"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."


May 2, 2013

Always a nightmare, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp has become, with the latest hunger strike there, a place of horror.  It is time to put an end to what should never have begun.  We urge every American to sign the Change.org petition created by Col. Morris Davis, a former military prosecutor, to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp .

At Guantanamo, Americans have grown used to living on pretense.  Guantanamo was a pretense from the beginning.  Designed as a projection of American power in the Caribbean, it was touted as something needed to "enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba."  So committed to this "independence" were we that in 1934 we demanded a perpetual lease from Cuba that cannot be terminated except upon the agreement of both parties.  Guantanamo is in effect a permanent U.S. possession.

The entire history of Guantanamo is a history of pretense. In the confused aftermath of the Cuban Revolution, when Cuba became all-too-independent, the government cashed a single rent check ($4,085 a month).  The United States argues that the inadvertent cashing of that one check constituted a ratification of the lease by the new government.  In fact there was no ratification, and Fidel Castro kept the subsequent uncashed checks stuffed into a desk drawer to prove it (Anthony Boadle, "Castro: Cuba not cashing rent checks, Reuters, Aug. 17, 2007).

Now it is President Barack Obama's turn to play the pretense game. Elected in 2008 with a promise to close Guantanamo and therefore with a public mandate to do so, he pretends that he can't do so because of Congress.  He even claims that what the U.S. is doing in Guantanamo is "contrary to who we are."  Maybe so.  But the sad truth is that Guantanamo is what we are becoming.  President Obama's display of political cowardice proves it.

What the U.S. is inflicting on prisoners in Guantanamo, most of whom have never been charged and who have been cleared for release by every competent authority, "constitutes a flagrant violation of international human rights law and in itself constitutes a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment."  This is the view of not one, not two, not three, not four, but no fewer than five bodies or officials of the United Nations ("IACHR, U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, U.N. Rapporteur on Torture [Juan Mendez, Argentina], U.N. Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism [Ben Emmerson, U.K.], and U.N. Rapporteur on Health [Anand Grover, India] reiterate need to end the indefinite detention of individuals at Guatánamo Naval Base in light of current human rights crisis," Office of the HIgh Commissioner for Human Rights, May 1, 2013).

The statement just cited evokes "the severe and lasting physiological and psychological damage caused by the detainees’ high degree of uncertainty over basic aspects of their lives, such as knowing whether or not they will be tried; whether they will be released and when; or whether they will see their family members again."  It emphasizes that "it is unjustifiable to engage in forced feeding of individuals contrary to their informed and voluntary refusal of such a measure."  It states that "the continuing and indefinite detention of individuals without the right to due process is arbitrary and constitutes a clear violation of international law."

Fine words. But they are not as eloquent as the words of Samir Jaji al Hasan Moqbel, who described being force-fed at Guantanamo in the New York Times of April 15, 2013:  "I refused to be fed.  A team from the ERF (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in.  They tied my hands and feet to the bed.  They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand.  I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed.  During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet.  They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading, and unnecessary.  I was not even permitted to pray.  I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose.  I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way.  As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up.  I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t.  There was agony in my chest, throat, and stomach.  I had never experienced such pain before.  I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone."

We agree with Col. Davis: the Guantanamo Bay facility is "costly, inefficient, and morally wrong."  Shut it down!


"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."