Why The Hell Did Republicans Cheer When Trump Said He Would Keep Gitmo Open?
Throughout today’s steady stream of punditry, one moment from President Donald Trump’s mammoth State of the Union address has remained virtually unremarked upon. His announcement of an executive order to keep the controversial US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, otherwise known as “Gitmo,” open indefinitely.
“In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield,” Trump said during the address, telling the assemblage of lawmakers and guests that he had already signed an order directing the secretary of defense “to reexamine our military detention policy, and to keep open the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay.”
Now, look, I’m not here to argue the validity of keeping Gitmo open. I’m not here to pit the moral stain of the detention facility, which has come to be known for its human rights abuses, against the potential of a terror attack on our country. I don’t work in intelligence. I simply don’t know enough to make that call.
I am here to talk about all of that damned cheering.
Watch the above video and notice the loud “whoops” and the cheers and the, gosh, standing ovation, even from Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
Cheers? Standing ovation? For Guantanamo Bay? Seriously?
Keeping the military prison open may be a necessary evil. Sometimes tough choices need to be made in the interest of national security. There are valid arguments to be made that releasing the remaining enemy combatants held at the facility would — as it has in the past — threaten national security.
I get that. But why would keeping the notorious facility — famous for heinous rights abuses that have inspired terrorists around the world — open fill U.S. lawmakers with such rapturous joy that they would holler and stand to their feet?
Keeping Gitmo open should be met with somber acknowledgement, and profound disappointment that we may have little choice but to settle for a lesser evil. This is a place, after all, that houses suspects indefinitely, without due process, a place that has been widely condemned by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others.
In short, it’s not exactly a beacon of American ideals. It’s a prison camp in the middle of nowhere that has been accused of torturing its prisoners, forcing many to turn to suicide. Again, maybe it’s a necessary evil. But a necessary evil is still evil.
There’s also the cost to consider. I’m old enough, after all, to remember when conservatism meant some semblance of fiscal responsibility. As of this writing, Guantanamo Bay holds only 41 prisoners. How much does it cost per year to operate? The ACLU estimates that it costs taxpayers around $454 million in a single year, for — again — 41 prisoners.
I’m no mathematician, but that seems to work out to $11 million per prisoner per year. You know how much the annual cost per prisoner at a federal maximum security prison works out to? Around $34,000. The average American salary is $44,000 per year.
The total operating cost of Guantanamo Bay, since opening in 2002, is creeping up on $7 billion, with no end in sight.
President Trump, as stated in the executive order signed yesterday, has not only promised to keep Gitmo open, but also to “transport additional detainees” to the detention center. Aside from demonstrating to the world that the United States is reaffirming its faith in the notorious prison, it doesn’t take a fiscal hawk to realize this will put additional economic strain on the American taxpayer — big, beautiful tax cuts, or not.
Now, I ask you, is that something to cheer about?
Watch above, via C-SPAN.
[image via screenshot]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.