Inside Gitmo: 5 years on from President Barack Obama’s promise to close the world’s most infamous black-spot, why is gitmo proving so difficult to shut down?
5 years on from President Barack Obama’s promise to close the world’s most infamous black-spot, 154 prisoners still occupy the cells of Guantanamo Bay. So why is it proving so difficult to shut down?
“Should we close Gitmo? Absolutely. It’s a blight on our history, and I say this as a man who helped create it”. So says retired General Michael Lehnert, who 12 years ago was given orders to build cells at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, which the country has “leased” from Cuba for more than 100 years. General Lehnert supervised the building of Camp X-Ray, the open-air facility it was proclaimed would house the “worst of the worst” – terrorists involved in the aircraft hijackings which had killed 3,000 innocents in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, he maintains, the opening of Guantanamo was understandable. Now, however, he concedes it can be seen as a tragic mistake: “I think that Guantanamo stands as a recruiting poster for terrorists”. A symbol of the so-called ‘War on Terror’, the prison was meant to be temporary. Yet of the first 20 detainees brought to its gates in January 2002, 11 remain imprisoned. With weeds now entwining its steel-framed cages, and renewed calls from the military to regenerate areas of the camp, could Gitmo be here to stay?