Moral Low Ground


New York Times Calls Guantánamo Bay a “Political Prison”


The New York Times published an editorial on Thursday in which it called the US military detention center at Guantánamo Bay “essentially a political prison.”

The editorial board of the nation’s newspaper of record published the op-ed piece, “The Guantánamo Stain,” as a reflection on the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas.

“There is another building, far from Dallas… that symbolizes Mr. Bush’s legacy in a darker, truer way: the military penal complex at Guantánamo Bay where Mr. Bush imprisoned hundreds of men after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a vast majority guilty of no crime,” the Times wrote.

“[Guantánamo] became the embodiment of his dangerous expansion of executive power and the lawless detentions, secret prisons and torture that went along with them…”

“There are still 166 men there– virtually all of them held without charges, some for more than a decade. More than half have been cleared for release but are still imprisoned…”

“…The country must recognize the steep price being paid for what is essentially a political prison,” the piece concludes. “Just as hunger strikes at the infamous Maze Prison in Northern Ireland indelibly stained Britain’s human rights record, so Guantánamo stains America’s.”

The ongoing Guantánamo hunger strike reached a grim milestone on Saturday, as the US military admitted that 100 of the 166 detainees are now refusing food. Twenty of these prisoners have lost so much weight that they are now being force-fed by being strapped to chairs and having tubes painfully inserted in their noses and down their throats. This is not only a violation of medical ethics, it is also a recognized form of torture.

Despite the force-feeding, Andy Worthington, author of “The Guantánamo Files,” reports that four of the detainees are “close to death” as the strike passes its 80th day.

Many of the hunger striking detainees have expressed their willingness to die. In past years, some detainees have taken their own lives. One of these men, a Yemeni named Adnan Latif, had been cleared for release three times– twice during the Bush administration and once under Obama. Latif had been unjustly imprisoned for more than a decade without charge or trial. Dozens of his fellow Yemeni detainees have been cleared for release, but President Obama decided in 2010 that the political situation in Yemen was too volatile to free them. They are being collectively punished solely because of their nationality.

“Everything is over,” Latif, overcome by hopelessness, wrote before killing himself. “Life is going to hell. America, what happened to you?”

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