Time to Close Gitmo?

In 2008, then-candidate Obama made a promise to close Guantánamo Bay, which could be chalked up to political talk.  However, every time the State of the Union speech comes around, he continues to talk of closing Gitmo.  Using the same narrative numerous times, he has not come to grips with the error of his ways.

What the president seems to be ignoring is the rate of recidivism.  Liz Cheney noted that the Bush administration probably released more detainees than this administration.  However, an important point she makes is that the Obama administration should look upon this as a cautionary tale.  She stated, “The terrorists left are the radical hardcore Islamists.  They believe in the caliphate and sharia law.  They want to rule the world and will slaughter anyone who opposes their beliefs.”

The president still claims that Guantánamo Bay is a recruitment tool for terrorists.  Congressman Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), the chairman of Intelligence Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, does not consider the president’s argument accurate: “Gitmo is a not recruiting tool of any significance whatsoever.  They have a laundry list of perceived grievances against us and our way of life, and Gitmo is pretty low on that list.  If they’re using it to recruit now, and we closed it, they’d just replace it with something else.  Anyone who thinks freeing Gitmo detainees so they can go back into the fight would result in fewer terrorists, not more, is kidding themselves.  Terrorists don’t like any of our strategies to defeat them or keep them off the battlefield.  Are we really going to let them dictate our strategy?”

Former CIA director Michael Hayden does not concede that Gitmo “is a recruiting tool.  If it closes, I don’t think anything will change.  My issue is less the back end than it is in the front end.  I am less concerned in releasing some people than I am in capturing new people.  We need to keep the detainees in an environment that does not rely on the American court system.  They must be considered enemy combatants that can be questioned for intelligence.”

Those whose lives were forever changed should be taken into consideration with any decision of the terrorists’ fate and the closing of Gitmo.  American Thinker interviewed some who have been affected by the terrorists’ actions.

Gordon Haberman, who lost his daughter Andrea in the towers, wants to remind Americans that President Obama loves to use his pen for executive actions.  Yet the very first one he signed, in January 2009, would close the facility at Guantánamo Bay the next year.  He followed up with another executive order establishing a task force to review the U.S. detention policy and to determine the fate of the detainees currently held in Gitmo, thus suspending all military tribunals.  With these orders, all the trials were stopped even though terrorists like KSM were set to plead guilty and be executed.  Gordon stated, “The president does end-arounds that enforce his agenda and bypass Congress.  It is so unnerving that the families have no say or control with these proceedings.  The Obama administration is more intent on the rights of those truly horrible people than the rights of my daughter Andrea who was killed.”

The president claims, “It makes no sense … to keep open a prison that the world condemns.”  Judi Reiss lost a son, Josh, in the World Trade Center collapse.  She has devoted her life from that point forward to making sure Americans remember.  Judi blames the president for the world condemning Guantánamo Bay since he has taken no leadership in trying to explain its importance and to rehabilitate its reputation, especially since he has never traveled there.  “This vision that people have is just not true.  It is a state-of-the-art facility.  The greatest expenditures have already been spent: the courtroom, the facilities, the soccer field, and the library, to name a few.  They have not one chef, but many, because each culture has a different diet.  They get top medical care, lawyers, and even tutors to teach them to read and write.”

She goes on to say that if Gitmo is closed, and detainees are brought to America’s homeland, it will cost more than the three million dollars per prisoner the president talked about last month.  “The Islamic terrorists are dangerous and can poison the minds of disaffected people.  I would ask the president if he would want the terrorists in his backyard.  Would he move to within three miles of where they will be housed?  We know of radical Muslims going into prison and trying to convert.  We are not talking about poor innocents, as my son was.  The terrorists are isolated in Gitmo but would not be here.  Followers will try to visit them and camp out outside the facilities.  They will have access.  What about the lone wolf taking hostages in exchange for the release of one of the terrorists?”

Debra Burlingame, the sister of the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, blames the media, the left, and the Guantánamo Bay lawyers for spinning the propaganda against Gitmo.  “These detainees ‘cleared for release’ have not been exonerated.  It is a falsehood to say these are harmless people.  They are bad, with a bloody record.  The president should do what’s right for this country and not what appeases the enemy, who have no moral compass.”

The president might want to reconsider this line from the SOTU, "Since I've been president, we've worked responsibly to cut the population of Gitmo in half.”  He may want to take out the word “responsibly,” considering the reports that the “Taliban 5,” released in a prisoner exchange, have tried to reconnect with the Haqqani Taliban network in Afghanistan.  Debra commented, “These are one and the same people who gave safe haven to al-Qaeda.  They are the ones who allowed the terrorists to train in the Taliban camps.  The Islamist extremists learned in the Taliban camps how to storm the cockpit and slaughter the pilots like my brother.”

Kirk Lippold was the commanding officer of the USS Cole when that ship attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen.  He cannot believe that the president cited money issues as a reason why Guantánamo Bay needs to close down.  “We are going to incur some fixed costs no matter where they are held.  The real questions I have for the president: what is the cost in American lives if the detainees are released and go back to the battlefield?  If and when you capture terrorists on the battlefield, where will you put them for interrogation purposes?  Why are you putting the families in a position where they may have to watch the murderers of their loved ones be set free, since they’re the ones that have to bear the sacrifice; they’re the ones that have to bear the scars and burdens?”

Luckily there are those in Congress like Congressman Rooney, who has actively put forth bills preventing the president from unilaterally closing Gitmo or transferring detainees without congressional approval.  “As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I’m focused on continuing to block funding for any transfers onto U.S. soil.  That’s had bipartisan support, and that will continue.  Americans will be less safe if President Obama brings terrorists here.  Period.”

The president stated,  “As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice,” but justice for whom?  Unfortunately, the Obama administration does not seem to care about the justice for the victims and their families as they continually release the population of terrorists from Gitmo.  As Debra Burlingame summarized, “a lot of families feel they will not see justice because they won’t live long enough.  It is a shame that their children’s killers will have outlived them.” 

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

Editor's note: This article has been amended to better reflect the position of Commander Lippold.  He is retired from the U.S. Navy.