It has been a decade now since Guantanamo Bay opened as an American military detention facility.
Today it stands, more visible and blunt than CIA black-sites and the Bagram prison, as a stabbing insult on Human Rights around the world.
The War on Terror has carried a load of disregard to civil liberties praised by this nation; illegal detention sites are just a single salient facet of the post-9/11 era.
The American military has taken an Islamaphobic tactic to its defense strategies against Al-Qaeda, with belligerence ranging from indefinite (and most illegal) detention without trial or evidence, to extraordinary rendition of suspects onward to locations where enhanced interrogation is euphemism for torture.
Beyond the damage perpetrated against the international Muslim community — and the new look and smell of the U.S around the world as a hypocritical democratic superpower — the blowback effect pushes this costly war even further.
Although the ability for one to question the legitimacy of his arrest has been a basic right since before the Magna Carta, as well as Habeas Corpus becoming a demanded law of liberty by the people, when the Bush administration opened the can of worms that is GITMO they pretended this universal freedom did not extend indiscriminately, and so since its inception GITMO has detained 2771 prisoners, many without merit.
In the trials of the fight for the innocent held in American custody: 600 of these men have been released, but 171 remain today; 89 of which have been cleared for release, but are still detained for various reasons. 46 men are slated for indefinite detention without trial, but 92% of all the men ever held in the facility were determined as not being “Al-Qaeda” fighters according the U.S records—so much for claiming it is a place that holds the “worst of the worst”.
Secret assassinations, arrests, and torture are normally attributed to police-dominated, totalitarian states, not democratic constitutional federal republics that oppose illegal detention innately. The decade-long violations on Human Rights have been excused as necessary in combating the hostile enemies America has around the globe. We have been told that security is a privilege that needs upkeep by sometimes ulterior means that injure the “other” unjustly. But as the New Year rushes onward, we are introduced to a new law that threatens to treat the freedom of American citizens just as bad as the rights and freedoms of non-citizens.
When the President signed the NDAA on New Year’s Eve, he sent people a message of fear and cowardice. A law like the NDAA contains a variety of different provisions, but hides a big tear in the American Constitution with a blanket of domestic paranoia. It discards our 5th and 6th Amendments of the Bill of Rights. It makes indefinite detention without trial lawful; regards any suspicion of association with terrorist groups as a crime deserving of indefinite detention and enhanced interrogation; and bulwarks efforts to cease facilities where illegal imprisonment and torture occur.
Some may believe that for the sake of Homeland Security, and preservation of the nation, certain liberties of the citizens can be sacrificed for the protection of the whole, but that trick does not work for everybody. Government policy that revokes the traditional law, which has more than two centuries of jurisprudence, is not a method that will enhance our counterterrorism capabilities, but rather is a method that slides us closer towards totalitarianism.
The relationship between the government’s responsibility of police powers and the citizen’s right to liberty and basic freedoms is a complicated rapport contemplated since Aristotle, if not before. The utmost responsibility of government is to establish an environment under law and order, and create a flourishing society; while our responsibility as citizens is to follow laws that are just, and to replace any rulers or representatives that decree laws we deem unjust or harmful.
Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties. —Abraham Lincoln
On January 11th, 2012 a coalition of 50+ organizations ventured to Washington DC from all over the East Coast to participate in a demonstration protesting against the NDAA and for the immediate closure of G-BAY. We rallied in Lafayette square, and marched through the Capitol, in front of the district courts, Congress, and the Supreme Courts. The battle over the unjust violations at Guantanamo has been developing relentlessly, with each nuance of a court decision changing the rules of the game; but this shocking National Defense Authorization Act signals a climactic point that is, honestly, a bit scary.
In our protest, we have called Obama out, and have expressed our frustration with his empty campaign promise to close the facility / Executive Order that failed in 2009. We staged an amazing line of dark-hooded orange jumpsuits with their hands tied behind their backs—as an act of solidarity with the mute 171 prisoners left in GITMO.
W chanted against the NDAA and expressed a general dismay with where we feel the country is going.
As the day grew colder with rain, and we gathered in front of the enthralling building of the Supreme Court, I looked up to see “EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW” embedded in the rock of the infrastructure.
As I watched the uneasy police officers listen intently to our chants, and to the speakers, I found it ironically fitting to have MLK’s ideology that “injustice anywhere is a threat on justice everywhere” consume my thoughts, and distract me from my worries with the uneasy cops (a week later Occupy DC has been under police pressure to disband camping in public parks).
The NDAA is not the revelation of a new tyrant and destruction of democracy. The power of tyranny does not come readily from government; it is stolen from the people.
We will lose or grasp over our government if we decide to lie in stupefying apathy, and allow a nation that was once a beacon of liberating political innovation to rush off-course. In a democracy, it is demanded of the people that the masses who bestow representatives with operative power hold government accountable to the volition of the governed.
The fear should vitalize the mobilization of “I have had it up to here!” type of citizens—not strengthen the complacency; and it should be utilized as a way to send a message right back to Congress, the White House, and those Justices of The Supreme Court.
Our greatest fear of the NDAA should be the fact that it codifies policy that has been controversial for the last decade. It renders the ability of our military to combat terrorism limitlessly under law, and grants it new authority domestically.
We should fear that association with terrorism will be interpreted (indeed as it is a vague use of terminology) and stretched to encompass all sorts of citizens who are not malicious as a threat to Homeland Security.
NDAA may be used to combat the new sweeping brand of OWS and youth movements growing strength and recognition.
These new shocking laws are arising in strange times of global economic turmoil; overwhelming demand of political change by the politically unrepresented; and near the end of a war that has cost us too much, while simultaneously corroding the trust we once had in our government.
In times where SOPA and PIPA are threats to our free Internet knowledge, we the people need to take matters to our own hands — sign the petitions, raise the warnings, and take it to the streets. The people have the power to catalyze change (who knows how long that will last); we should not trust politicians to do so.
This is what democracy looks like. No GITMO, No NDAA, No SOPA, No PIPA, and No SUPERPAC.
Protest, debate, expression—this is what democracy looks like.