The U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba continues to be a source of controversy internationally, for the American public, and even within Republican and Democratic circles. Since shortly after 9-11, the base has been used to hold suspected terrorists. From what I’ve read, it seems that most Republican politicians favor keeping the camp open.
In theory, the idea of a prison sounds good. It allows the U.S. government to remove enemies from the fight, which serves to disrupt potential terrorist cells. However, given that these individuals are held without trial (and some of which have been denied legal council for years), you do have to wonder if any have been wrongfully detained, a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I’m sure some Republicans would prefer to end this discussion right here. Joshua, they’ll say, these people are terrorists. They have declared war on America and her people and therefore have forfeited any rights that they may have once enjoyed. Being detained at Gitmo is far more humane that simply executing them and it is possible that we can extract useful information from them.
However, aren’t we a society who values justice and the rule of law? Don’t we believe in the right to a trial and at least some limited appeal? Although we all know circumstances of innocent folks who have been wrongfully imprisoned, overall, I believe that we have an excellent domestic legal system. However, when it comes to fair detainment and treatment of foreign citizens, places like Gitmo seem to casually toss both habeas corpus and the Geneva Conventions aside. After all, the Geneva Conventions forbid unlawful confinement and the use of torture, both of which seem to have been done liberally in Cuba.
Earlier today, I discovered the story of Murat Kurnaz, then a Turkish citizen and German resident who was imprisoned for five years, four of them being held at Guantanamo Bay. According to reports, Kurnaz was beaten and tortured during his time and was never linked to Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization. Back in 2008, he was the first former detainee who testified before Congress regarding the situation at Gitmo.
To follow is a recently recorded interview with Kurnaz. I encourage you to watch it as you ponder these questions. If Kurnaz was wrongfully held, like the evidence seems to suggest, was he the only one unjustly imprisoned? If not, how many lives did this military camp forever irreparably mar? Does the prison at Guantanamo Bay make us safer by confining terrorists? Or do stories of unlawful imprisonment further damage America’s reputation and, heaven forbid, spawn future acts of terror?
I’m not suggesting that we open the floodgates and empty Gitmo. However, we should be certain that each detainee is a threat to American security and immediately release those who are not.