General Who Opened Gitmo: It Was a Mistake

The whole detention strategy was wrong, Lehnert says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2013 1:42 AM CST
General Who Opened Gitmo: It Was a Mistake
This Jan. 11, 2002 photo shows then US Marine Corp. Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert, speaking before the arrival of the detainees at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba.    (AP Photo/Tim Chapman, Pool, File)

The Guantanamo Bay detention center was a huge mistake that should never have been opened, according to none other than the general who got it up and running in 2002. "In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong," Gen. Michael Lehnert writes in the Detroit Free Press, recalling that even in the prison's earliest days, he became convinced that most of the detainees should never have been sent there. Guantanamo was created because "we were legitimately angry and frightened by an unprovoked attack on our soil," he writes, but "we squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantanamo, both in terms of detention and torture."

Keeping Gitmo open has "helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States," the general writes, arguing that the US departure from Afghanistan provides the perfect opportunity to finally shut it down. So what to do with the remaining detainees, down to 162 after the repatriation of two Algerians? Lehnert says that if they can't be charged, America needs to let them go despite the risk. "Our Constitution and the rule of law conclusively trump any additional risk that selective release of detainees may entail," he writes. (Read more War on Terror stories.)

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