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Guantanamo is a Symbol

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    Guantanamo as a Symbol By Ramzy Baroud www.ramzybaroud.net 11 January marked the sixth year anniversary of the establishment of the Guantanamo detention camp.
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2008
      Guantanamo as a Symbol
      By Ramzy Baroud
      www.ramzybaroud.net


      11 January marked the sixth year anniversary of the establishment of
      the Guantanamo detention camp. Mere months after the start of the 2001
      United States invasion of Afghanistan, a large cargo plane landed in a
      US military base in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay, bringing in a group of
      hunchbacked, orange-clad, blindfolded, "terrorist" suspects,
      apparently representing the worst of the worst. They included children
      and aged men, charity workers, journalists and people who were sold to
      the US military in exchange for a large bounty.

      The debate over this notorious prison has ever since been marred by
      easy reductionism. The fact is that Guantanamo is neither a warranted
      compound holding "bad people" -- as explained by the ever
      straightforward President Bush -- nor is it a dark spot in the
      otherwise luminous US record for respecting human rights, rules of war
      and international treaties. If anything, Guantanamo is a mere
      extension of a long list of untold violations practiced by the Bush
      administration, which condenses the camp to being a symbol of
      widespread policy predicated on nonchalantly undermining international
      law.

      The prison is arguably one of the worst mockeries of international
      law, which was itself drafted partly by American legal experts. Past
      US administrations may not have been devoted followers of the Geneva
      Conventions, but neither have they ever discarded international
      treaties as openly and as arrogantly as the current one. Former
      attorney-general Alberto Gonzales, a personal friend of President
      Bush, mastered this art in a way that allowed his bosses to adorn
      their gratuitous actions with the air of legitimacy. Guantanamo was
      his ultimate masterpiece.

      Hundreds of Guantanamo prisoners have subsequently been released, some
      to the custody of their respective governments. Roughly 275 remain in
      the camp. Out of a total of about 1,000 only 10 have been charged.

      The prisoners at Guantanamo are "among the most dangerous, best
      trained vicious killers on the face of the earth," according to former
      secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld. If that was the case, why wasn't
      Rumsfeld prepared to try them in a court of law? After all his
      self-assured judgment shows that he possessed more evidence than
      needed by any court to convict and throw them into jail. But, of
      course, the subject of evidence or lack thereof was irrelevant.

      Neither habeas corpus, due process, nor any set of laws, national or
      international, mattered much to an administration that prided itself
      on its ability to transcend all of that. Of course, such disregard was
      justified on the basis of national interests and a whole set of tired
      pretences. Time, however, showed that Guantanamo, and the overriding
      militancy it symbolized, has probably done more damage to US national
      interest than any other event in US history.

      In the early years, prisoners at Guantanamo were held in open air
      cages, with nothing but a mat and a bucket for a toilet. Anthony D
      Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union,
      wrote in Salon.com, "We now know that only a small percentage of the
      many hundreds of men and boys who have been held at Guantanamo were
      captured on a battlefield fighting against Americans; far more were
      sold into captivity by tribal warlords for substantial bounties."
      Romero cites comments made by a former Guantanamo commander for
      several years, Brigadier General Jay Hood. The commander told the Wall
      Street Journal, "Sometimes, we just didn't get the right folks."

      Moreover, both former secretary of state Colin Powell and current
      Secretary Condoleezza Rice called for the shutting down of Guantanamo,
      along with various international bodies and numerous rights groups in
      the US and abroad. But the Bush administration still persists in
      maintaining Guantanamo. The chances are if the Guantanamo prisoners
      were of any value in Operation Enduring Freedom and in the so-called
      global war on terror, whatever information some of them might have
      possessed has already been extracted, violently or otherwise.
      Moreover, if overwhelming evidence against them was indeed at hand,
      the Bush administration would have tried them long ago. Neither
      scenario is convincing.

      Leigh Sales, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald made the dubious
      assessment that the "the problem is what to do with the prisoners [if
      the detention camp is shutdown]. If they are moved to American jails,
      they will have to be charged and tried under US law. Evidence gathered
      through coercive interrogations will not be admissible in regular
      courts and so Bush would risk watching the likes of Mohamed and
      Hambali walk free." Such commentary, emulated by others, suggests that
      the underlying reason behind the preservation of Guantanamo is, more
      or less, national interests.

      However, Guantanamo is staying in business, for the exact same reason
      that the Iraq war rages on, and for similar reasons to why the Bush
      administration's failing global policy persists. Shutting down
      Guantanamo would be an admission of defeat, a declaration of failure,
      which is something that the patrons of the empire cannot afford, at
      least not now.

      September 11 was an opportune moment to turn a new doctrine into
      reality, as outlined by the Project for the New American Century, a
      desperate attempt to sustain an empire that is facing challenges. The
      tactics, utilized almost immediately after the terrorist attacks,
      pointed at a foreign and military policy style designed to free itself
      from accountability to anyone, including the American people, the
      United Nations and international law. Guantanamo is a grotesque
      representation of that tactic -- and the failure of that tactic.

      Indeed, Guantanamo is a dark spot in US history and shall go down in
      world history as a symbol of injustice and oppression. And it will
      continue to be a jarring reminder of the inhumanity, the torture, and
      the extreme violence associated with the Bush administration's so-
      called war on terror.

      -Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of
      PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers
      and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian
      Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London).

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