It seems like only yesterday when the tragic events of 9/11 kicked off the creation of various security measures intended (or under the guise) of making the United States safer for its people. The Office of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration, the Patriot Act and various other entities were designed specifically because of and for the purpose of preventing terrorist acts from occurring in the future. And although not heard of as much, Guantánamo Bay.
If President Obama’s declaration to close Guantánamo Bay in 2008 seemed around six years too late, it was at least enough to keep us hopeful. However, the recent news that almost five years post election promises, the office designed to close Guantamo is being closed, instead of addressing what to do with more than 87 prisoners who are still being held there (and have been scheduled for release).
Part of the reason Guantánamo hasn’t been concluded may be the belief that those people are in Guantánamo for a reason, and whatever happens to them is by their own doing. In a perfect world, all of the bad guys responsible would have been rounded up, sent to Guantánamo, and then tried and punished accordingly. The country would be free and clear of the monsters responsible for 9/11.
Unfortunately, that isn’t quite what happened and the process kicked off with a rocky start, beginning with bounties being paid by the U.S. government amounting to as much as $5,000 a head for the capture of “terrorists”. This method resulted in village people turning in any person they didn’t like in order to receive the much marketed “reward that would take care of your village or family for the rest of your life”. The U.S. paid millions of dollars to the Pakistani government for at least 369 of the 779 suspected terrorists who were captured, transported and detained at Hotel Guantánamo. It would seem to be a pretty cut and dry process for rounding up terrorists, except that many who were rounded up were children, elderly and senile old men, and people who were guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time—people who were not terrorists.
The good news is that although it took years of torture and imprisonment, some of the innocent prisoners were freed. Two detainees released last year were held over ten years and voluntarily resettled in El Salvador. Twenty-twoother Turkic Muslims from China were released to Albania, as it was deemed unsafe for them to return to China. Six hundred of the seven hundred and seventy nine original detainees have now been released to other countries.
Thisbrings us to the leftover prisoners who very well may be guilty. The next step in the process of fighting bad guys, after rounding them up, would presumably be (again in an ideal world) trial and conviction. It could be said that being imprisoned for over ten years without a trial would be reason enough to indicate that something isn’t quite right in the process that maybe, things are not being run correctly, or even legally, and can only result in further damage to the country’s international relations and reputation.
With the departure of Daniel Fried and the closing down of the office specifically designed to shut down Guantánamo, we are left to wonder what we will do next. The President no doubt, has a plateful of other issues to tend to that Americans feel are more important, but is it going to be another 10 years before we realize something needs to be done about Guantánamo? As with the TSA and their naked body scanners and the patriot act, we are left with the question which remains unanswered…are we really safer and at what cost?