Closing Guantanamo Will Be Difficult, But It’s Necessary

In one of his final interviews before leaving his office, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Steve Inskeep of NPR. Much of their conversation focused on the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba—no surprise, since the delay in closing the facility has been cited as one reason for Hagel’s departure. When asked about the feasibility of closing Guantanamo within the next two years, Secretary Hagel responded: “It’s going to be very difficult.”

While that may be true, it doesn’t mean we should back away from this goal.

No one ever said that closing Guantanamo would be easy, especially if Congress insists on throwing up roadblocks for detainee transfers. Even if Congress relents on these restrictions, finding a safe country willing to accept cleared detainees while the United States still refuses to take them may also be difficult. However, 55 countries have already agreed to it—difficult, but by no means impossible.

Thirteen years after the first detainees arrived at the detention center, many of these men are no longer a threat or a source of reliable intelligence, if they ever even were. Instead of being properly charged and tried or released, they are languishing in legal limbo to the tune of over $3 million per year per prisoner.

The detention center at Guantanamo is still being used to inspire hatred towards America in extremist cells around the globe. Our reputation and moral standing in the eyes of many of our allies has been damaged. But we can change all of this.

Guantanamo can be closed before the end of Presid​ent Obama’s second term. Instead of relying on incorrect recidivism statistics, members of Congress need to allow the transfer of  cleared detainees to responsible nations. The Periodic Review Board process must be given proper support and allowed to process eligible detainees. And the remaining detainees must be charged and tried. There is a roadmap to finally closing Guantanamo—all we need is the resolve to follow it.


Published on January 27, 2015


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