Closing Guantanamo Bay to benefit economy

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Seven years ago, when President Barack Obama took office, he vowed to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. Now, as President Obama pushes his proposal forward, it is met with a strong partisan opposition. Guantanamo Bay no longer is a benefit to the United States. Obama must continue to push his proposal, with the hope that Congress will choose to end this part of our history.

The detention facility opened in 2002 under the Bush administration. According to CNN.com, there has been a total number of 783 detainees held. During the Bush administration 532 detainees were released. During the Obama administration 151 detainees were released. Currently, there are 91 detainees, considered some of the world’s most dangerous people. As the facility is significantly under capacity it makes little sense to keep it open.

The cost of operating the facility is far too high to justify keeping the detainees captive at the facility. It costs about $455 million to operate the facility. This figures out to be about $4 million per detainee. On American soil, the cost ranges from $14,000 to $60,000, depending on the state. Closing the facility would save millions of dollars, and in a fragile economy it is essential that the government be smart about where money is being spent.

Many of the detainees are not convicted of crimes and held without trial. In 2010, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a former aide to Secretary of State Colin Powell, stated that top U.S. officials, including President George W. Bush, had known that the majority of the detainees first sent to Guantanamo Bay were innocent, but that the detainees had been kept there for political advantages. This also poses several questions about the humanity behind the prison. As many of the detainees are held without trial, they are also being tortured and subjected to abuse.

A 2005 Amnesty International report labeled the facility as the “Gulag of our times”. Many reports of abuse have come from former and current detainees held at the facility. These reports were at first denied but in 2009 Susan J. Crawford, who was appointed to review the practices at the facility, became the first official to confirm the abuse and torture at the facility. A 2013 Institute on Medicine as a Profession report also confirmed that health professionals working with the military and intelligence services “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees”.

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However, many are wary of the proposed plan. Bringing some of the world’s most dangerous people onto American soil could create a threat here at home. It creates a target that could possibly hurt American people if an attack occurs at one of these proposed prisons they would be kept at. Many detainees also return to crime after they are released. In 2009, the Pentagon stated that it had evidence that 18 former detainees have had direct involvement in terrorist activities after their release.

The cost to maintain and the accusations of abuse are far greater than any threat closing the facility could pose. Citizens must urge local legislation to vote in favor of the closure and raise awareness to those around them. President Obama and the winner of the 2016 election must continue to push Congress and close the facility. The closure of Guantanamo Bay will end a dark chapter in American history.