"As president, I have tried to close Guantánamo," Obama said in a letter to congressional leaders yesterday. "When I inherited this challenge, it was widely recognized that the facility -- which many around the world continue to condemn -- needed to close. Unfortunately, what had previously been bipartisan support for closure suddenly became a partisan issue. Despite those politics, we have made progress."
That's quantitatively true. Updating the tally we've been keeping an eye on
, the detention facility's population peaked in 2003 with 680 prisoners. The Bush/Cheney administration began moving detainees out in its second term, and by the time President Obama took office, the population was down to 242 prisoners.
Now, as Obama exits the stage, the total is down to 41
. Two weeks ago, Donald Trump, who's never demonstrated any real understanding of this issue, declared
, "There should be no further releases from Gitmo." Fortunately, the current president ignored him.
As we discussed
in April, the point of the gradual reductions, obviously, is to reduce the overall population, but it's also intended to appeal to Republicans' sense of fiscal sanity: the smaller the number of detainees, the harder it is to justify the massive expense of keeping open a detention facility that houses so few people. Even if congressional Republicans are inclined to ignore every other consideration, the hope is that GOP lawmakers will at least care about wasteful spending.
At least, that is, if the Guantanamo prisoner population remains low. There's a real possibility that the incoming president will reverse the progress and start adding to
the detainee totals. read more