Before the State of the Union went live, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order to keep open the Guantanamo Bay United States detention camp. In 2002, former President George W. Bush opened the facility for suspected terrorists and enemy combatants in response to the War on Terror.
Since then, Guantanamo Bay’s legacy has been mired with controversy regarding its questionable conditions, such as the indefinite stay of inmates (including those not convicted of a crime), lack of fair trial and allegations of torture and mistreatment. In defense of this order, Trump noted that the U.S. had “foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield—including the ISIS leader, al-Baghadadi.”
122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 7, 2017
Former President Barack Obama had signed an executive order in 2009 to close Guantanamo Bay, but failed to do so; many blamed this on opposition from Congress, including congressional legislation to prevent the prisoners from moving to U.S. soil. The Obama administration did, however, manage to shrink the number of prisoners in Guantanamo, from 242 to 41, at the end of his term.
Trump’s move to keep the camp open ignited criticism, as well as praise. His announcement during the State of the Union sparked applause and smiles from Republicans in attendance, while Democrats remained seated. Jack Posobiec, veteran Navy intel officer and author of “Citizens for Trump,” rejoiced at the news and Speaker Ryan agreed that terrorists should remain in Guantanamo Bay.
Contrarily, in a House Armed Services Committee Democrats press release, Representative Adam Smith of Washington State’s Ninth Congressional District stated he was “strongly opposed to President Trump’s efforts to keep the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay open,” noting that the camp’s “creation…was misguided from the beginning.” Amnesty International called the facility a “cruel, inhumane [and] a direct threat to human rights.”
Citizens’ thoughts are mixed. Many are happy the facility will remain open, highlighting the “evil” or “unlawful” practices of the prisoners who supporters do not want on U.S. soil. However, there are citizens who also believe that keeping Guantanamo Bay open means the U.S. is no better than other countries who hold political prisoners.