Friday, January 23, 2009

Closing Guantanamo: O, The Humanity!

There's one good thing to say about the President's decision to close Guantanamo Bay's prison for war criminals. Candidate Obama campaigned on the promise that he would close the facility. Ordering the closure fulfills a central promise of his campaign.

But closing Guantanamo is meaningless because the detainees have to be held somewhere. The significant decisions yet to come are how the detainees will be tried and what kind of access they will have to America's court system. Also, what will be done with those who belong to Al Qaeda but who end up not being tried in court because the evidence against them would not be admissible in court or is too secret to reveal publicly?

There is no need to close the facility. Guantanamo is as good a place as any to hold the detainees. It's better, in fact. Guantanamo has the advantage over any prison on the American mainland as being completely under the control of the United States military and it's in the middle of nowhere. Escape from there is nearly impossible. The facility is not the hell hole that common knowledge would have us believe.

The Boston Globe's Big Picture website did a tremendous service in December 2008, when it published a set of pictures showing the conditions at the prison. (Here.) It's eye opening.

Photo number 8 shows a stencil written on concrete of the word Mecca, in Arabic, and an arrow pointing to Islam's holy city. The better for inmates to pray. O, the humanity!

Photo number 9 shows a literacy instructor preparing for a lesson. The instructor is at the facility as part of a US Government program "to improve educational opportunities for the detainees." O, the humanity!

Photo number 13 shows a beautiful gold-embossed Koran that belongs to a detainee. O, the humanity!

Photo number 14 shows a detainee exercising outside during his 12 hours of outdoor recreation per day. O, the humanity!

Photo number 20 shows a copy of a Harry Potter novel in Arabic, one of 7,500 books in the circulating library available to detainees. Apparently, Harry Potter books are especially popular among the inmates. O, the humanity!

Photo number 26 shows a group of detainees praying, 27 shows a beautiful prayer rug owned by one of the inmates, and 29 shows a sign telling American guards to be quiet during prayer time. O, the humanity!

On the other hand, maybe putting the detainees among the general population of the type of violent criminals who populate maximum security prisons in the United States is just the punishment the detainees deserve. It worked for Jeffrey Dahmer. (Here.) O, the humanity!


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