Sen. James Inhofe: Trump keeps Guantanamo open and keeps America safe

During his first State of the Union address Tuesday, President Trump clearly showed his commitment to fighting terrorism by announcing he is revoking President Obama’s executive order and will keep our military detention center at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) open. What’s more, he’s going to start using it again as the counterterrorism tool that it is.

President Trump is exactly right to take this bold action.

I’ve been to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. I know the crimes of the terrorists held there – terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the masterminds of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. These are enemy combatants who want nothing more than to attack America and its people.

Yet, in 2009, President Obama tried to fulfill a campaign promise by signing an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay within one year. What’s more, he wanted to transfer the detainees to prisons in the United States, placing terrorists less than two miles from schools, churches and neighborhoods.  

I fought that flawed decision. Each year, the National Defense Authorization Act included language I authored to prevent President Obama from closing the facility and transferring detainees to the United States.

President Trump is serious when he says he wants to defeat the terrorists. He’s made real progress in destroying and degrading ISIS. One of the best, most effective counterterrorism tools is maintaining our facilities at Guantanamo Bay.

When he realized he couldn’t overcome the bipartisan opposition to closing Gitmo, President Obama ignored the law and began to try to close Guantanamo another way – by releasing enemy combatants to any country that would take them, at great risk to our national security.

According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, approximately 30 percent of the detainees transferred overseas from Guantanamo Bay have re-entered the fight against the United States and our allies. Not only was this a direct threat to American families at home and overseas, it was also a sign that President Obama wasn’t serious about truly defeating terrorists. He just temporarily took them out of the battle.   

President Trump is serious when he says he wants to defeat the terrorists. He’s made real progress in destroying and degrading ISIS – and I am confident he will not give up the fight until Islamic extremism is completely eradicated. One of the best, most effective counterterrorism tools is maintaining our facilities at Guantanamo Bay.

President Trump made the right call to keep the detention center open for the safety of American families.

Republican James "Jim" Inhofe represents Oklahoma in the United States Senate. He is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.