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‘We cannot deal with these people’: WikiLeaks shows true feelings on Guantánamo

In public, Arab countries call for closing Guantánamo and returning detainees to their home countries. In private, WikiLeaks documents show that many of these countries don't want detainees. This hypocrisy reveals an international community unprepared to deal with closing Guantánamo.

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Among the hundreds of thousands of cables released by Wikileaks, it’s not surprising that those covering sensitive negotiations over Guantánamo are receiving special attention. News of the detention facility has made headlines for years, and now everyone can see details of secret, behind-the-scenes discussions about the detainees during both the Obama and Bush administrations.

But what may come as a surprise is that these classified documents don’t support the notion that the failure to close Guantánamo is a failure of US diplomacy. Rather, the WikiLeaks documents suggest that Guantánamo is still open for business – and will continue to stay open, despite Obama’s best efforts – in large part because the international community is not ready to deal with its closure.

Related: WikiLeaks: What the world is saying

What to do with detainees

For years, Washington has placed heavy emphasis on efforts to send Guantánamo detainees to their home countries or, ultimately, any place that would treat them humanely and manage the threat they pose. When I served at the Defense Department, I was part of a team of US officials sent around the world to convince countries to take their citizens back and provide assurances that both the detainees and the international community would remain safe after their release. Cables cannot begin to describe the curious nature of these sensitive discussions, which sometimes felt more cloak and dagger than anything worthy of a State Department report.


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