“The only qualification for human rights is being human…”
Dear All – It is not often that I get to write about good news or at least news that is mostly good. On only the second day of being in office President Obama signed an executive order to close Guantanamo. The end of essentially a “legal black hole” in which “illegal combatants” could be placed and never be seen again. This was an excellent first step in moving the United States back toward engaging human rights and international law.
But several questions remain… what happens to the over 245 prisoners left? Do we try them in a regular court? Separate court? Do we house them in U.S. prisons? Do we send them home? What if their own country refuses them entry? Do we pay reparations? How do we deal with each person legally and holistically? Guantanamo is much more than a building to be shuttered, it represents the belief that the United States had the right and duty to protect itself at any cost.
We saw this belief not only justify Guantanamo but the Patriotic Act I & II, enhanced interrogation techniques, warrant-less wire tapping, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Military Commissions Act, extraordinary rendition, “black spot” secret prisons…the list goes on.
Closing Guantanamo is much more than turning off the last light; it is a signal that the United States is shifting, slowly away from its own sense of “exceptional-ism” and accepting responsibility as a global partner. Which means how we answer the questions that surround the prisoners is as important as closing the facility. Ultimately how we decide to treat the detainees will indicate how much the Obama team is choosing to move away from the “exceptionalist” practices of the Bush administration.
Right now is a great time to be in touch with Senators and Representatives and affirm the closing of Guantanamo while also calling for the full human rights of the detainees to be honored. How far we move from the symbol of Guantanamo will require more than executive orders, it will require the full participation of U.S. citizens saying, “Not in my name…”…Peace Liz
P.S. Below is a great YouTube link made about a current inmate.