Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Gitmo Problem [Why We Should Close the Door]

President Barack Obama signed an order to close Guantanamo Bay prison in a year.

This is a good thing. No, ifs ands or buts.

We, the United States, have detained individuals for years without charging them with a crime. We have also been accused of human rights violations (torture) of these detainees. Actually the US has admitted to torturing detainees.

President Obama is trying to right a wrong by closing the facility. But he is getting some flack because people claim that all the detainees will eventually go back to terrorism and kill us.

That fear is not enough to stop justice.

Clockwise from top left: Basic toilet facilities in Camp 1. Yellow cones warn guards to remain quiet during prayer times. Arrows painted around the camp indicate the direction of Mecca. Outdoor showers at Camp 1.

First, many of these individuals have NEVER been charged with a crime, so we don't EVEN know if they are truly terrorists. We do have this thing called the Constitution, where you are considered INNOCENT until PROVEN GUILTY and have RIGHTS. Now don't go thinking I'm a friend of terrorists or anything, but I am a friend of the constitution.

Left: A communal area at Camp 6. Right: A prisoner being transferred to his annual review hearing.

Second, I understand the fear some people have. Some of these guys may actually be BAD guys (terrorist) and they may want to continue spreading fear. And some of these guys may actually be GOOD guys (innocent) who's experiences at Gitmo (torture and humiliation) may have turned them into terrorists. 

Either way these guys should be tried in court and if they are found guilty put them in prison for the rest of their lives. If they are found innocent, let them go home to their families.

But you are still concerned about the innocent guy wanting to be a terrorist now, right? Of course, that's the natural reaction most people would have. If you are tortured and detained for years you are bound to have some anger issues.


In the US we have had men on death row (and life sentences) for years who were eventually exonerated, either by DNA or new evidence. Whenever the news reports about a person who has been convicted of a crime and later proven to have been innocent, the first thing the reporter ask is, "How do you feel?" He usually replies, "Happy to be free." The next question they ask is, "Are you angry?" And he usually replies, "No, I'm just happy to be free."

A cell of a "complaint" prisoner at Gitmo

Now, I've seen this scenario played out many times and I'm always amazed. I would be pissed the heck off. Imagine spending 15 years in jail (you do know what happens in prison, right!) and the whole time you know you are innocent but no one will believe you. Then one day, they tell you are free to go. WTF, I'd be really to take heads! But these guys never show signs of anger, just joy to be free and see their families.

Don't believe me? Lets look at the case of Mr. Chapmen.

Mr. Chapman savoring his first meal as a free man

Well, Glen Edward Chapman was sentence to death for two murders in 1992. He spent 14 yeas on death row. He was granted a new trial when the judge learned detectives in the case had withheld and covered up evidence that pointed to Mr. Chapman's innocence. He was eventually freed. When asked if he was angry he said, "I'm tired, but not angry. I see no need for it... You can't go back and give somebody 15 or 16 years back. I did my crying the first couple of years I was there."

So why should these Gitmo detainees be different?

Third, if the US truly believes these men are terrorist they should just charge them and lock them away for the rest of their lives. What's so hard about that? Oh wait, you don't have evidence you say? Why is that? That's the real question we all need to be asking. Why doesn't the US just charge these guys and get it over with? 

My friends, therein lies the rub. 

Additional Reading:
Death Penalty Information Center - Innocence: List of Those Freed From Death Row

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