Guantanamo Bay: The Model for an American Police State?
by John W. Whitehead
“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.” ~ James Madison
or most Americans, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay – once the topic of heated political debate by presidential hopeful Barack Obama but rarely talked about by the incumbent President Obama – has become a footnote in the government’s ongoing war on terror.
Yet for the approximately 167 detainees still being held in that godforsaken gulag, 86 of whom have been cleared for release yet continue to be imprisoned at the facility, Guantanamo Bay is a lesson in injustice, American-style. It is everything that those who founded America vigorously opposed: kidnapping, torture, dehumanizing treatment, indefinite detention, being “disappeared” with no access to family or friends, and little hope of help from the courts.
For Adnan Latif – a 30-something-year-old Yemeni native detained at Guantanamo for ten years without a trial, despite a court ruling ordering his release and repeated military clearances ordering his transfer – his cell became his tomb. Latif, who had repeatedly engaged in hunger strikes and suicide attempts while proclaiming his innocence, was found dead in his cell in Guantanamo Bay mere days before the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
If Guantanamo is the symbol of American injustice, Latif’s death is the realization of that injustice, the proclamation of how far we have strayed from the original vision of America as a shining city on a hill, a beacon of freedom and hope for the world. Ten years after opening for business, Guantanamo Bay stands as a manifestation of America’s failure to abide by the rule of law and its founding principles in the post-9/11 era. As Baher Azmy notes in the New York Times, its defining features have been the denial of judicial oversight and its exclusion of lawyers. Making matters worse, “far from closing the prison camp as he promised, President Obama is steadily returning Guantanamo to the secretive and hopeless internment camp that he vilified as a candidate.”