Guantanamo: A Dagger In the Heart

The human cage complex at U.S. held Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has been in the news lately. Two high level detainees have been brought before the military Review Board there to “determine” whether they were “enemy combatants” or not. It is not clear a question was actually involved, however. Was a finding of “not enemy combatants” possible? And if not, then what are they?

Both hearings produced transcripts which, if even partially true, were chilling. As chilling were the means and methods by which those transcripts were arrived at: beatings, deprivation, forced sleeplessness, waterboarding. The two men in question, as well as others, were only at Guantanamo because an uproar in the U.S. and internationally over secret detentions, renditions, unknown prisons had forced some transparency into the Bush system. They were moved from secret locations to Guantanamo itself. They were moved from no rule and no law at all to Rule and Law teleported from the days of the Inquisition: confessions obtained under torture — ok; accusation by unidentified witnesses — ok; no legal representation — ok.

The Bush Administration seems to have decided that in order to save democracy it must destroy it. The focus of their interest is on the legal system with all the precious protections against arbitrary search and seizure, against imprisonment for indeterminate times, without warrants, without witnesses and without sworn testimony. Americans have sent their sons and daughters to war to protect these rights. And now we are being told that “in the case of terrorists none of this counts.” And we are being told that who is a terrorist and who is not is somehow “self-evident.” We have reverted to the trials of witches: if they confess under torture the case is proved; if they don’t confess it is clear they are fanatics and terrorists.

As Slavoj Zizek points out in an opinion piece in the NY Times the normalization of torture in discussion and consideration brings us back to the middle ages. No one argues anymore in favor of rape. How is it that some in the educated elite are arguing in favor of torture?

This Guantanamo syndrome is a dagger in the heart of America. Without the guarantees of due procedure and open an public justice for all we don’t have America. We have new terrain entirely, as yet without a name but with a future projected from the shadows of the past. Even the incoming Secretary of Defense Robert Gates argued for shutting down the camp.

Mr. Gates urged that trials of terrorism suspects be moved to the United States, both to make them more credible and because Guantánamo’s continued existence hampered the broader war effort, administration officials said.

Once Argued then Given Up

He seems to have given way to Bush and his abettors for now but at least one commentator suggests that if Gonzales goes, which seems close to likely, Gates will find new allies in re-making his argument. It is an argument we all need to join.

Amnesty International has a couple of campaigns to help.

You can join their effort to end the Military Commissions Act under which the prisoners are being held and tried.

* end the use of prolonged or indefinite detention without charge or trial,
* restore the right of detainees to have the lawfulness and conditions of their detention fully reviewed by a court;
* ensure that the treatment of and conditions of detention for all detainees in US custody fully complies with international law and standards;
* abandon military commission trials, and instead use the existing ordinary courts to try any foreign nationals charged with recognizably criminal offences;

Amnesty Military Commissions Campaign

You can join their “flotilla” and on-going campaign to close Guantanamo.

[thx Carol L.]

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