Guantanamo: A Public Shame

After the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the George Bush Administration authorized military intervention in Afghanistan for so-called reasons of state.

The intervention in Iraq was also for reasons of state. The alleged weapons of mass destruction have yet to be found, as are the leaders’ ties to al-Qaida. Nonetheless, the deaths on 9/11 were enough for American citizens — and a good part of the intellectual and artistic circle as well — to give their leaders carte blanche to skip national and international legislation and to defend, it is argued, national security.

The disastrous consequences of this decision, however, have included the most brutal human rights abuses ever reported. The documents leaked by WikiLeaks this week, and subsequently published in several journals throughout the world, have offered one more piece of evidence: Guantanamo is not only a place of horrific excesses, but the majority of its prisoners are innocent.

This was known already. It’s true. The international media had already documented much of what is now being uncovered. Nevertheless, this also proves that the United States government knew. Intelligence documents show that only 220 of 780 prisoners could represent a danger, and that all of the others were soldiers of low rank or civilians captured during raids in war zones.

It is shameful and worthy of international condemnation — if not justice — that there are cases like the following: an elderly man of 89 whose mistake it was to live in a house where there was a satellite phone, a father who was going to look for his child, a businessman who was traveling without documentation, a man who pointed a hand in the form of a pistol at the army, and a youth of 15 who was raped by the Taliban. Even mental patients ended up in Guantanamo, some of whom were returned — not due to lack of evidence, but due to having “complicated the gathering of information during interrogations.”

On top of this unspeakable episode is the Republican Party’s defense of Guantanamo despite all of the scandals. The debate gets complicated if it isn’t about an unjustifiable mistake, but rather a process that an entire political party considers legitimate. How can one demand attention to human rights when it is argued that the violation of said rights, for reasons of state, is the right thing to do?

For obvious reasons, however, these reasons weren’t enough to justify committing these crimes on their own soil. “Relief” countries were sought out, hence the military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, one of the most emblematic centers of human rights violations — one of which, among others, was the consideration of an electronic chip that would be placed in prisoners “as is done with hawks and horses.”

Even though the first measure Barack Obama adopted upon getting to the White House was to order the closure of this prison, as he said, “within a year,” three years of his presidency have passed and the likelihood of that happening look both legally and politically far away. Only six prisoners were processed before a giant debate exploded about the limits of ordinary justice. We are a year away from the presidential election for which the Democrat president has already announced his candidacy. With a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and a strong Republican presence in the Senate, it is to be expected that the president will not insist on the matter, even less so when Obama finds himself in the middle of important and very difficult internal reforms.

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