We have not written on America’s imperial adventures for awhile here at DWR.   Constant examination of the antithesis of our civilization lays bare the soul, to touch the carefully crafted web we ensconce ourselves in and shake it till the dirty bitter truths rupture forth, wearies the heart and mind.  To see things as they are, as Buchan does, empties the carefully nurtured vessels of hope and replaces it with despair and bitterness:

“You think that a wall as solid as the earth separates civilization from barbarism. I tell you the division is a thread, a sheet of glass. A touch here, a push there, and you bring back the reign of Saturn.”

  • John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir Ch. 3 “Tells of a Midsummer Night”, The Power-House (1916)

There is only so much anger and rage to go around, and after awhile, the grave injustices of the imperial wars led by the US forces us to indulge (well mostly me as I primarily wrote about it) in the luxury of “anger fatigue” where we have the privilege of  simply not responding anymore to the toxic stimulus the entire war/torture/inhumanity scenario Guantanamo so perfectly engenders.

Doesn’t work so well if you happen to be residing in the Guantanamo black hole;  as a Canadian citizen well knows – thank goodness they have finally released Omar Khadr. But there is another less happy tidbit of news, this week marks the 10 year anniversary of “Gitmo” and the international embarrassment it causes and continues to cause for the USA.

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the first prisoner arriving at Guantanamo Bay, making it the longest-standing war prison in US history. Guantanamo has been a catastrophic failure on every front. It has long been past the time for this shameful episode in American history to be brought to a close. 

President Obama has failed to shutter Guantanamo, even though on his second day in office he signed an executive order to close the prison and restore “core constitutional values”. In fact, the 2012 National Defence Authorization Act that Obama signed on New Year’s Eve contains a sweeping provision that makes indefinite military detention, including of people captured far from any battlefield, a permanent part of American law for the first time in this country’s history. This is not just unconstitutional – it’s just plain wrong.

I sure Hope he Changes that particular law, stat.  Indefinite detention is a precious handmaiden that portends the malevolent abuse of power.  Unfortunately until important (read the 1%) start getting detained it will remain out of the consciousness of the American public.

As documents secured by the ACLU demonstrate, Guantanamo became a perverse laboratory for brutal interrogation methods. Prisoners were subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, extreme temperatures and prolonged isolation. It started with two false premises: Those who were sent there were all terrorists picked up on the battlefield and that, as “unlawful enemy combatants”, they had no legal rights. In reality, a tiny percentage was captured by US forces; most were seized by Pakistani and Afghan militias, tribesmen, and officials, and then sold to the US for large bounties.”

Ah yes, back to the unreality of the GWBII’s rule.  The whole we are empire, we make our own story and you plebes conduct yourselves accordingly to our narrative.  This particular break with reality is not going away quietly.  The whole shining beacon of freedom and democratic rule narrative the US likes to trumpet to world is much less believable with the spectre of Guantanamo Bay lurking conspicuously in the foreground.

“Our nation continues to pay the price for those egregious errors. Torture is the principal reason for the astonishing fact that, more than 10 years after 9/11, the alleged perpetrators of those attacks – though in US custody for as long as nine years – have not been brought to justice.

The reputation of the US as a defender of human rights has been profoundly diminished because of Guantanamo’s continued existence. Our allies have refused to share intelligence out of concern that it will be used in unfair military commissions, and will not extradite terrorism suspects if they will end up in military detention. Perhaps most critically, military officials acknowledge Guantanamo has been used for years as a recruiting tool by our enemies – creating far more terrorists than it has ever held – thereby undermining rather than enhancing our security. And torture is also why federal courts were rejected in favour of military commissions with looser evidentiary standards. Even under this imbalanced system, only six Guantanamo prisoners have been sentenced for crimes before a military commission”

    The farther we fall from truth the more our lies become the reality of our consciousness.  Orwell, in 1984, describes the process, the thinking unthinking – the conscious denial of reality in pursuit of the ever dimming goal of security and “peace”.  We strive for security yet continue with actions and policy that directly undermine our stated goals.  There is official truth and then there is the reality of the situation.  Torture is never permissible in civilized society, but enhanced interrogation techniques are?  The dissonance is frightful, but goes on as a acceptable truth, a foul monument to media an its sterling misinformation campaign.  The media helps us forget our empathy – we overlook our role in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, innocents except for possessing the wrong ideology and skin colour.

Is starving to death not considered torture?  We should be asking the survivors who languished and suffered but managed not to die under the UN sanctions in Iraq during the 1990’s, about civilized behaviour.   We talk of rights, but extend them unevenly depending on ethnicity and skin colour.  We have the audacity to wonder why they still hate us after all we’ve done for them…

“Each branch of government shares responsibility for the perpetuation of Guantanamo’s legacy. Congress has chosen to score political points rather than do what’s right. It has repeatedly used its power of the purse to prevent the release or resettlement of Guantanamo prisoners cleared for release, and to bar criminal trials of those against whom there is evidence for prosecution in federal court.

Guantanamo was not a problem of President Obama’s making, but it is now one of his choosing. After his pledge to close Guantanamo within a year, the president failed to show the commitment necessary to build Congressional support, provide a logistical plan to release Guantánamo prisoners or bring them to trial. Like President Bush before him, Obama has also claimed the authority to detain without charge or trial terrorism suspects captured far from any theatre of war. 

Finally, the courts have refused to articulate and enforce clear limits on the executive’s detention authority. To be sure, the Supreme Court has on three occasions heard challenges to the Guantanamo regime, and every time has repudiated the excesses of the political branches. Those decisions held that Guantanamo prisoners could challenge their detention under habeas corpus, that the Geneva Conventions applied to the fight with Al Qaeda, and that the Executive Branch could not unilaterally create a military commission system with limited rights for the accused.”

Let’s bust out a little Dostoevsky, from his “The House of the Dead”:  “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”  How do we fare now that we embrace the concepts of infinite detention and enhanced interrogate techniques?

“All branches of government must rise to the task. The Supreme Court must define the scope of war-time detention. It must ensure the right to habeas corpus is a meaningful one that tests, and does not rubber stamp, the government’s case. Congress must lift the unnecessary restrictions on transfer and release from Guantanamo, particularly for the 89 men whom our security services and military have unanimously determined should be released.

President Obama must also show the courage of his previously stated convictions and either prosecute the other 82 men in federal court or set them free.

Then Guantanamo must close.”

Guantanamo must close indeed.

It is the first step in the necessary self examination regarding our claim to be civilized and protectors of liberty and justice.  Does one treat gangrene by ignoring the symptoms?  A little perfume for the rotting stench?  A fresh white bandage to mask the fetid pustules on our corpulent ideals?  (smacks about the head for mixing metaphors?)  Guantanamo is but a symptom of what is wrong with our society and democracy; it is at our own peril that we continue ignore the root causes the Gitmo’s, the Patriot acts, and challenges to our basic liberties.