It’s Long Past Time To Close Gitmo

May 15, 2013

It is long past time to close the U.S. naval station located at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Gitmo to the sailors and marines that have been stationed there.  And no, I am not talking about only closing the prison camp located on the base, which currently houses one hundred and sixty-six men who have been designated as enemy combatants, and have been held as long as eleven years without trial.  Only nine of these current detainees have ever been alleged to have committed any sort of terrorist act.  Eighty-six of these men have been absolved of any terrorist activity and deemed eligible for either outright release or transfer back to their home country for at least three years, twenty-eight of which were ruled releasable during the George W. Bush presidency.

To make matters worse, officially, one hundred of these prisoners begun a hunger strike four months ago, although lawyers for the men say the number is closer to one hundred and thirty.  Five of these men have been hospitalized, while twenty-three are being force-fed via a feeding tube running down their nose and throat into their stomach.  To do so, these men have to be restrained in chairs. To ensure that no prisoner starves themselves to death during their strike, the military has sent additional medical staff to the prison camp.  Currently, there is nearly one medical staff member for each prisoner, an astronomical ratio, especially considering many Republican members of Congress see little need for the poorest of Americans to have any medical treatment or coverage at all.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has opined that force feeding these men “violates core ethical values of the medical profession.”  The AMA has further expressed their apprehension regarding this treatment in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in which Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, the AMA president wrote “The AMA has long endorsed the World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo, which is unequivocal on the point: ‘Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.’”  The Declaration of Tokyo is a collection of international guidelines for physicians concerning the torture and other sadistic, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners that was adopted during the twenty-ninth General Assembly of the World Medical Association in October of 1975.

In our lust to seek revenge for the horrific attack of September 11, 2001, we have invaded two countries, resulting in the longest wars in our history, conducted torture on prisoners of war in violation of the rules of the Geneva Conventions and have held prisoners/enemy combatants in violation of both civil and human rights.  Is this really what America, a country which professes to be a nation of law, stands for?  In 2010, President Obama proposed closing the prison camp, moving the detainees to an unused super-maximum prison in Illinois.  However, Congress blocked his attempt to do so and is currently considering spending an additional two hundred millions dollars to upgrade the prison camp.  With a cost of one hundred and fifty million dollars a year to maintain the prison, this comes to more than nine hundred thousand dollars per detainee, thirty times what it cost to house a typical prisoner in an American penal institution.

I propose not only closing the Gitmo prison camp but also that of the entire naval station at Guantanamo Bay, the oldest U.S. overseas naval base, which was established by the Cuban-American Treaty of 1903.  With seven Navy and Marine Corps. bases, seven Air Forces bases and fifteen Coast Guard bases located in the state of Florida, is there any reason to have a base in Cuba, located only ninety miles away, other than to aggravate the Castro brothers?

The United States has nearly seven hundred and fifty official military bases located in other countries throughout the world.  President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has recently said the United States has told him that we are planning on maintaining nine military bases in his country after our war is to conclude at the end of 2014.  We still have thirty thousand troops stationed along the 38th parallel in Korea sixty years after that war ended.  We have an untold number of military bases located throughout Europe nearly seventy years after World War II ended.  This nation is falling apart at the seams.  Our infrastructure is aging and rapidly deteriorating, our kindergarten through high school educational system ranks near the bottom of all industrialize countries, we are heavily in debt all the while Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are facing drastic reductions in services due to budget shortfalls as we are bankrupting ourselves with our numerous military and imperialist crusades.  You need a scorecard to keep track of all our current ongoing military endeavors.

We spend one and a half trillion dollars annually on defense and intelligence, yet we are more despised and hated and more attacked than ever before in our relatively short history.  We must stop this madness!

Steven H. Spring