Be Careful What You Wish For

Everyone is convinced that shortly after inauguration president-elect Barak Obama will announce closure of Guantanamo Bay detention facilities. “Close Gitmo” has been a recurring campaign theme and one that significant parts of the disparate base that makes up Democrat Party supporters has long lobbied for. Activist groups like the ACLU, National Trial Lawyers Guild, Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, and others have pressed since inception for closure and freedom of the detainees.

Recent court rulings indicate a strong possibility that the men may be relocated to US soil and tried in the criminal justice system. Because of lack of evidentiary standards required to convict in US courts there is a better than fair chance that many will be acquitted and released. Some may be repatriated, others, as indicated by federal Judge Ricardo Urbina’s ruling this October, may be set free inside the US.

Carol Rosenberg, in a Miami Herald report datelined Guantanamo says that detainees appear to be gleeful about their prospects for relocation. “On Election Night,” she quotes a cultural interpreter named, “the results swept through the camps so swiftly the captives were chanting `’Obama, Obama, Obama’.”

Detainee expectations of a better life away from Guantanamo are certain to be shattered if they are relocated to any US prison system. Locations like California (Camp Pendelton), Kansas (Ft. Leavenworth), and South Carolina (Charleston Navy Yard) are under active consideration, to the consternation of local residents and politicians.

In a severely depressed economy one must also question the wisdom of abandoning a hundred-million dollar facility already constructed in order to relocate detainees to the US where at the least, expensive modifications or new construction would be required to house them adequately. If present facilities are used the laundry-list of issues range from mixing populations, to formulating a new legal system to process them, to probably demonstrations and attacks on the site to free them.

From a standard of living perspective there is no way that any of these facilities are able to house, care for, and secure the detainees in the manner in which they are now housed at Guantanamo. Despite hyperbolic statements to the contrary, Guantanamo detainees are fed halal food at the rate of 4,200 calories daily including special meals, average 4 medical visits per month (the average American male sees a doctor 3.7 times annually), and have access to extensive library facilities (in the vernacular) and special programs that include art and movies.

Kiss that lifestyle goodby in a US prison. Reports from California detail unspeakable, almost Dickensian conditions for criminal prisoners: months-long waits to see a mental health professional, suicide risks confined for 48 hours or longer in telephone-booth-sized cages, rampant infectious diseases among inmates, and barely adequate food and exercise conditions. Welcome to America, might become abandon hope all ye who enter, for these 250 or so detainees who may be dropped into a harsh dose of reality inside the wire of a standard American prison.

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