Major General Michael R. Lehnert, USMC (Ret.) Statement for the Record: The Need to Shutter the Detention Facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

The goal of terrorism is to change behavior and to make us live in fear. On 9/11 America changed.

In September 2001 I was a new brigadier general at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina commanding an 8,000 man force of Marines and Sailors. America made the decision to go to war in Afghanistan, and some of my troops were deployed early into the fight. And as we began to take captives, the question of what to do with them became more imperative. Many in the Administration believed that these individuals represented an intelligence treasure trove.

The decision to send me and my command to Guantanamo employed a strange logic. Guantanamo has been used for decades by Administrations from both parties as an extra-legal zone to buy time during crises. It had been the site for several Cuban and Haitian migrant camps and in fact I’d commanded the Guantanamo camps in 1995 during the Clinton era when we had 18,000 Cubans and Haitians there on the ground. Though the U.S. Army is doctrinally responsible for prisoner of war camps, the Marines ability to deploy rapidly coupled with my past experience probably drove the initial decision. That there is a vast difference between an economic migrant and a prisoner of war seemed lost on the policy makers in Washington.


Published on April 28, 2016


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