Congress must close Guantanamo

Opponents of Guantanamo Bay, the high-security detainment facility in Cuba used to house detainees believed to be connected with the War on Terror, decry the prison as a violation of civil rights and an  unignorable failure of justice.

A report released last week by the Government Accountability Office indicated that U.S. prisons could safely absorb all 166 detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay. The study also reported that prisons across the United States already hold more than 373 prisoners convicted of terrorism, like the ones held at Guantanamo.

Xingzhou Zhu | Daily Trojan

This new government report only adds support to the argument that President Barack Obama and Congress must close the detainment center once and for all.

Obama attempted to close Guantanamo when he took office in 2009 but was blocked by a Republican-led spending bill, part of which focused on the idea that holding detainees in U.S. prisons would encourage terror attacks in the prisons or in surrounding cities. Linked to this is the opinion that these detainees are unique criminals and should be held somewhere specific and isolated.

This argument is largely nonsensical and mistakenly used to support an institution that is unethical and contrary to American values.

The idea that keeping prisoners at Guantanamo is in the best interest of the United States is tied to the notion that transferring these detainees to state prisons would make the country a more likely target for terrorist attacks. But keeping detainees at a naval base in Cuba does not direct terrorist animosities away from the United States.

If anything, Guantanamo fosters a negative international image of the United States. In 2005, The New York Times published an article on how Guantanamo has “come to define U.S. to Muslims.” The article describes high school theater productions in Pakistan that center on the prison, and how the television networks Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya use images of caged and tortured detainees in station promos.

Nevertheless, supporters of the prison adamantly maintain that Guantanamo prisoners are a strong security threat to the U.S. and must be kept away from American soil. Indeed, Guantanamo detainees differ from traditional prisoners — all are believed to pose huge security threats to the United States and are somehow linked to terrorism. But the high-security status of these prisoners actually supports the concept of moving them to various U.S. prisons. It is safer to house these prisoners in undisclosed locations than to have them concentrated in one high-security detainment center.

Beyond the practical reasons that warrant closing Guantanamo, humanitarian concerns make it nonsensical to keep the prison open. Most of these prisoners have never been formally charged with a crime — the U.S. government simply reserves the legal authority to detain anyone they choose until the War on Terror comes to an end.

As a result, the government is able to abstain from giving each prisoner held in Guantanamo a firm sentence and trial, violating very basic rights that all other prisoners receive.

It seems implausible that an institution so contrary to our government’s values and ethics is able to exist in the modern world. Though the country’s humanitarian principles should have never led us to open the prison in the first place, the Government Accountability Office’s new study indicates that there is no better time to close Guantanamo. Keeping the detainment center open sacrifices America’s ethics and reputation. Congress must close the prison immediately and abide by the values that have always kept this country strong,


Ryan Townsend is a sophomore majoring in business administration. His column “The Blame Game” ran Tuesdays.

3 replies
  1. Tougher Than It Looks
    Tougher Than It Looks says:

    How about some better questions like,

    “What countries are actually willing to take these prisoners who are suspected terrorists?” and

    “What kind of criticism will we receive if we let countries take the prisoners, and subsequently put them in an even worse humanitarian situation that they’re already in?”

    Do you know any countries that are willing to take these suspected terrorists and treat them with more dignity than they’re already receiving?

  2. Don Harmon
    Don Harmon says:

    This problem is real and it stems from the earliest days of the terrorist movement against us, but especially when Pres. George W. Bush said after 9/11 “We gonna git thim terryists an’ bring ’em ta justice.”

    This was the wrong approach, based on bad advice. What the Government should have done after 9/11 was to intern any captured terrorists as POWs under the Geneva Convention.

    Yes, it is an undeclared war, but a war nonetheless, and these are irregular enemy soldiers. Unless they committed war crimes under the Geneva Convention (such as murdering their prisoners, or civilians) these terrorists should now be detained as POWs. In Guantanamo? Perhaps. Or perhaps in a special POW camp in the US, but not mixed with ordinary domestic criminals.

    “Yes,” you might ask, “but for how long?” For the duration of the war until they, and their fellow terrorists, cease to attack the US, its armed forces and its other citizens. Yep. Might be for a century. That happens when you make war against a sovereign country. – Don Harmon, BA, MA, IR at USC.

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