Shaker Aamer may be free but Guantanamo's dark legacy will live on
Who will mourn Guantanamo Bay? Hardly anyone. And as more Americans begin to question the existence of the detention camp for foreign terror suspects, it becomes far easier for British authorities to write it off as a dark patch from the so-called ‘War on Terror’.
It is perhaps surprising that the facility is still open at all. “I think I would have closed Guantanamo on the first day” President Obama once said - he still hopes to have his way, belatedly.
Guantanamo Bay is the oldest overseas American naval base in world - a US enclave for more than a century. Despite warming relations between Havana and Washington DC, Fidel Castro has said the US presence is “illegal”.
Yes, the Americans send rent cheques, but Cuba refuses to cash them.
They see the US military as squatters rather than paying lodgers. And for those who believe American foreign policy is an expression of imperialist ambition, Gitmo is a 45 square mile symbol of that, with a long-term lease attached.
Today, for the last time, one of its inmates was returned to British soil. There has been no charge, no trial – and today there was no police entourage to take him into custody.
Instead, Shaker Aamer was brought to a hospital for the medical attention that he says he needs. Aside from the inevitable nightmares and flashbacks, he is a free man.
Whatever the Americans have said, here in Britain, there has been a political consensus that his release was long overdue - from Conservative MP David Davis to Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn to the Daily Mail.
Mr Aamer, a Saudi Arabian national and British resident, has been imprisoned there for more than thirteen years - around the length of a murder sentence - despite being convicted of nothing.
Military files disclosed by WikiLeaks claimed he had connections to extremists, but US authorities have twice ruled that he is suitable for release. For some reason the Americans appear to have stalled and stalled again.
It will take a while longer, given the feet-dragging in Washington DC, but at a snail’s pace, Guantanamo is being emptied of its inmates. 112 still remain behind the razor wire.
There have been claims that the methods used against its detainees would break American law - and that its very existence has no basis under international law. Its opponents have cited moral, legal and humanisation reasons to call for its closure.
But perhaps its greatest legacy can be seen in al-Qaeda’s magazines and ISIL's recruitments videos. The alleged torture of Muslim inmates has been an apparent gift to jihadist recruiters and propagandists. A real-life example of what they say is the worst of America. The camp that Joe Biden once called "the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting terrorists" will leave a legacy.
During Shaker Aamer’s missing years, the orange jumpsuits now so familiar to him have been replicated by so-called Islamic State in execution videos - a macabre statement of the tables having turned.
They view Guantanamo not as an isolated institution, but as one element of a global narrative encompassing American and British military interventions abroad and demonisation of Muslims.
The camp, and its methods, have become a reference point for Islamist extremists and jihadist groups seeking to argue that the West is at war with Islam.
Of course it is not only radicals who see Guantanamo that way - far from it.
But long after the doors have shut, long after inmates like Shaker Aamer have left, it may be today's most dangerous extremists who remember its legacy the longest.