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Closing Guantanamo will be a mistake

Much of the public perception of the detention camps is wrong.

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I am freshly home from a trip to Guantánamo Bay, where I visited the Joint Task Force detention camps. I saw the cells and the recreation pods and the communal areas of the detainees. I watched as those who prefer to do their own laundry hung out their clothes to dry.

I watched young guards patrol the cellblocks, checking on the detainees at least every three minutes. One detainee smiled at me as if we were enjoying Sunday breakfast.

The general perception of the detention camps is erroneous. What I saw was a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled, clean facility.

President Obama is determined to close these camps by winter. Gitmo, he said in May, "has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies.... By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it."

It will be wrong to close these camps, in what can only be a symbolic gesture, simply for the sake of closing them.

Whatever moral authority America has lost by its treatment of these detainees will not be regained by moving them. Whatever mistakes we made will not be erased. Closing Gitmo will not make us safer.

Many people believe that the executive order Mr. Obama issued just two days after taking office means shutting down torture chambers and freeing innocent detainees, held for years without due process.

It does no such thing.

The problems, real or imagined, will simply move if the camps close.

There is no geographic cure for Gitmo.


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