âThe means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.ââJames Madison
For most Americans, the detention center at Guantanamo Bayâonce the topic of heated political debate by presidential hopeful Barack Obama but rarely talked about by the incumbent President Obamaâhas become a footnote in the governmentâs ongoing war on terror.
Yet for the approximately 167 detainees still being held in that godforsaken gulag, 86 of whom have been cleared for release yet continue to be imprisoned at the facility, Guantanamo Bay is a lesson in injustice, American-style. It is everything that those who founded America vigorously opposed: kidnapping, torture, dehumanizing treatment, indefinite detention, being âdisappearedâ with no access to family or friends, and little hope of help from the courts.
For Adnan Latifâa 30-something-year-old Yemeni native detained at Guantanamo for ten years without a trial, despite a court ruling ordering his release and repeated military clearances ordering his transferâhis cell became his tomb. Latif, who had repeatedly engaged in hunger strikes and suicide attempts while proclaiming his innocence, was found dead in his cell in Guantanamo Bay mere days before the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
If Guantanamo is the symbol of American injustice, Latifâs death is the realization of that injustice, the proclamation of how far we have strayed from the original vision of America as a shining city on a hill, a beacon of freedom and hope for the world. Ten years after opening for business, Guantanamo Bay stands as a manifestation of Americaâs failure to abide by the rule of law and its founding principles in the post-9/11 era. As Baher Azmy notes in the New York Times, its defining features have been the denial of judicial oversight and its exclusion of lawyers. Making matters worse, âfar from closing the prison camp as he promised, President Obama is steadily returning Guantanamo to the secretive and hopeless internment camp that he vilified as a candidate.â