Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gitmo Out of Here

Hello again, dear readers - both new, old, and random passers-by. As those of you who've been here before are aware, I usually blog on a variety of subjects. Most of them stupid and irrelevant in the grander scheme of things, but given the rather personal nature of this blog, being one of those writer-type person-things, that's nothing surprising.

At any rate, I'm cutting the personal prattling short this morning, as for once, this is a post about something bigger and more important. Why, you might even say it has something to do with bloggers uniting, trying to do something positive on these internets. To that end, this time around, we're taking a look at the USA's contemptible defiance of the human rights we so claim to stand for - Gitmo. No, not that mouse puppet on Weekends at the D.L. (Did anybody else actually watch that show, anyway?), but our detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Ah, Cuba. Our governments are locked in a seemingly endless ongoing bitter rivalry of which nothing constructive seems to amount. We love to wag our finger at Fidel Castro - and now his brother, Raul - but when it comes to our criticisms there, we're as hypocritical as we're known for being throughout the world. After all, we took the bit of land we have a seemingly perpetual lease of - Guantanamo Bay itself - to not only build a naval base, but to use this base as our closest global icon of human rights abuses.

Of course, human rights abuses are hardly something new in America - don't believe the whitewashed textbooks - and there's no excuse we love to draw upon quite like war. More specifically, it's all about the mass fear and paranoia spread through war. Even if we're the ones instigating it. Back during the second World War, we covered our country with racist propaganda against the Japanese. Then what did we do? We looked overseas to what our enemies were doing and thought to ourselves, "Hey, maybe they're onto something with those camps!" And with that, in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 (Historical evidence indicates that it is very likely that our government knew the attack was coming and chose, specifically, not to evacuate the base.), roughly 110,000 Japanese Americans were relocated to and interned within "War Relocation Camps." This internment was largely focused on the west coast and Hawaiian Japanese population. This was a purely unfounded act drawn directly from racism and paranoia fostered in the country at the time - none of these Japanese Americans were found guilty of any sort of espionage or sabotage, nor was there any evidence of any being committed Japanese Americans during the war. Architects of the internment, however, pushed it in insisting that absence of such activities was suspicious in and of itself, and thusly to be taken as evidence that it absolutely would happen. General DeWitt himself claimed that Japanese Americans were disloyal, when an official navy intelligence report on the matter found the opposite to be true of the Japanese American populace. There was no need for evidence - just those old-fashioned building blocks of America: fear and racism. It took three years for the Supreme Court to rule the internment of loyal US citizens unconstitutional. And even longer for congress to pass legislation to apologize in 1988, when Ronald Reagan was in the White House. The surviving internees and their heirs had $1.6 billion divided amongst them as reparations.

The Cold War came with its own wars as well, as global rivalries sprung up around political differences. Following World War II, Kim Il-Sung invaded South Korea, in an effort to reunite the divided peninsula, and America got involved. The resulting bloody conflict came to a stalemate and the Armistice Agreement was signed. Then in the following decades, once again spearheaded by fear of a massive communist conspiracy to destroy America and effectively turn us all into Bolshevik robots, we invaded Vietnam. Acting under the widespread fears spawned by Domino Theory (In short, with every other nation in the world that "falls" to communism, we come one step closer to becoming communist ourselves, one nation after the next falling like dominoes until America does as well.), we waged a ground war with the communist North Vietnamese, acting largely in our own interests - wanting to effectively strike a blow against this perceived communist conspiracy more than aid the south Vietnamese, largely failing to understand (Let alone respect) the large scale political and cultural shifts Vietnam was undergoing in forging its own future as Ho Chi Minh's revolution for the people consumed the nation. In short, we stuck our noses where they didn't belong - in our own interests - and both committed many an atrocity and killed many people who shouldn't have had to die, simply because of our own paranoia.

During this time and this unpopular war, we saw the rise of the hippie subculture in America, largely lambasted by the American political right-wing today - what's left of the subculture, anyway - for suggesting there were more peaceful, progressive ways we could solve our problems in the world. By reaching out and trying to understand one another. What do you mean we can't solve all our problems through excessive militarism?! Sadly, this ultra-militaristic mindset still dominates in America today. Say what you will about hippies, their promiscuity, occasional lack of hygiene, and drug use - they still had some very commonsense ideas that Americans today could stand to learn from. (And drop the whole tough-guy "We're the good conservative Christian anti-sex gunslingin' heroes!" act and attitude already. This is the 21st century.)

