U.S. Will Keep Guantanamo Open

U.S. Will Keep Guantanamo Open
June 30th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: U.S. Will Keep Guantanamo Open

U.S. Will Keep Guantanamo Open
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
June 29, 2008
Pg. 2
Navy will stay on base even if controversial prison closes
By Andrew O. Selsky, Associated Press
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL STATION -- No matter what happens to America's offshore military prison, this much is clear: This Navy base will remain open for years to come, and so probably will the McDonald's, the Taco Bell and the golf course.
"We're not going anywhere any time soon," declared Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Johnston, who gets upset when people equate the possible closing of the detention center for suspected al-Qaida and Taliban figures with a shutdown of this 45-square-mile base.
It is increasingly obvious that the days of the U.S. offshore prison are numbered. The Bush administration's main rationale for holding terrorism suspects without trial vanished when the Supreme Court ruled on June 12 that they have certain legal rights. Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama have both called for the detention center to be shut.
Commanders on this base encompassing arid hills and a broad bay say they are ready to move the prisoners out if given the order. The $12 million Expeditionary Legal Complex was completed in May instead of a proposed $100 million permanent structure that Defense Secretary Robert Gates rejected in February 2007.
The United States maintained the base long before the first detainees arrived in January 2002. U.S. Marines took Guantanamo Bay in 1898 in the Spanish-American War. Photographs displayed in the newly refurbished airport terminal trace some of Guantanamo's more recent history when it hosted tens of thousands of Haitian migrants, some of whom camped out on the golf course, in the 1990s; and when access to Cuba's water pipeline was severed during the Cold War and a desalination plant was brought in.
The base, which boasts a deep harbor and strategic location along the Windward Passage, now supports operations against drug trafficking and illegal migrants.
Johnston, Guantanamo's public works officer who requisitions the $4,085 annual payments to Cuba to lease the base, described the military as a perfect tenant.
"We don't bother the landlord. We don't [complain] when things go wrong. We pay our rent on time," Johnston said.
The Castro government disagrees. Cuban officials regularly refer to the U.S. military prison here as a "torture camp" and demand that the base be returned to Cuba.
Cuba doesn't cash the rent checks but cannot evict the Americans because the treaty granting the base remains in effect unless both Cuba and the United States abrogate it or the U.S. abandons Guantanamo.
Some neighborhoods here resemble a 1950s U.S. suburb. The detention center and watchtowers are out of sight, beyond the hills. Crime is low.
"It's like an Eisenhower-era town: You can leave your door unlocked, no one uses bike locks, and you even have the Communist enemy to stare down," Johnston said.
The agreement with Cuba says that no company may maintain a commercial enterprise at Guantanamo, which would seem to call into question the fast-food franchises that have sprung up. But Lt. Cmdr. Brendan Burke, who handles base legal affairs, insists they are allowed because the Navy operates the eateries and "there is no private citizen getting rich."
In the past year, a Taco Bell and an Irish pub have opened. There is also a Subway.
Since 2001, the base population has tripled to at least 7,500 as the military prison has grown. It would invariably shrink if the detention center is closed.
As for the future, the military has considered "in a very, very preliminary way" basing Marines at Guantanamo for rapid deployment elsewhere, said Navy Capt. Mark Leary, Guantanamo's commanding officer. Even if democratic change comes to Cuba, the Navy would probably still want to stay here, he said.
"I think there's a good reason we've been here for 110 years," Leary said. "I don't think we would abandon this place."
Johnston said that if democracy comes to Cuba, the base could pump money into its economy as the gates opened and Cubans did contracting work. But Cuba would have to remove its vast minefields around the base.
"The Cubans don't know where their mines are," Johnston said. "You can hear them cook off in brush fires. De-mining will be a huge undertaking if U.S.-Cuban relations are restored."

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