Morality, legality: inside Guantánamo Bay


By Greg Caceres

Terrorism is not spoken of lightly. Our country is plagued by it, not just in its action against us but in the fear it instills in us. From childhood, the Millennial generation has been raised and taught to fear it, and rightly so; the face of terrorism is by its very name terrifying. Fear is necessary. Life depends on it.

Fear, however, has brought this nation to a dark place. In a terrible and twisted duality, death depends on fear also. In the otherwise inconsequential town of Guantánamo, life is packed up and prepared for death by the fear of the American people.

Last week, the often pushed-aside issue of Guantánamo Bay’s U.S. detention center was revisited by President Barack Obama, now seven years after he signed executive action to close it. In a statement Tuesday, Obama said, “Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values. It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the rule of law.”

The rule of law is everything to this country; the fabric of our whole society. Our country, under this rule of law, is bound to the Geneva conventions. We’re committed — at least on paper — to wage clean war. Although it is not dead to us, the rule of law is under attack by American action in the military prison. The keepers of this facility are by no means free of guilt.

To better understand in what way the rule of law is under attack, however, there needs to be clear cut facts on it. In the Guantánamo Review Task Force, Final Report, under the DoJ, DoD, DHS and others, evaluation of the facility was made in response to Obama’s executive action two years prior. The 2010 report clarifies that “48 detainees were determined to be too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution.”

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    These 48 people are the focal point of the Gitmo debate; all others in the prison are to some degree free to seek movement out of the prison — be it to domestic US detainment or a third party nation and their movement can be requested by others of some official standing.

    The 48 on the other hand simply cannot. Although the report states that “[these] detainees may challenge the legality of their detention in federal court,” no cases have been heard in any substantial way, and the only additional review they may receive is at the discretion of the executive branch. Even today, though several hundred detainees have been released, the issue of stagnant prison status remains. No report or review has been revealed since the 2010 Task Force’s outline.

    A YouGov poll taken from July 23 – 27, 2015 notes that 41 percent of sampled Americans ages 18-29 support continued operation of the facility, 31 percent want it closed and 28 percent are unsure.

    If there were more public knowledge about the state of particular detainees, however, these numbers may be subject to change. Just about everyone knows that the military prison implies torture in its very name, but it may be that few think of the justice in it; whether or not it is a deserved punishment is up in the air. Some public — or even concealed — trials would be much more explicit than the presumptions of wrongdoing we cast on foreign individuals.

    At the time that it is most needed — the guilt or innocence of a person at stake — the rule of law has been ignored. To say nothing of humanitarian treatment towards them is not what the country’s founders wanted for us. Lack of justice and fair trial simply isn’t sustainable.

    All the same, what Americans today want is safety. From the fear. From the global terror. From those who are guilty of terrible evil. That’s true across all partisan boundaries, age gaps, and identities. Hopefully America will soon assign the same moral value to its first love, justice.

    Gregory is a freshman in DGS

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