How Guantánamo Influences Obama's Legacy

The Takeaway

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Since the Guantánamo Bay military prison opened in January 2002, some 779 people have been detained at the detention camp. In the 14 years since, Guantánamo has become the symbol of American hypocrisy in the eyes of the rest of the world. 

“That particular prison is a very special institution," said Russian human rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov in an interview in 2012. "No norms of international law and international humanitarian law are respected there. It’s like a legal vacuum. It is not only our view. The issue is to be tackled, whether it will be tackled by the incumbent administration, and some people say the chances are slim, it is to be tackled. It needs to be tackled because this issue is an unresolved human rights problem."

Cuba's Foreign Ministry released a statement in 2005 that says that America's conduct is "hypocritical" in regards to Guantánamo, saying that facility "demonstrates the falsity of [America's] own public statements to its own people...and to the international community by concealing the horrific acts of torture, cruelty, and humiliating and denigrating treatment committed on prisoners detained on the Guantánamo Naval Base.”

It's a view President Obama was clearly conscious of when he once again announced on Tuesday his intention to close the prison.

“When I talk to other world leaders, they bring up the fact that Guantánamo is not resolved," Obama said. "It undermines our standing in the world. It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law."

Ninety-one prisoners currently remain at Guantánamo, and whether or not those prisoners are transferred by the time President Obama leaves office has the potential to greatly influence Obama's international and longterm legacy. 

Jennifer Daskal, professor at American University Washington College of Law, was former counsel to the assistant attorney general for National Security at the Department of Justice. She joins The Takeaway to discuss the prospects of Guantánamo's closure, and just how greatly it could influence the president's legacy.