said on one of the Sunday talk shows in January shooting down the Alcatraz proposal. “It's a prison that is now sort of like a – it's a national park."

Oh, I see. It’s a national park.

Liberals agree on closing down Gitmo. They just don’t want to house the terrorists in their back yard. But is Gitmo really all that bad of a place to keep War on Terror prisoners?

Last week, Obama’s Defense Department completed a review of the Gitmo detention facilities in compliance with the president’s January Executive Order. The report concluded that “the conditions of confinement in Guantanamo are in conformity with common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.” More than that, the report states, “the chain of command responsible for the detention mission at Guantanamo consistently seeks to go beyond a minimalist approach to compliance with Common Article 3, and endeavors to enhance conditions in a manner as humane as possible consistent with security concerns.”

Little gems are sprinkled throughout the report that makes Gitmo look like, as Get Shorty’s Chili Palmer might have put it, the Cadillac of prisons.

Detainees, for instance, are given “three hot halal meals per day – with 4,500-5,000 cal/day” and they have “six menus for detainees to choose from – specifically: regular, high fiber, vegetarian, vegetarian with fish, bland, and soft food.” Is this the Ritz Carlton or a prison facility?

“A typical meal includes,” the report continues, “meat, starch (plus bread), vegetable, dessert, fruit, fruit juice or similar drink.” If ordinary Cubans knew how well the Gitmo detainees were eating, they would be clamoring for admittance.

The report even documented how “recently, an additional pillow was issued to detainees at the camp” because “some of the detainees did not prefer the pillow built into the foam mattress.” Detainees are provided a Koran in “the language of their choice,” prayer beads, a cap, a rug and a prayer schedule. Some detainees are given $100 a month to buy snacks. Cooperative detainees (the ones not throwing their feces at the soldiers) can play in a recreation yard that has soccer, basketball, volleyball, table tennis and foosball facilities. Yes, you heard that right. Foosball.

The report does, however, document some recent horrors that occurred. During two inspections, the report reads, “a small number of meals delivered to detainees in Camps 5 and Echo . . . were approximately five degrees under the optimal standard.” For shame.

Look, no one wants detainees who are no threat to America to remain in Gitmo one day longer than they need to be. Many detainees have already been released. Unfortunately, many of those who have been released have returned to the battlefield to fight America and its interest. One former Gitmo detainee, as the New York Times reported, became a leader of Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch. This should remind us that America is still at war and that the prisoners in Gitmo are not mostly boy scouts. Despite left-wing activists’ desire to paint Gitmo as an international symbol of depravity, it is far from it.

All of this leads to the obvious conclusion that the best and safest place to house the Gitmo detainees is at Gitmo. Mr. President, why in the world are we shutting this place down?

Jamie Weinstein is a syndicated columnist with North Star Writers Group.

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