Being close to Furman University was one of the things that brought us to Travelers Rest. Once again last night the school through the Riley Institute delivered an incredible opportunity. We went to the presentation by Brigadier General Michael Lehnert, Retired Marine Corps Major General. He gave us his inside story of what it was like for him at Guantanamo and the ethical issues he had to deal with. I would say there were probably 300 people at his presentation and most of them were Furman students. Bob and I are still talking about it this morning.
Guantanamo is a name that arouses feelings of hate and fear or anger and sympathy. The “war on terror” has included controversial treatment of 9/11 prisoners, much of which occurred at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the facilities where al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners were held.
In December 2001, then Brigadier General Michael Lehnert was the commanding general in charge of the Joint Task Force assigned with preparing and operating the detention facilities for these prisoners. As commander, he was faced with ethical decision making as he responded to vague directives from the Bush Administration. Retired Major General Michael Lehnert will share the history of this controversial facility and its intersection with foreign policy, and describe the days he spent there deciding how to tend to the 300 captives from the war on terror. Upon commissioning, Marines take the oath to “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and this oath informed General Lehnert during his time at Guantanamo.
More About Major General Lehnert
Mike Lehnert was commissioned in 1973 as a combat engineer and participated in combat operations in Panama, Kuwait, and Iraq. In 2003 he led 5,000 Marines and sailors during the initial invasion of Iraq in support of the 70,000 Marines who formed the I Marine Expeditionary Force. During his 37 years of active duty, Lehnert held 13 separate commands from platoon commander to joint task force commander. He was the chief of staff joint task force Panama charged with overseeing the turnover of the Panama Canal, joint task group commander in Guantanamo Bay Cuba during the Cuban migrant crisis, and commander joint task force 160 to build and run detention facilities for Al Qaida and Taliban terrorists. He commanded the marine logistics group during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was the subject of Karen Greenberg’s book, The Least Worst Place, used in many military and law schools as a study in ethical decision making.