The moral, military and financial cost of Guantanamo Bay, 20 years later

Twenty years ago, the first detainees in America’s war on terror arrived at Guantanamo Bay.

“They came in groups of 20 people. They had headphones, they had glasses, we put them on the buses,” says Michael Lehnert. “The buses had darkened windows so they couldn’t see where they were.”

Many detainees were innocent and tortured. Since then, presidents have promised to close Guantanamo and have failed.

“Guantanamo is the first dead-end strategy military enterprise since the Vietnam War, which means they picked up human beings and moved them halfway around the world without knowing how to undo that. They’re stuck with this mission,” says Carol Rosenberg.

So what’s the next step?

Today, About: the moral, military and financial cost of Guantanamo Bay, 20 years later.


Michael Lehnert, retired major general of the Marine Corps. He oversaw the construction of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in January 2002 and ran the facility for three months.

Moazzam Begg, he spent two years as a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, from 2003 to 2005. Director of Outreach at the non-profit CAGE, which campaigns for the rule of law. Co-author of “Enemy Combattant”. (@Moazzam_Begg)

carol rosenberg, she covers Guantanamo Bay for the New York Times. Author of “Guantanamo Bay: The Pentagon’s Alcatraz of the Caribbean”. (@carolrosenberg)

From Reading List

The Independent“After 9/11, I was sent to Guantanamo Bay. The truth about the war on terror is relentlessly dark” — “The most remarkable thing about the 20th anniversary of 9/11 is that after two decades of the longest-running law enforcement and intelligence operation in U.S. history, not a single person has been successfully tried and convicted for participating in the attacks.”

New York Times: ’20 years later, the story behind the Guantánamo photo that won’t go away’ — ‘Four months to the day after the 9/11 attacks, a photographer hoisted a camera over a new wire of shiny razor and took a picture of 20 kneeling prisoners in orange uniforms, handcuffed, masked and with their heads bowed.”

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