THE “war on terror” prison at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is “one of the finest prison systems in the world,” former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said.
Rumsfeld, who is promoting his autobiography Known and Unknown, praised US military personnel who worked at the site in the interview on Fox News Channel’s Hannity show.
Rumsfeld was US defence secretary from 2001 to 2006 under former president George W. Bush. He was replaced by Robert Gates.
“The heartbreaking thing with respect to Guantanamo is not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s one of the finest prison systems in the world,” said Rumsfeld.
“What’s awkward is the fact that, for whatever reason, the administration was incapable of persuading people that that was a first-class operation, that they were not torturing people, that they were not hurting people,” he said.
Rumsfeld described it as “a fine operation,” and said US military personnel working there have “taken a lot of the heat unfairly” and “deserve a lot of credit” for their work.
Rumsfeld was also critical of President Barack Obama’s attempt to close the site.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama “was critical of indefinite detention for unlawful combatants. He was critical of military commissions,” he said.
“And here we are … two-plus years later, and all of those things are there. Not because anyone wants them to be there, but because they were the best solutions.”
The Guantanamo prison opened in January 2002 to hold prisoners captured in Afghanistan and swept up elsewhere in the US “war on terror.”
Upon taking office in January 2009, Obama promised to close the prison in one year, but has not found a place to move the inmates and the US Congress has banned the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to US soil.
There are currently 173 inmates at the Guantanamo prison, of which only three have been convicted after a trial.