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The Guantanamo Debate

Detainees at Guantanamo Bay Facility in Cuba

Detainees at Guantanamo Bay Facility in Cuba

By Rezib Tutsanaii

Debate between the republican and democratic political machines took another turn last week when former Vice President Dick Cheney and President Barak Obama exchanged opinions in speeches on the same day. The President insists that it is important to keep his promise of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. This will be a sign that the US has reformed from the bad acts of the previous administration. By presenting these reforms, the US will no longer be vilified by those same terrorists that have used the behavior of the previous administration to justify their actions. Republicans, and particularly Dick Cheney, insist that closing the facility will make the people of the US less safe.

Some democratic senators and representatives also oppose closing Guantanamo Bay. These senators and representatives benefited politically from the idea that the policies of the previous administration succeeded only in inflaming the forces of retaliation around the world, yet they are unwilling to place their careers at risk by standing up for the position that allowed them to be elected. Their position would seem to be that incarcerating the Guantanamo Bay detainees in their states would make their constituents high value targets for terrorists.

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney stands as the representative of the republican position that any action is justified when the safety of the American people is involved. Torture, rendition, summary execution by US death squads and indefinite incarceration outside of the rules of criminal law or the benefit of the Geneva convention are all acceptable.

The United States Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” One of the cornerstones of this definition is the concept of unlawful violence. If violence can be considered unlawful, then there must also exist the concept of lawful violence. We must therefore assume that there can be a case made for lawful violent acts. Perhaps a better definition is found in the U.S. Department of State. It defines “terrorism” to be “premeditated politically-motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.” Violence is once again an integral part of this definition, but we also see the concept of political goals or motivations.

Does the United States also have political, religious or ideological goals? Regardless of the legality of it, does the United States also commit politically-motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets?

If we take this as the definition of a terrorist, how are these actions any different from what the US military has been doing for the past 100 years? What did Mr. Bush mean when he wanted to shock and awe his enemies in Iraq? Where the more than 1 million people, by some estimates, who have died in the Iraq war legal combatants in the War on Terror?

It does not seem to be reasonable to single out any single actor as culpable in this kind of behavior. No matter how we may justify our actions, it is clear that acts of violence and the taking of human lives is an act that is destructive to the quality of human societies and to the people who participate in such acts.

Perhaps it is reasonable for the constituencies of a particular political officer to avoid the task of hosting the detainees of the war on terror. No human being wishes to stare into the face of evil, especially when the face that they see may remind them of their own. The M’TAM teaches that the pursuit of human quality cannot be advanced by looking outside of ourselves to find and prosecute the evil around us. We must look within ourselves and work on our own quality. That quality must be defined by what we will not do, and If we say that we will not torture another human being, then honesty would dictate that we must not do this under any circumstances.

The appeals of some politicians to the people of the USA only amount to emotional manipulation that offers us an excuse for our own corruption and the corruption of our government and our society. Each one of us must individually refuse to participate in such manipulation and take decisions based on the pursuit of our quality and the quality of the society in which we live.


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