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Why Guantanamo Must Be Closed

January 13, 2015

From  Retired Major General Michael Lehnert, USMC, Joint Task Force 160, charged with constructing Guantanamo.

History continues to judge our decisions—decisions made when we were angry and frightened. Who we are as a nation cannot be separated from what we do. It is hard to overstate how damaging the continued existence of the detention facility at Guantanamo has been. Repressive governments use it to deflect criticism of their own policies by charging hypocrisy. Violent extremists use it as a recruiting tool. It is a symbol for many around the world of torture, injustice, and illegitimacy. 

I am not alone in my opinion. More than 50 retired generals and admirals have come forward saying Guantanamo should be closed. Statesmen, top national security officials, and public servants from across the political spectrum such as Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, have said Guantanamo should be closed. President George W. Bush wanted to close the facility, and on his second day in office President Barack Obama signed an executive order committing his administration to closing Guantanamo.

As if the moral, legal, and strategic reasons to close Guantanamo weren’t sufficient, it is by most comparisons the world’s most expensive prison. The annual cost per Guantanamo detainee now stands at $3,345,061. The average annual cost to maintain a prisoner in the most expensive supermax facility in the United States is estimated to be $78,000 per year.

Closing Guantanamo is about reestablishing who we are as a nation. Terrorists caused us to turn away from the fundamental values that make this country exceptional. It’s time to reaffirm what America stands for: that we are still the shining city on the hill, and that we stand for the rule of law and respect for human rights. The goal of terrorists is to change us, to change what we say we stand for, and to make us live in fear. As long as Guantanamo exists, terrorists can legitimately say that they have accomplished their objectives. It is time for America to stop living in fear and to defeat terrorism with our most powerful weapon: American values. It is time to close Guantanamo.

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