Although President Barack Obama has achieved quite a bit during his tenure, there is still one goal that has remained out of reach during his two terms in office: closing Guantanamo Bay. And, on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver dove into why the prison needs to be closed.
His first argument for closing Gitmo is purely practical: It’s expensive. “Guantanamo costs $445 million to run last year, which means we’re currently spending over $7 million per prisoner per year,” explains Oliver.
However, the prison, which currently houses only 61 prisoners, isn’t just costing us money, but also the moral high ground, argues Oliver. The host showed footage of representatives from Libya, Syria, Iran, and other countries with spotty human rights track records critiquing the U.S. for its continued use of the facility in Cuba at a UN Human Rights conference last year.
“But it does seem like this is one of the few things the entire world agrees on. It’s basically, Guantanamo is f—-d up, and yeah, Kevin can wait,” says Oliver, referencing the much-maligned CBS comedy Kevin Can Wait. He elaborated on this point by showing footage of Vladimir Putin saying he couldn’t imagine something like Guantanamo existing in Russia.
Those wanting to keep Guantanamo open argue that releasing prisoners would open the U.S. up to the risk of detainees returning to terrorism and that closing the facility would be a sign of weakness. However, Oliver — citing a video clip featuring Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, saying he’d rather face these terrorists on the battlefield — argues it would in fact be an act of bravery.
“When you see a bumper sticker that says, “Freedom isn’t free,” this is what that means: Standing up for our highest ideals even when it requires accepting a certain amount of risk,” says Oliver.
“There is actually one final thing to consider here: The concept of Guantanamo presents the opportunity to operate outside the boundaries of the law and that is way too tempting a proposition to have at the government’s disposal. Because while you might be someone who trusts President Obama’s judgment, remember he’s on his way out now, meaning that the keys to Azkaban will be handed over to whoever succeeds him and there is still a possibility it might be this guy,” says Oliver, cueing a video of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump promising to load it up with “a lot of bad dudes.”
Watch the entire clip above to find out more about why the prison is still open.