Out Of Sight

A story in Yahoo News about a prisoner outbreak at Guantanamo Bay is an ugly reminder of a very ugly chapter in this country’s history. It begins as follows:

MIAMI (AP) — Months of increased tension at the Guantanamo Bay prison boiled over into a clash between guards and detainees Saturday as the military closed a communal section of the facility and moved its inmates into single cells.

The violence erupted during an early morning raid that military officials said was necessary because prisoners had covered up security cameras and windows as part of a weeks-long protest and hunger strike over their indefinite confinement and conditions at the U.S. base in Cuba.

Prisoners fought guards with makeshift weapons that included broomsticks and mop handles when troops arrived to move them out of a communal wing of the section of the prison known as Camp 6, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand, a military spokesman. Guards responded by firing four “less-than-lethal rounds,” he said.

After more than ten years 166 men remain in close confinement without the benefit of a trial for being “enemies” of this country. While they were supposedly captured by American troops during the Bush Administration, many of them were, in fact, captured by Pakistanis and Afghans who were paid a bounty. Barack Obama’s promise, when he first ran for President, that he would bring those prisoners to this continent and they would be given a fair trial never was realized because Congress, and the citizens of this country, would have none of it. They remain in prison, visited by their lawyers and occasionally by the Red Cross. But they have no idea when or if they will ever be released to return home. They may, indeed, be enemies of this country. But that supposition is based on evidence that has never been made public or allowed the benefit of rebuttal. In a word: they are presumed guilty, a direct violation of a fundamental right of due process all human beings could lay claim to since the days of the Romans.

Most of us don’t really care about those men or their plight. It’s a question of “out of sight, out of mind.” And I dare say that is how the matter is supposed to be regarded by those who call the shots at the highest levels and claim their only concern is to protect us from terror. They don’t want us to know, for example, how those men are “force-fed” after it has been determined that they are on a hunger strike. Perhaps it is better that we not know. One wonders whether we might be better off being protected from our protectors. In any event, the situation in Guantanamo Bay is inhumane and a black eye on a country that presumably stands for human rights, liberty, and “justice for all.”

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