On January 11, 2002, the first prisoners arrived at Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba. Despite much public objection, calls by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, and several legal battles, we still hold over 400 prisoners in Guantanamo today. We are told that these men are the “worst of the worst”, “obvious threats to national security”, “Islamofascists”, and “terrorists”. We use these epithets to justify our new definitions which allow us to hold them outside the regulations of the Geneva Conventions, outside of previous United States law, and outside of our general moral concerns. It is worth a moment of our time, then, to consider who these men actually are, what we intend to do with them, and whether our means will justify our bespoken ends.
Of the 775 men and boys who have been held as “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo, about 340 have been released, 110 are scheduled for release, around 70 are to stand trial, and around 250 “may be held indefinitely”. Only ten have been charged with anything at all.
This week’s news headlines run something like this:
Russia, U.S. Disagree on Iran Sanctions
Israel Vows to Respond to Rocket Attack
China Declines APEC Meeting With Canada
Bush Warns N. Korea on Nuclear Transfers
…and so on. Notice anything missing?
Diplomacy is an artform that has never been well understood by most, and in recent years has all but vanished, under the increasing tendency to view anything less than full military force as the arena of the ” weak”.
“All war represents a failure of diplomacy” — Tony Benn
Where do we expect this policy of tough talk and fast action to take us? In the movies, the Good Guys are usually able to take out the Bad Guys with one carefully planned excursion, perhaps a massive shootout, and some classy dialogue followed by single, well-aimed bullet. But out here our roles are not so clearly defined, and the stunt guys just don’t fall down when they are supposed to. Somehow, in spite of everything we have been taught to believe, the Bad Guys just keep coming back, and violence just keeps breeding more violence.