The US military has asked the nation’s Congress for over 450 million dollars to upgrade and maintain its notorious prison and torture camp at Guantanamo Bay despite renewed claims by President Barack Obama to shut down the facility.
New details about the Obama administration’s budget request for making improvements at the US military prison surfaced on Tuesday, marking yet another contradiction in Obama’s supposed political push to close the infamous detention center while the Pentagon calculates the budget it needs to keep the camp operating.
The US military budget request for the next fiscal year, which begins on October 1, calls for USD79 million for “detention operations,” USD20.5 million for the office of military commissions, USD99 million for operation and maintenance and USD 40 million for a fiber optic cable, according to an AP report.
Additionally, the Pentagon is asking for USD 200 million for “military construction to upgrade temporary facilities,” which the report says may take eight to 10 years to complete, since “the military has to transport workers to the [Guantanamo Bay] island [in Cuba], rely on limited housing and fly in building material.”
The controversial military prison camp at the US naval base in Cuba currently holds 166 captives, over 130 of whom are reportedly on hunger strike to protest abusive treatment by prison guards and their indefinite detention with charges or legal trials.
Moreover, more than 30 of the hunger strikers are being forced fed in a severely painful procedure, involving the injection of a tube through the inmates’ nose and into their stomach, which the United Nations has condemned as torture.
The growing protests and objections over the abusive treatment of Guantanamo captives have also prompted Obama to renew his pledge to shut down the military facility.
“Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe,” Obama said at a White House news conference last month. “It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.”
Meanwhile, Obama reportedly plans to further elaborate on the future of the prison camp in a scheduled Thursday address on “counterterrorism” at National Defense University.
Although some members of the US Congress have strongly resisted the closure of Guantanamo, others have expressed support for the move.
Democratic Congressman Adam Smith of Washington State, who is the senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, offered his assistance to shut down the military prison camp in a Tuesday letter to Obama.
Until it is, Smith reportedly wrote, “it will continue to symbolize an unjust attempt to avoid the rule of law and to undermine the United States’ moral standing in defending its values and protecting human rights.”
Most of the Guantanamo inmates have been picked up by American military forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the aftermath of the US-led occupation of Afghanistan under the pretext of removing the Saudi- and Pakistani-backed Taliban regime and bringing stability to the country.