Don't Abandon Gitmo

Wednesday, 13 Jan 2010 10:39 AM

By Ralph Hostetter

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Once again world opinion has reared its ugly head and is attempting to influence a U.S. decision on whether to dispose of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.

However, the "experts" promoting and controlling world opinion appear to be on the losing end, as poll after poll over the last six months indicate more than half the Americans remain opposed to such a move.

A CBS News poll conducted Jan. 6-10 showed 55 percent of Americans think the Guantanamo Bay facility should be kept open. This figure is up from 46 percent last February.

A good part of this increase very well could have been reaction to the so-called "underwear bomber's" aborted terrorist attack on Christmas Day.

On President Barack Obama's second full day in office, Jan. 22, ordered Guantanamo Bay base closed within one year. The base is still in full operation, and the repatriation of prisoners from Guantanamo has been suspended.

France, Ireland, Portugal, Hungary, and Belgium are making some conditional offerings for safe haven to such detainees. Nearly seven months after the offers were made, only seven former detainees have been welcomed into Europe as free men. Ten more have been sent to Palao and Bermuda; two were sent to Italy for possible trial.

Guantanamo Bay still holds 210 prisoners.

The United States has accepted none, keeping in mind that these prisoners are terrorists of the worst order.

“It was always our intent to transfer detainees to other countries only under conditions that provide assurances that our security is being protected," Obama told BBC News for a Jan. 5 report. But the camp still will be shut, "in a manner that keeps the American people safe and secure."

He added, "Make no mistake, we will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al-Qaida.”

Having said all this, a very serious question arises. Why should Guantanamo Bay be closed? Why should America surrender one of its most secure facilities for fighting terrorism to the whims of questionable human rights groups and the frivolous notions of world opinion?

The history of America's involvement at Guantanamo Bay began during the Spanish-American War when a U.S. Marine battalion camped there on June 10, 1898. The battalion was attacked the following day, with the loss of two American Marine's lives.

Following a protracted five-year Spanish-American War, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a lease agreement with Cuba's new government on Feb. 16, 1903, granting the United States "the right to use and occupy the waters adjacent to said areas of land and water. . . and generally to do any and all things necessary to fit these premises for use as coaling or naval stations only, and for no other purpose.”

A second lease was signed on July 2, 1906, for which the United States would pay $2,000 a year. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the United States continued to send a check to Cuba every year. Only one has been cashed.

As for finally returning Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, the United States stands by an agreement it signed in 1934 with the leader of Cuba's government at that time, Fulgencio Batista, stating that, "until the two Contracting Parties agree to the modification or abrogation. . . the stipulations of that agreement with regard to the Naval Station of Guantanamo shall continue in effect."

The United States considers this an "open-ended duration" that can be terminated only by mutual agreement.

Last January, former Cuban President Fidel Castro called on the new U.S. president to turn over control of the Guantanamo Bay military base to Cuba once the detention facility there is closed. In an Op-Ed, Castro wrote that continuing to hold the base would be a violation of international law.

According to a report in Jurist, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, “Castro scoffed at Obama's pledge to return the base to the country after it instituted a democratic government, and said the move should be made unconditionally.”

The U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay is the oldest existing U.S. military base outside U.S. territory. It is about the size of Manhattan Island, covering an area of some 45 square miles.

The first 20 detainees for Gitmo arrived, hooded and shackled, on Jan. 11, 2002, eight years ago this week. This group and those who followed came from such countries as Libya, Tunisia, Syria, China, and Russia. Many of these countries have proved to be breeding grounds for terrorist groups.

Although a number of European countries have been clamoring for the release of the Guantanamo prisoners, only a few are willing to accept very limited numbers of the detainees.

The United States is entering an era of uncertainty with respect to acts of terrorism. No forecast for the future has been published that predicts a decrease in such activities. All reports argue that increases in terrorism will be the norm.

The security of the United States demands that we preserve and maintain the facility for detention at Guantanamo Bay.

Succumbing to the fallacies of world opinion could prove detrimental to the security of the United States.

Guantanamo Bay must remain open.

E. Ralph Hostetter, a prominent businessman and agricultural publisher, also is a national and local award-winning columnist. He welcomes comments by e-mail sent to eralphhostetter@yahoo.com.



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