Guantánamo: Still a Crime Five Years Later
It’s now been five years since the first prisoner was interred at Guantánamo Bay by U.S. forces and over 700 prisoners have been held at Camp X-Ray, the disgusting moniker given to what is essentially an illegal concentration camp that has become a legal black hole into which no one is allowed to look. In one of the greatest legal reversals in U.S. history, the writ of habeas corpus — one of the foundation stones of American democracy and political theory — has been revoked for those non-U.S. citizens deemed “enemy combatants” by the executive branch. This is a return to the darkest times of U.S. history, and extremely reminiscent of the racist internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Not since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 has so much power been vested in the executive, and so misused by the executive.
Several things are clear at this point: 1) The prisoners at Camp X-Ray are being kept in desperately inhumane conditions, and by all accounts are being tortured. In fact, the condition of legal limbo that they have been forced into in itself constitutes a form of torture that mimics the most brutal bureaucratic nightmares ever imagined by Kafka. Imagine being taken from your home, deposited on alien soil, kept in a cage while being mistreated for five years, and being told that you have essentially no legal recourse and that you will not be allowed to return home even though you have never been found guilty of a single crime. This is precisely the condition that the prisoners at Guantánamo are in. 2) Most of the prisoners at Guantánamo are not, in fact, enemy combatants, and most have little, if nothing, to do with Al-Qaeda. A large group of the prisoners at Guantánamo are there because they were turned in for bounty money that was offered by the U.S. government with no questions asked and no proof demanded. Others are there because of mistaken identity, and still others are there simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The handful of prisoners who have been released so far — all held for several years without trial — have all been cleared and are innocent. And all speak of torture and mistreatment. 3) After five years, there is obviously no relevant or new intelligence to be gotten from any of the few prisoners who might have had any in the first place. Not that intelligence gathering ever justified the brutal and illegal treatment of either those innocents at Guantánamo, or those who might indeed have been enemy combatants.
Alan Bennett, in a recent issue of the London Review of Books, writes about the Blair government that “One criterion for judging this (or any other) government is how often it makes one feel ashamed to be English.” It’s a shameful time to be an American.
I don’t usually post on directly political issues, because there are many more sites that are better and more relevant when it comes to political commentary, but the five-year (dark) anniversary of Camp X-Ray can’t be overlooked. The prison camp at Guantánamo can’t be closed fast enough, a call that has been echoed by both the current U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, and his predecessor, Kofi Anin.
Below I’ve listed several helpful links with information about the situation at Guantánamo, especially emphasizing Project Hamad, a site that gives a face to one of the prisoners at Camp X-Ray who are purposely kept out of sight so that American citizens won’t be bothered by their humanity. There is a very interesting and moving video, available at YouTube, that has been put together by Hamad’s legal representative. Please visit the site and watch the video.
Other useful links:
Filed under: history, politics, society | 2 Comments
Tags: Al-Qaeda, Alien and Sedition Acts, Camp X-Ray, concentration camp, Gitmo, Guantanamo, Guantánamo Bay, habeas corpus, injustice, Project Hamad, racist internment, torture