Guantánamo: 2 Decades of Democratic Anomaly

The horror of 9/11 was followed by a lowering of the moral standards by which the greatest democracy of the planet must guide itself and others. The worst part of the American response to the savage aggression of jihadist terrorism finds its most powerful symbol in Guantánamo, a prison created by the United States with the intention of not complying with its own laws. In the past two decades, 780 men accused of serious crimes against national security have gone through this anti-democratic limbo. Nine died there; another 732 have been released. Of these, some have engaged in terrorist activities in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan. Some 39 leaders of al-Qaida remain prisoners there.

After George W. Bush, the president who opened it during the war against international terrorism, Barack Obama arrived with a well-intentioned promise to close Guantánamo. Like other widely announced, hard to achieve commitments, Obama left office without having managed to put an end to the world’s most famous prison anomaly. No one expected Donald Trump to do so. And today, with Democrat Joe Biden in the presidency, there is no end in sight to this detention camp that casts a shadow over the leadership and moral authority of the world’s biggest power. Some of the testimonies of prisoners that we offer exclusively on today’s edition report the intolerable excesses perpetrated by the United States. Like the tortures of Abu Ghraib, these scandals feed the anti-imperialism that all the autocracies, dictatorships and populist regimes in the world use demagogically to justify infinitely worse crimes.

It has been said that a clear parameter to measure the democratic quality of a country is the quality of its prison system. No one doubts that the international image of the United States has suffered the last two decades because of the existence of Guantánamo. The solution is neither easy nor quick, but Biden would do well to speed up the closure of such an ominous place, where human rights were violated in the name of human rights.

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