The building of a prisoner of war camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was as big a screw-up by the Bush administration as is attempts by the Obama administration to close it. Neither administration understood the long-range problems inherent in the system that was created.
That's the analysis we observe in stories today reported in three major newspapers.
Retiring Marine Major Gen. Michael Lehnert was the commander of Joint Task Force 160 which built Camp X-Ray in 2002. He was given little guidance from the Pentagon except do it fast.
"The Geneva Convention seemed to be a pretty good place to start," he said. "I got several copies and had my staff read it." He wanted the prisoners closely guarded but humanely treated, an approach he lost. He said he opposed the harsh interrogation methods requested by the Bush White House.
“Probably before I left Guantanamo," after 100 days in command, "I was of the opinion it needed to go away as soon as possible.” He said at his retirement news gathering Thursday interrogations, which were handled by a different task force, ignited “creative tension” in the officer ranks of Marines, Navy, Army and the Central Intelligence Agency.. Lehnert said he made his views known through “the appropriate chain of command.” He said the United States has a moral obligation to treat the prisoners humanely.Lehnert will step down next week after heading the Marine Corps Installations West command since 2005. He has guided a massive construction campaign at the seven bases he oversees from an office at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.
During his presser, the general addressed the subject which is driving the Obama administration crazy -- where to relocate the remaining 220 prisoners of roughly 800 who cannot be released nor held for trial.
He said he opposes the White House inquiry some or all be sent to Camp Pendleton because it could threaten the base's main job of training Marines. This Not-In-My-Backyard chant is echoed by most members of Congress which has delayed funding for Guantanamo closing until the relocation question is resolved. U.S. officials hope to prosecute some of them in federal court and others before military commissions.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post quotes its sources that the fall guy blamed for the current problem at Guantanamo is White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig who convinced President Barack Obama to set a deadline to close the base by Jan. 22, 2010, against the advise of many in both administrations and Congress. The Post: