A continuing shame on our country is the on-going existence of the U.S.-run Guantánamo Bay detention camp located on the coast of Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. George W. Bush established the camp in 2002, following the September 11, 2001 attacks, as part of the “War on Terror.” According to Wikileaks, of the 780 people detained there since the camp was established, 731 have been transferred elsewhere, 39 remain there, and 9 have died while in custody. “Indefinite detention without trial and torture led the operations of this camp to be considered a major breach of human rights by Amnesty International, and a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution by the Center for Constitutional Rights.” It is, in short, illegal and immoral. It should never have been opened, and it ought to have been closed long since.
Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, promised to close the camp but met strong bipartisan opposition from the Congress, which passed laws to prohibit detainees from Guantánamo from being imprisoned in the U.S. Despite that, during Obama’s administration, the number of inmates was reduced from about 245 to 41.
But Donald Trump, unlike his predecessors and successors, approved of the detention camp and signed an executive order to keep it open indefinitely. Joe Biden declared his intention to shut down Guantánamo before he leaves office. Detainees still there now number 39.
The role of the U.S. as the world leader for democracy is no longer recognized worldwide, due primarily to Donald Trump’s many violations of international standards. The least we can do to restore our leadership is to abolish Guantánamo. We should urge President Biden to get on with it as soon as possible.