General Mattis has made a historic trip to Guantanamo Bay today. It’s the first time the Secretary of Defense has visited the prison in 16 years.
But he didn’t go for a tour of the facility, rather he went to meet with the troops there before Christmas:
WESH – U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited the American Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to offer holiday greetings to troops Thursday. It was the first trip there by a Pentagon chief in almost 16 years.
Mattis was meeting with troops, not touring the detention facilities or discussing detainee policy options. His stay comes amid uncertainty over the Trump administration’s policy on continued use of the military prison.
President Donald Trump hasn’t released any Guantanamo prisoners or added any to the list of men who have been officially cleared to go home or to a third country for resettlement.
Mattis is the first defense secretary to visit Guantanamo Bay since Donald Rumsfeld in January 2002, just weeks after the first prisoners arrived from Afghanistan in the early stages of the fight against terrorism. The detention center was set up to hold suspected terrorists shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Mattis arrived at Guantanamo on Wednesday night and was accompanied by an Associated Press reporter.
Forty-one prisoners remain in detention. Ten have been charged by a military commission. Five have been cleared to leave, but their status is in doubt under the current administration.
That leaves 26 in indefinite confinement, though some eventually could be cleared for release, too, or prosecuted. Lawyers are considering filing new legal challenges, arguing that a policy of no releases means the detainees’ confinement no longer can be legally justified as a temporary wartime measure.
It’s great to see Mattis visiting the troops at Gitmo at what I’m sure is a difficult time of year for most of them.
I do hope it lifts their spirits as they do a job wherein there isn’t much glory and recognition, if any.
We should all be mindful of those overseas this Christmas weekend while we are enjoying wonderful food with family and friends.