Unsafe, Inhumane, Illegal, and Opaque: 12 Years of Guantanamo Bay

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

By Cayman Macdonald

January 11, 2014 marks the shameful twelfth anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay, which lives up to zero of the four adjectives the military uses to describe the base – “safe, humane, legal, and transparent.” Things may appear to be improving with some recent releases and 76 men approved for transport. However, the recent decision of military officials at Guantanamo to restrict information flow coupled with a recent article written by a current prisoner Shaker Aamer suggests otherwise. This Saturday across the globe, people will gather to protest the detention of these men and give them a voice even as the government attempts to silence them.

“Transparent” is now out the window as of December. Not only are guards not allowed to release their names to reporters, but military officials have stopped releasing the daily hunger strike tally. The hunger strike that started in February of last year garnered massive daily media coverage and rekindled national outrage against the injustices committed at the facilities. At its peak in the summer, there were 106 men participating; in response, the men were being forcibly fed via metal-tipped tubes shoved up their nostrils.

However, in December, the military officials at Guantanamo took even this form of protest away from them. As of December 2, 2013, the hunger strike tally for the day was at 15. That was the last day the numbers were released. According to John Filostrat, a spokesman for the Joint Task Force, releasing the information “detracts from more important issues,” including “the welfare of detainees.”

Does this not seem ironic? The purpose of the hunger strike, according to the lawyers of the detainees, was to protest their conditions in the camp - to draw attention to the issue of their threatened welfare. By withholding this information, the officials have taken away their only voice, their only hope of changing their dire situations.

The detainees have more than enough to protest. Many former and current detainees have claimed they have undergone torture. In 2009, Susan J. Crawford, former Convening Authority of the Guantanamo Military Commissions, admitted to the use of torture within the camp. Not only is this a violation of our laws, but also it is a clear violation of international law. It shows that “safe” and “legal” are just blatant lies.

“Humane”  doesn’t quite fit as a descriptor of Guantanamo either; Shaker Aamer shows in his recent article in The Guardian that Guantanamo goes so far as to strip the detainees of their humanity. They are referred to as “packages,” or “at best… numbers.”

“It is much easier to deny human rights to those who are not deemed to be ‘human’,” writes Aamer. In almost every historic campaign with brutal injustices against certain groups of people, that is exactly what happens; the injustices are minimized or justified because those suffering are slandered and treated as subhuman. Aamer also claims, “they stage everything that visitors see, and they brag about how well this place is run.” He says that Guantanamo is an example of the hypocrisy of the United States that is driving people to extremism. He questions how the US can claim to help set up government and laws in other countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan “when the US tramples on the law at home.”

And what is the justification between the countless injustices and the hypocrisy of the United States? Everything is done in the name of “national security.” But how could a series of lies make anyone feel secure? If we are aware that our government is lying to us, what else and how far are the lies going? And how can these actions truly be in the name of “national security” when, as Aamer points out, our actions and violations have angered and pushed people to extremism?

If the military is going to lie and silence the detainees, it is up to us to loudly denounce their unfair treatment and detainment. Criminals or not, no human deserves to go through what they have been subjugated to; our laws and international laws that we helped to construct also verify this. It is not in times of triumph but in times of fear that true character is revealed. Will we hide behind the excuse of “national security” to exploit basic human rights and break laws, or will we stand up and demand we stick to the values and laws our country is supposed to stand for?

Thousands of protesters will take to the streets this Saturday to show their courage and give voice to the men whom Guantanamo has tried to silence. They will speak truth in defiance of the countless lies, including the blatant lies about Guantanamo being “safe, humane, legal, and transparent.” It is time to send the message loud and clear: close Guantanamo Bay!

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