Guantanamo Continues To Be Torture

For the first time in 22 years, an independent U.N. investigator was granted permission to visit the prison the U.S. maintains at Guantánamo Naval Base in Cuba. U.N. official Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, an Irish law professor, reached the same conclusion as prisoners and lawyers who have been able to offer their testimony from the inside: “The suffering of the detainees is profound, and it’s ongoing,” she noted in her report published last week.

Of the 780 who have passed through Guantánamo since George W. Bush’s “global war on terror,” 30 prisoners of various nationalities remain: survivors of torture that includes waterboarding, sleep deprivation, sexual harassment, force-feeding of hunger strikers and a long history of physical abuse.

Some were also tortured at CIA “black sites” before they landed in this limbo that was designed to circumvent the justice system specifically for a cruelty and savagery comparable only to those carried out by Nazis in concentration camps.

Prisoners in orange uniforms and hoods were admitted to a detention camp consisting of open-air cages that would later be replaced by cells surrounded by three-meter (about 9 feet) electrified wire fences. With the euphemism that the detainees are “unlawful enemy combatants” instead of “prisoners of war,” the U.S. invented this spot on the planet where suspects have neither the protection of the habeas corpus and judicial control of the constitutional system nor the Geneva Conventions for prisoners of war that apply in all civilized countries — a war, by the way, that has long been over.

The military base, an enclave in Cuba the U.S. has illegally occupied since 1904, is an aberration, a living hell for elderly people with senile dementia, teenagers, the seriously mentally ill, schoolteachers and farmers with no link to the terrorists who attacked the Twin Towers in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

According to secret reports leaked by Wikileaks years ago, which, to this day, have yet to be disproved, the main purpose of the prison never was to punish terrorists, but to make a show of denouncing its inmates and to function as a huge police station with unlimited sentences.

“Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, under international law, is constant,” said the U.N. investigator, who spent four days with some prisoners whose care costs U.S. taxpayers $13 million a year per prisoner. Most of them have never been charged with any crime.

Ní Aoláin also discovered that the detainees who had been tortured suffered extreme physical and psychological trauma and were not being adequately treated or cared for at Guantánamo.

Six administrations have maintained this horror, in some cases reneging on an election promise to close the prison. “Guantánamo,” said candidate Barack Obama in 2008, “is the most serious threat to America’s credibility as a human rights democracy.”*

Joe Biden was then a jovial, hopeful U.S. vice presidential candidate who nodded enthusiastically as he adjusted his sunglasses. As soon as the two crossed the threshold of the White House, “they backed down after encountering opposition from Republicans and some Democratic lawmakers,” wrote The New York Times.* And those, in theory, were the good old days!

That the monstrosity that is the Guantánamo prison has endured for so long and, so far, without U.N. supervision, shows that it is not the result of a few bad apples nor of Bush’s paranoid delirium. It is the system that fosters vices and then pretends to punish them.

It is the crown jewel and Bermuda Triangle of the U.S. government’s offshore system of injustice, embedded in this world as firmly as the Department of Homeland Security that kicks immigrants; the National Security Agency that watches over billions of citizens; and the global war on terror — or call it what you will.

*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, these quotes could not be independently verified.

About this publication

About Patricia Simoni 180 Articles
I began contributing to Watching America in 2009 and continue to enjoy working with its dedicated translators and editors. Latin America, where I lived and worked for over four years, is of special interest to me. Presently a retiree, I live in Morgantown, West Virginia, where I enjoy the beauty of this rural state and traditional Appalachian fiddling with friends. Working toward the mission of WA, to help those in the U.S. see ourselves as others see us, gives me a sense of purpose.

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