Yesterday, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed his opinion that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay should be closed. He said the perception of how prisoners are treated at the facility has been damaging to America’s reputation.
The Heritage Foundation has written extensively about the controversy over Gitmo—specifically how misguided the debate over Gitmo has been. James Carafano sums up the case against closing the Gitmo detention facilities:
Despite the frequent claims of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay, there is little evidence to back up those claims. The Pentagon spends $2.5 million each year on Korans, prayer rugs, and special meals for Muslim prisoners. Moreover, there are on average two lawyers for every detainee at Guantanamo, and detainees have challenged their status before the U.S. Supreme Court. By any measure, the U.S. government has extended our deadly enemies unprecedented legal rights.
Despite its admirable record in dealing with the challenges posed by unlawful combatants, the U.S government has received unwarranted criticism. Human rights activists, media outlets, and critics of the Administration have derisively characterized the U.S.military detention facility at Guantanamo as the “gulag of our times.” Specifically, they argue that the detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay violates international law and that the U.S. is unlawfully denying detainees the right to habeas corpus. …
Most of the detainees at Guantanamo were captured while fighting for the Taliban or al-Qaeda and wore no uniforms or insignia, refused to carry their arms openly, and—perhaps most important—represented no government and thus no military hierarchy.
Consequently, the detainees are not entitled to Prisoner of War (POW) status or the full protection of the Geneva Conventions, let alone unfettered access to U.S. courts. Summarily granting them these privileges would cripple the integrity of the laws of war.
Moreover, even if the detainees were granted POW status, the Geneva Conventions require that combatants be released from custody only “after the cessation of active hostilities.” …
What is missing from critics’ arguments for closing Guantanamo Bay is a sense of perspective. Any proposal to move detention operations must articulate how these detention operations can be performed more efficiently and effectively than they are being performed now. Arguing that the U.S. should close the facilities merely to placate criticisms of its detention policies is insufficient. The government’s responsibilities will not change, and it is therefore unlikely that detention operations will be conducted in a significantly different manner in a different location. Merely closing the facilities at Guantanamo Bay is not likely to placate any of America’s critics.