History will be made next week when President Barack Obama heads south on Air Force One to visit Cuba, being the first president to visit the controversial country since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. Cuban-US relations have been nearly non-existent for more than 50 years, as the trade embargo has severed all ties between the nations. It has only been in the last few years that doors have begun to open and President Obama’s upcoming trip is monumental in the normalization process. Amid the chaos of political reconstruction, Guantanamo Bay remains a crucial point of discussion for U.S. policy makers. Whether or not this detention facility should remain open is a serious matter, and Obama’s promise to close the center in 2009, 2010 and 2011 has encouraged human rights advocates seeking to shut down the facility and frustrated conservative leaders who favor the operation of the prison. It’s imperative to keep the facility open to enhance the safety and security of U.S. citizens, as well as people around the world.
The U.S. government has been running the prison on the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba since 2002. The intense facility houses some of the world’s most dangerous criminals who are suspected of being members of Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. The penitentiary formerly utilized “enhanced interrogation techniques” that were designed to gather otherwise unobtainable information. This caused a major political divide in the U.S., but Obama has abolished said interrogation strategies as of 2009. For years a major argument to close the facility revolved around the inhumane techniques used by the U.S. government, but that issue has been resolved and the prison is still running successfully.
Obama’s initiative to close this camp would have detrimental impacts on the safety of United States citizens because shutting down the entire camp leaves dozens of criminals in a place of uncertainty. Relocating detainees will cause a national security threat, as a recent study demonstrates that nearly 30 percent of former Guantanamo Bay detainees were suspected of or confirmed to be reengaging in terrorism. The alternative options for relocating inmates are unappealing and dangerous. One idea is bringing prisoners to prisons in the United States. This is not only dangerous, but costly as well. Another option would be sending them to other countries. This has proven to be unsuccessful though, as prisoners are not necessarily properly placed, either being treated worse in new prisons, or being released with no punishment. In order to ensure these inmates are properly monitored, the prison at Guantanamo Bay must remain open.
Lastly one must take into account the costs of keeping this facility running, or more importantly, the cost of closing it. The United States has already invested millions of dollars into creating and maintaining this prison, and in return has attained important information regarding terrorist groups from detainees. Closing the facility would cost the U.S. government valuable future information from terrorists, which in turn could cost lives and money. Also, those who argue that closing the facility will save money must recognize the pricey endeavor of relocating prisoners. To ensure that these criminals end up locked up elsewhere is expensive, inconvenient and risky. Releasing prisoners to other countries or facilities may be detrimental to the global community.
Hopefully while President Obama is in Cuba, he will reconsider his Guantanamo Bay agenda, and understand the importance of such a place. In a perfect world, nothing like this would exist, but unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world. Terrorism must be taken seriously and facilities dealing with these national security threats must remain open and running for domestic and international safety.