For almost 14 years, the United States’ military prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has sat festering on the edge of the Caribbean and the Constitution. Opened by President George W. Bush in the panicky months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the detention center has had a powerful radicalizing effect, has severely tarnished America’s standing as a nation of laws and has cost taxpayers more than $5.2 billion.
This travesty could and should have ended years ago. But Congress has gone to great lengths to keep the prison open. Within the executive branch, agencies have sometimes worked at cross-purposes and at times dragged their feet. In the end, however, the buck stops with the president.
President Obama made closing Guantánamo a central promise of his first campaign for the White House. But it remains unfulfilled because of his team’s political misjudgments, dogged opposition in Congress and his failure to use his authority more aggressively.