Iowa Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Kiron, is in Cuba this weekend, getting a first hand look at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
It’s where "enemy combatants" have been held since October of 2001. Three have been convicted on terrorism charges. U.S. officials expect another 80 will be tried on similar charges. Nearly 800 have been detained in the camp; today there are less than 300 under guard in the camp.
"President Obama had issued his executive order January 22 that ‘Gitmo’ would be closed within a year and we don’t have the legal proceedings set up to be able to process them in a way that I have any confidence that we can provide some safety and security not just for the American people, but the people in the free world," King says. "The recidivism of those that have been released is significant and these are the worst of the worst or we would have let them go by now."
King called into the Radio Iowa newsroom from Cuba early this morning, expressing displeasure with President Obama’s decision to close "Gitmo" down. "By the way the executive order that closes Gitmo is hanging on a fly-board down there in the common area, written in both Arabic and English," King said, "so enemy combatants can read that and be inspired."
King said he needed to see the facility himself to judge whether the prisoners were being treated humanely. He has talked to some of the officers in charge. "With a little over 200 enemy combatants there, you’ll see about 20 or so attacks on our guards in a single day," King said. "About eight percent of the number of prisoners attack our guards on a daily basis — different ones, of course."
According to King, the prisoners’ needs are "catered to" and most have access to television as well as outdoor recreation, like soccer. "The worst punishment they can get is to have their daily yard exercise time cut down to two hours. Nobody goes with less than that," King said. "We don’t have much of a hook to punish them beyond that."
King doesn’t expect Obama to rescind his order that will close the detention facility, however. King expects many of the prisoners to be released to their home countries, and he predicts they’ll find some way to start killing Americans once they’re out of custody.
King was on Cuban soil when news broke this morning that Russia may base some bombers on airstrips in Cuba. King called that a troubling development. "The Russians are, I think, very paranoid of the United States’ power. Putin is thinking geo-politicially and I’m convinced that he is seeking to rebuild some semblance of the former Soviet Union," King said. "They want to get their power back. They want to be a ‘superpower’ again." According to King, the U.S. cannot "tolerate" Russian bombers in the western hemisphere.
Click on the audio link below to listen to King’s nine-minute phone call from Cuba.