It was ten years ago today that President Bush converted the Naval base at Guantanamo Bay from a facility aimed primarily at spiting the Cuban government to the most notorious detention center on the planet, using the facility’s unique location as legal cover for open-ended detention of captives without charges or access to any civilian courts.
One might have expected at this point that we would be reflecting on a past blunder in the examination of this ten year anniversary, particularly as President Obama not only conceded that the facility is doing massive harm to America’s international image but promised, virtually the moment he took office, to close it within one year.
But even though later this month we will commemorate the third anniversary of the “close it within one year” executive order, the facility remains open and the story is as much a look forward at the next decade of extralegal detention as it is a look back at the last.
Unrest is growing as the inmates are increasingly figuring out that detention will be, for many of them, a life sentence without the possibility of ever seeing the inside of a courtroom. As they bristle at their open-ended detention, the military is moving to crack down on them even further, seizing spare blankets and clothing from prisoners as punitive measures.
Administration officials continue to give lip-service to the notion that President Obama “wants” to close the facility, but even they no longer pretend it will ever actually happen, instead trying to placate the public with dubious promises that the detainee population at the facility at the very least won’t get any larger.