The Jail That’s Made
the U.S. Forget Itself
The most shameful remnant of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the detention camp at the Guantánamo Bay’s Naval Station, reaches its 10-year anniversary today, as brutally misguided and utterly unconstitutional as ever.
Now that the U.S officially ended its disastrous military adventure in Iraq, the 171 prisoners still being held there, including the 89 already cleared of any charges, remain the single most eloquent, and tragic, discrepancy between the thrilling Senator from Illinois who promised to close it, and the way more conservative President Barack Obama, now running for reelection.
Worse, his deeply embarrassing failure to enforce the rule of law for allegedly enemy combatants, as an example before the world and the judgement of history, has now officially spilled over to Americans too.
At the dawn of the year, the president signed one of the most authoritarian pieces of legislation ever signed by the U.S. government, with threatens with indefinite detention and with no access to the judicial system, even citizens of this country.
The fact that this nightmarish prospect has already been a reality all these years for the 779 people who have been detained at Gitmo, including the seven who died in custody there, should make us all profoundly sad about this anniversary.
We all know that wars are made of similar horrifying places. And, without diminishing the inhumanity of the ordeal of those caught in that purgatory and legal limbo rolled into one hellhole nicknamed Gitmo, we can always mention the horrors documented at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, for perspective.
But the particular lack of any conceivable legal standing justifying such a place at this day and age is an insult to the history and values of this nation. Its mere existence is a demoralizing argument against everything we hold dearest about the U.S.
Enemies of this country, perceived or real, have no recruiting tool as powerful and pervasive as the the fact that we’ll deny anyone who stands against us even the minimal conditions agreed upon over 60 years ago, in the Geneva Convention.
And that the American people not just condones that, but now, with the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, actually agrees that the same practices may be applied against citizens too.
However, we can’t talk about Americans without mentioning their fundamental sense of decency and fairness which have pervaded and defined this nation for over three centuries, from the fight for independence, to the desire of settling differences and move on, to the innate willingness to do the right thing.
Our history is a succession of moments when citizens showed courage, respect for the law and determination to defend the right of every one to thrive and prosper. All with an immense compassion even to those who attempted to destroy us.
As President Obama starts campaigning throughout the land, it’d be up to the American people to remind him what we all should stand for. And Guantánamo Bay and everything it symbolizes can not be part of it.
Perhaps it’ll be the motivation that the president needs to lead us to the future: to be reassured that the people in this country have not forgotten that we have laws and we have a judicial system.
We’re not afraid of terrorists or criminals or anyone who wants to do us harm. Above all, we have no need to hide them, or pretend they don’t exist, or torture them, or even try to convert them to our ways.
We’ll just treat them fairly and judge them in the court of law and penalize them according to their crimes if any. That’s the American way.
The existence of any prison such as Guantánamo is unpatriotic, damaging to our interests in the world, and utterly inhumane.
Today, let’s tell the president that. Let’s tell the world that the American people won’t stand any longer for such exceptionality.
And let’s remind ourselves that arguably the greatest thing that makes this country to stand out in the world is exactly its unwavering respect for the rule of the law.
Let’s tell anyone we speak with today: Gitmo must not remain open for another year.