With up to $1 trillion in defense spending cuts planned over the next decade, the Obama administration has curiously managed to spend $750,000 in taxpayer funds on a year-long construction project for a detainee soccer field at Gitmo.
Though it’s a tough choice to say who deserves more blame for such apparent waste, fraud and abuse, the genius who thought up the soccer field in the first place, or the contractor fleecing Uncle Sam for a small dirt field surrounded by a green fence, one thing is certain – this episode shows President Obama’s priorities in action.
Immediately after being sworn in, Mr. Obama’s first series of actions pertained to “fixing the mess at Guantanamo,” as he put it. This entailed an executive order to close it within a year, banning all coercive interrogations, halting the military commission then in progress against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other 9/11 co-defendants, and an immediate review of detention operations.
Just weeks later, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, a four-star admiral, personally led the two-week review at Gitmo. The comprehensive study looked at 27 areas of interest, and confirmed what most Americans already knew – that detainees were treated humanely, and detention operations were in compliance with the Geneva Conventions. Though keeping the president’s intent in mind, the panel dutifully recommended several measures to make life more comfortable for detainees, and thus theoretically decrease frequent assaults on the guard force.
Among the recommendations were providing detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow 9/11 plotters, with “more human-to-human contact, recreation opportunities with several detainees together, intellectual stimulation and group prayer.”And with those recommendations designed to keep about 200 Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters and facilitators as happy as they could possibly be on their windswept bluff overlooking the Caribbean, came related costs that we’re now seeing drag on for years.
To be honest, even during the Bush administration --apart from Gitmo’s first few months in early 2002 when detainees were kept in quickly improvised outdoor facilities at a place called Camp X-Ray -- they already did have it pretty good compared to most mainland U.S. prisons.
For those who were “compliant” and obeyed camp rules, they had outdoor recreation opportunities all day long, including basketball, jogging, gardening – and yes, even soccer.
By the time the Chinese separatist Uighurs were ready to be freed to other far-flung garden spots like Bermuda and Palau, they were getting the Naval Station’s franchise Pizza Hut delivery to their communal compound. Seriously.
So why did Mr. Obama commit to sink all this money into improving the lives of Gitmo detainees even further?
It’s simple. He had no idea what he was talking about when it came to Gitmo. He had no clue what it was really like when he was campaigning, when he was elected, and when he was eventually sworn in.
Though he did buy into the left-wing hype about “restoring the rule of law,” conveniently ignoring the fact that the country was forced into a war with radical Islam and that Gitmo’s detention facilities were consistent with the “law of war,” allowing nations to hold enemy combatants until the end of hostilities.
He also adopted the misleading narrative fueled by the left that abusing detainees was the norm.
In reality, exhaustive investigations show less than 1% of detainees were ever abused, and mostly the result of desperate interrogations to prevent a second 9/11.
Mr. Obama apparently saw Gitmo as the perfect way to kick-off his world tour of apology, and go along with the desires of the international community. Sad to say, it's now three years later, and he hasn’t changed a bit.
With Gitmo serving as one highly symbolic platform, Obama roundly condemned the Bush administration while simultaneously ushering in a new era of America with a promise of hope and change. Though he was high on hopes, his change was for the worse.
It’s a new and weaker America we live in today.
And now it's also $750,000 poorer.
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy Commander who served as a Pentagon spokesman in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-09. He most recently served as the Vice President, Communications and Foreign Policy/National Security Advisor to Herman Cain’s 2012 Republican presidential campaign.