What with the problems of HealthCare.gov, the ever-looming matter of the Federal Reserve removing a two-by-four or two from the prop they’ve erected for the economy, and the possibility of Russian police beating the snot out of gays at the Winter Olympics, I’ll bet a recent cost figure whizzed right by you.
No, we’re not talking about Miley Cyrus’ latest twerking costume cost. We’re talking about the annual cost per prisoner of “those guys” we’re still holding at Guantanamo Bay. You remember “those guys.” We’ve sort of snatched them up from all over the world. Some are Yemeni (we think), some Saudi (pretty sure), some Sudanese (surely); some may be Londoners for all we know. In any event, just about the time the U.S. repatriated two Saudis December 17(?), U.S. Major Gen. Michael Lehnert (Ret.) was telling CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about the cost of keeping prisoners at Gitmo — and some other things.
Lehnert, you see, knows about “those guys” since he was Gitmo’s first prison commander. He thought the deal was going to be a short term thing. It took him a couple of months to figure out – as the prison commander – that he was going to be there a while.
But I’m getting away from the cost, as given by Lehnert – “$2.7 million per prisoner, per annum.” Yes, we all know about associated costs here, shoe polish for the Marine guards, extra special security precautions, seminars about how to handle the Qur’an, and so on, but really? Lehnert also helpfully pointed out that the annual cost for keeping a prisoner in a U.S. Supermax prison is $78,000 – or less.
In his retirement the general is also concerned that the existence of the prison at Guantanamo has “caused us to walk away from the Constitution,” but his remarks seem regrettably after the fact – not that I personally doubt his current sincerity. After all, before retirement, there are always orders to be executed, and military people properly take that seriously.
Closing Gitmo was one of President Obama’s first promises. Indeed, he’s spoken about it a number of times. Back in May of this year, he gave an impassioned speech about the matter, for example. At that time the prisoner count at our base in Cuba was reported as 166. When Lehnert spoke to Amanpour recently, the number was given as 160. A few prisoners besides the Saudis mentioned above are apparently dribbling out this week.
My point here is – at directly as possible – this prison costs north of $400 million a year for the entire population housed there, many of whom are cleared, then not cleared, then cleared, then not, etc., for release. Watch the stories.
If you’re going to violate human rights, why not look for a Dollar Store cost to do that? I’d bet it would cost less than $78.000 to drop all “those guys” out of airplanes over North Korea — with parachutes and supplies, of course.