MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The hunger strike at Guantanamo is nearing 100 days long (with the majority of detainees participating). The Nation recounts the words of one hunger striker that "cut to the heart of the [desperation] protest":
“As of today, I’ve spent more than 11 years in Guantánamo Bay,” he wrote. “To be precise, it’s been 4,084 long days and nights. I’ve never been charged with any crime.”
If morality, basic human decency and international standards of justice won't move the US government to close Guantanamo, then maybe in this age of "austerity" Americans should take a look at the cost of keeping a prisoner in an isolated US military base on Cuban soil. As The Fiscal Times (and other outlets have) reported the annual cost to US taxpayers of each Guantanamo detainee is more than $900,000 per individual. That is compared to $25,000 for the yearly taxpayer funded expense of keeping a prisoner in federal prison. There are currently about 165 men imprisoned on the base.
Michael Hager of the Christian Science Monitor wrote on May 2 of another kind of cost, how Guantanamo is both profoundly inhumane and that it also defeats its purpose: rather than enhancing US security, it makes us more vulnerable:
Americans can not afford the cost of inaction any longer: Guantánamo serves as a recruitment tool for Al Qaeda. It threatens America's global standing as a beacon of justice and the rule of law. And it undermines the international legal precedents that would protect US prisoners abroad as well….
Whatever the risk of released prisoners “returning to the battlefield,” it would seem outweighed by the more obvious risk that Guantánamo poses: It serves as a recruitment poster for Al Qaeda. The assessment of security risks must also take into account the ongoing damage to America's moral standing in the world – damage that will greatly increase if and when the Guantánamo hunger strikers start dying from their fast.
An even more significant long-term cost may be the potential for blowback from legal precedents being set by the Guantánamo prison and the harsh treatment of its prisoners. Such precedents not only undermine global respect for international human rights and the rule of law, but also create a hostile legal environment for Americans who may someday find themselves incarcerated by an enemy force….
We should question whether our security needs, as assessed today, trump the traditional American values of justice and the rule of law. Only a lawless society would condone indefinite detention, forced-feeding, and solitary confinement.
That's a cost our national security and our constitutional model as a nation of laws and justice cannot continue to bear. Other wise, we will become more endangered as a nation and our moral foundation will further erode.