04 March 2012

Guantanamo soccer field: $744,000

Here are excerpts from the story by Reuters, via the Huffinton Post:
The U.S. admiral in charge of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp is defending the decision to build a $744,000 soccer field for well-behaved prisoners, and said critics misunderstood the facility's purpose and logistics.

Rear Admiral David Woods said the camp's mission was not to punish foreign captives unnecessarily, many of whom have been held there for 10 years already. He said his job is to detain them away from the battlefield under safe and humane conditions, and that providing socialization opportunities was part of that...

The dusty, 28,000-square-foot soccer field includes a soft gravel walking track, security cameras and a high fence topped with razor wire. It is expected to open in the spring, after goal posts and latrines are added.

Woods said the cost of the recreation yard was high because every piece of equipment has to be imported by barge or plane to the remote base in southeast Cuba. The United States maintains an economic embargo against Cuba, its unwilling host, to pressure its communist government.

"That's probably the biggest misperception and lack of understanding of the expense of doing things down here," Woods said. "It's unlike any place else in the world mainly because we don't have the opportunity to capitalize on the local economy."
The criticism from politicians has been predictable:
"It is curious that the federal government has managed to spend nearly a million dollars for the comfort and relaxation of detainees who are accused of posing a real risk to our country and people..."
My rant would have a totally different focus.  The U.S. has maintained an economic embargo against Cuba since I was a child -  over 50 years ago.  My understanding is that its stated purpose is to punish the Cuban people for a variety of real and perceived insults and injuries to the U.S., and in particular to incentivize them to topple Fidel Castro from power.  The embargo costs the U.S. billions of dollars per year in lost trade, while Fidel has seen more U.S. presidents come and go than any foreign leader except Queen Elizabeth.

This soccer field could probably have been built for $150,000 if we had contracted with local Cuban businesses for the materials, the labor, and some of the nonspecialized equipment.  Instead, American taxpayers have to foot the extra half-million in order to placate a handful of voters in a swing state and gratify the egos of American politicians.

I'll stop now.


  1. As long as we're holding unconvicted and/or innocent people as political prisoners for the rest of their lives, the least we can do is shell out for some recreation.

  2. Soccer field wouldn't be necessary if Obama had closed the damn place like he said he would.

  3. Zed:

    And what do you do with the prisoners if you did close Gitmo? Obama has tried to close it and move the prisoners to Maximum Security Prisons here in the US, but the Republicans have blocked his every move in that direction. So what do you do with them?

  4. Two separate issues here. (1) The cost of housing prisoners. (2) The embargo of Cuba.

    Regarding the first issue. That expense is not out the norm. Even if that field were built at a prison in the middle of Ohio, it would cost that much because that it just how things manage to work. Where I live the country administration building had a commuter shower installed so their staff could ride bikes to work. It ended up costing $85k for a shower. I could build a small house for that much in materials.

    Here in my state (Cal), I think it costs about $45k a year on average for each prisoner we have. I often wonder if it would be cheaper to just higher the Hilton to run a hotel with cable TV and room service for each inmate.

    (2) The Embargo of Cuba. Yes, this is absurd. I would love to visit with out having to pretend I didn't spend any money and was invited by a humanitarian group. Opening it up for US tourist, trade, and information will do more to hasten the demise of Castro and Company than the embargo ever will.

  5. One thing I always thought was hilarious about GTMO is that Castro tried to make the US leave by cutting off the electrical power to the base, which promptly retaliated by getting their own generator. Now they have the most reliable power in Cuba.

  6. Australia paid for a similar soccer field that was built in Kabul during the 1990's. These savages put it to good use. They held their public executions there.


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