Yes, a Snail’s Pace… but a Pace

By Karen J. Greenberg, TomDispatch

For 18 years, I’ve been writing articles for TomDispatch on the never-ending story of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility. And here’s my ultimate takeaway (for the moment): 21 years after that grim offshore prison of injustice was set up in Cuba in response to the 9/11 attacks and the capture of figures supposedly linked to them, and despite the expressed desire of three presidents — George W. BushBarack Obama and Joe Biden — to close it, the endgame remains devastatingly elusive.

Abu Zubaydah at Guantanamo

At times due to a failure of will, at times due to a failure of the system itself or the sheer complexity of the logistics involved, and at times due to acts of Congress or the courts, efforts to shut that prison have been eternally stymied. Despite endless acknowledgements that what’s gone on there has defied domestic, international, and military law — not to mention longstanding norms of morality and justice — that prison persists.

Recently, however, for those of us perpetually looking for a ray or even a glimmer of hope, there have finally been a few developments that seem to signal steps, however tiny, toward closure.

There are still 30 detainees at Guantánamo. Sixteen of them have been deemed no longer threats to the United States and cleared for release, but arrangements have yet to be made to transfer them to another country. Three others are considered too dangerous for release. And eleven have been charged in the military commissions system that was set up in 2006 and revised under President Obama in 2009. One, Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al-Bahlul, has been convicted. Another, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, recently pleaded guilty. Now, nine detainees face trials in three separate cases. All of them were tortured at CIA “black sites” for different periods of time between 2003 and 2006.

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