Gitmo is about to get a face-lift. The Pentagon is looking into a $150 million scheme to spruce up the 11-year-old U.S. detention facility at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the not-so-happy home of 166 veterans of Osama bin Laden's war against America.
But wait a minute. Isn't this the same Gitmo that President Obama promised to close as soon as he got to the White House? Yes, the very same facility passed over in favor of a New York City courtroom where Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, bin Laden's son-in-law was to be put on trial. And Spin Ghul, a major al Qaeda operative in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who was caught in October and formally arrested this week.Renovations are to include a $12 million dining hall for troops, a $10 million communication network where interrogation data can be stored (wouldn't a cloud be cheaper?), and a meeting place for detainees and their lawyers, which will cost another $10 million. Did someone forget the saunas and racquetball courts? Does the $11 million hospital come with an endless swimming pool? What about an assisted-living wing for aging detainees, some of whom already show a little gray in their beards?These are not necessarily happy campers now. U.S. military officials confirm that the number of hunger strikers at Guantanamo has more than tripled in the past two weeks, from seven to 25, with eight being force-fed through feeding tubes. Several defense lawyers wrote to Congress that "over two dozen men have lost consciousness."Guantanamo has been a pain in the neck (and no doubt other places) for nearly everybody. "[We] had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed," Gen. John Kelly, the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said of the hunger strikes at a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee. "They were devastated, apparently."The confusion can be traced to the Oval Office. Mr. Obama, who promised in the 2008 campaign to close Guantanamo, hasn't delivered that, but three months ago, he did succeed in closing something - the office he tasked with the responsibility for closing the prison.Meanwhile, Gen. Kelly, who took over as Southcom commander last year, is patching up buildings that are "falling apart." Guantanamo is the country's most expensive prison, with an operating budget this year of nearly $177 million, which comes to more than $1 million annually for the care and maintenance of each of the 166 detainees.A spokesman for the Southern Command says the operations budget for Gitmo grew substantially when construction began on a $40 million fiber-optic cable from South Florida to Guantanamo. A high-speed fiber-optic cable is nice, and will no doubt make streaming movies easier, but this is a movie we've seen already.
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