Yes, many of its prisoners, swept up in the early days of the war on terror, had committed no hostile acts against this country or its allies (55% of them, according to one study). And yes, they were dressed in those unforgettable orange jumpsuits that ISIS would later so horrifically put on its own prisoners before slaughtering them. And yes, from the beginning, the treatment they received at Guantánamo, sometimes after having been brutally tortured in CIA “black sites” elsewhere, was a nightmare all its own.
If you doubt it, just consider Sean Baker’s experience. A “model” American soldier who had been in the first Gulf War and volunteered again right after 9/11, he was assigned to the new prison as a military policeman. He would then be ordered to play an uncooperative prisoner in an orange jumpsuit so that the guards could practice on him and promptly would have the you-know-what beaten out of him by those very same guards, who mistook him for an actual prisoner, leaving him experiencing epileptic-style seizures 10 to 12 times a day. Honestly, what else do you need to know about the nature of that all-American site of injustice which just experienced its 20th anniversary and, as TomDispatch regular Karen Greenberg suggests today, despite the efforts of two of our last three presidents, shows few signs of actually closing down?
It’s already been forever — and forever it may forever be. In fact, Greenberg herself began writing about that grim prison in Cuba for TomDispatch almost 15 years ago after being given a carefully orchestrated media tour of its grounds. No matter how limited that tour was, it was obvious to her what a nightmare this country had created offshore of American justice. As she typically wrote at the time, “Even the less restrictive quarters for ‘compliant’ inmates belied any notion that Guantánamo is merely a holding facility for those awaiting charges or possessing useful information.” And so, of course, it has remained all these years, a site of horror that captures the nightmare of a global war on terror that’s proved all-too-disastrous — in its results (over its 20 years, terror groups on the planet doubled), the casualties it’s caused, the tens of millions it’s displaced, the trillions of dollars spent on it that could have been used so much more profitably here at home, and the disastrous way, as I’ve written elsewhere, it’s helped “unbuild” this country. Without Guantánamo, those grim CIA black sites, and the disastrous wars that went with them, we might be living in a very different American world and Donald Trump might be an insignificant bankruptee and conman.
So, 20 years after it was established, let Greenberg, whose latest book is Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of Democracy from the War on Terror to Donald Trump, tell you the latest in the (sadly) never-ending tale of the war-on-terror prison, itself a terror of the first order, that was built at Guantánamo Bay in 2002. Tom
Will We “Celebrate” Its 30th Anniversary?
It's now more than 20 years later and that American offshore symbol of mistreatment and injustice, the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is still open. In fact, as 2021 ended, New York Times reporter Carol Rosenberg, who has covered that notorious prison complex since its first day, reported on the Pentagon’s plans to build a brand-new prefab courthouse at that naval base. It's intended to serve as a second, even more secret facility for holding the four remaining trials of war-on-terror detainees and is scheduled to be ready “sometime in 2023.”
Close Guantánamo? Not soon, it seems. The cost of that new construction is a mere $4 million, a relatively minor sum compared to the $6 billion dollars and counting that detention and trial operations had claimed by 2019, according to the estimate of one whistleblower.Read More