By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
12/13/2013 (1 year ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The U.S. Navy commander of the base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has spoken out in support of President Obama's early pledge to close the prison facility there.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Obama originally campaigned on a promise to close the Naval prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, but like many other pledges it went unrealized. The disposition of the terror suspects there still remains in limbo as the individual cases progress slowly.
Throughout the next five years of Obama's presidency and until now, the prison at the base remains open. The facility houses just a handful of inmates, but has cost $5 billion over the past 12 years.
Navy Rear Adm. Richard Butler, commander of Joint Task Force-Guantanamo told Al Jazeera America that he agreed with Obama's assessment and "As a naval officer, I fully support whatever it is my commander in chief is going to tell me to do. So I'm going to fully support that effort."
Despite the expense and the pledge, the actual act of closing the facility is fraught with challenges. Only three prisoners have recently been transferred out of the base and just one has been presented to the tribunal there.
The facility is high profile, despite its military status and the staff must conduct themselves with an extreme degree of professionalism. This professionalism must be maintained as the inmates there reportedly behave in repugnant fashion. Al Jazeera commented that "prisoners routinely hurl a 'cocktail' of feces, semen and urine at guards, and that the assaults put the guard force under a great deal of stress."
Butler told Al Jazeera "It's a stressful environment."
In addition to controlling hostile inmates and the stress levels of the staff who must work around them, Butler said he must also contend with aging facilities. The tropical climate is naturally hard on infrastructure and a $195 million request for funds to renovate the facility was recently rejected.
However, butler says he has the money available to renovate critical facilities. "I have discretionary funds available to devote to specific areas where we're having problems," he said. "A good example is air conditioners, which are getting older and breaking. So money needs to be spent on that. I have sufficient operating funds to be able to address the critical breakdowns. Now, if we're talking entire buildings, then no, I don't have the money to replace those. But I can address some improvements that need to be made," he told Al Jazeera.
The facility is undoubtedly controversial for many reasons, perhaps mostly because some inmates have been held there for years without a trial. For a nation that prides itself on human rights and the rule of law, the failure of the current administration to swiftly bring these cases to a hearing is an embarrassment.
The prison at Guantanamo Bay is a physical manifestation of that embarrassment-not because of the staff that works there, who are performing exemplary duty, but because of the slow pace of justice which is being meted out there.
Despite Obama's opinions and pledges, the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay will probably remain open for several more years to come.
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