Unjust war waged out of paranoia is its own grade of human rights abuse. Such was our military involvement in Vietnam. Such are our actions following the events of September 11th, 2001. Following the attacks, we invaded Afghanistan, a seemingly more justified war, with all the abuses the ruling Taliban committed upon the Afghani populace. Of course, that wasn't the reason we invaded - we were out for revenge, and Osama bin Laden, the architect of September 11th, was connected with the Taliban. Our efforts to extradite bin Laden were met with failure, though we scattered the Taliban forces and effectively bombed much of the country to pieces. In many ways, we helped push Afghanistan towards becoming a failed state in the end. George W. Bush and his administration were not being interested in nation-building - rather, they were far more concerned with starting a new war based on faulty intelligence. Instead of retaining the sort of presence we should have in Afghanistan and working to help the people and nation recover - for a time, even women there were starting to see expanded rights - we rushed off to Iraq. In the time since then, the Taliban has been slowly regaining its power and returning to its violent oppression of the people. There seems to be little hope there these days, in large part due to our - metaphorically speaking - bombing them to rubble, giving each other high-fives, then concluding, "It's time to go bomb those guys, too! This is what you get for 9/11! Boots up asses equals way of Americana!" (I hate Toby Keith.)

Anger and fear post-9/11 led to most of America and congress blindly giving over the veritable power of an uncheckable monarch to the Bush administration - just about making them America's first dictatorship of sorts - with our own civil rights disappearing as quickly as government transparency. It's said that absolute power corrupts - history has provided plenty of evidence to this end. But looking at many of their track records, most of the Bush administration was already corrupt before they came to office. And thus, that brings us to the issue at hand here - the illegal internment and abuse of prisoners at our Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Certainly not the only abusive prison camp to come out of US military operations post-9/11 (Yes, there's no forgetting Abu-Ghraib and the disturbing photos that came out of that - the actions that came of higher US military and government orders, the depths to which we sunk after September 11th, becoming monsters ourselves on our rampage of Middle Eastern revenge.), Guantanamo Bay still stands out in particular now as it remains open and our abuses continue to this day. As we began to wage war, prisoners from Aghanistan flowed in - some captured by US soldiers, others purchased as bounties from warlords and mercenaries both in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The military has claimed evidence linking some of the detainees to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. They have, however, completely withheld this evidence from the public, making the entire proceedings appear corrupt and suspect. The detention of these individuals is illegal. Despite the Supreme Court recognizing the detainees' right to legal counsel and the right to fight their imprisonment, this administration has denied them that and all legal rights. Worse yet, we're rather open now about torturing detainees - a method that has been proven repeatedly ineffective as an interrogation technique, an act not only lowering us to heinous levels in committing it, but yielding little to nothing in terms of truly reliable information - and we're even seeing high officials (Such as ultra-conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, one of the last people we need in such a position in government today) supporting and defending it. There's been much back and forth bantering for many months now on the matter of torture and our preferred method of it - waterboarding. But no matter how hard you try to politicize it - as we do everything here in America now, seemingly terminally impeding meaningful progress - you can't change reality. There is nothing about simulating drowning that is not torture. You are physically harming someone - risking some potentially dire damage t o them - in the name of extracting information. These aren't "advanced interrogation techniques." They're a blatant disregard for the Geneva Convention (Which former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales himself referred to as "quaint and outdated.") and human rights as a whole. The fact that so many are standing up for these crimes against humanity speak volumes about the dark time we live in here in America.

Under pressure from Amnesty International, the UN (Which the far right seems to scoff at these days.), European Union, and much of the world, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for the closure of the prison camp, asking for help from the rest of the world on December 25th, 2007. She has also called for guarantees from nations that their prisoners, once released, would not be a danger. Coming up on half a year later, we still have not seen any progress on that front.

After the events of September 11th, 2001, much of America was enraged. We acted irrationally, and we've done horrible things as a result. Nowadays, most of us have opened our eyes, and we are horrified by what we have become under this administration. If we are a nation that truly believes in individuals' rights - both civil and human - we must stand up together and close down Guantanamo Bay. It's time this administration makes good on their words instead of merely talking at us while meaning nothing. And it's time we held everyone - including those involved in this administration - accountable for the human rights abuses they authorized. There are criminals amongst us, and they have been many in this administration and military. America must show the world that we do believe in human rights, and that we are capable of doing the right thing and acknowledging our gravest of errors and offenses committed upon human rights.

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