Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for #GUANTANAMO :: #azchallenge #atozchallenge

My tax dollars are being used to support an extraconstitutional system of secret imprisonment and indefinite detention that violates international law. 

That, I maintain, is not cool.

The prisons in question are shameful institutions. They do not vanish when we change the subject. If you were held within one of them, you would still be there when people moved on to talk about the baseball season.

These prisons will remain relevant to national and international discussions about American intentions until we shut them down ... until we release and make restitution to all those people who have been unjustly held within them. 

There have been hundreds of such people.

Have you ever noticed? All those who support indefinite detention in secret prisons are people who have not been disappeared by the government. 

Our network of extraconstitutional prisons is a deep and lethal affront to our nation's values. That network is (probably) still quite vast and still quite well funded. 

I say "probably" because we don't know a whole lot about most of these places. That's because the CIA doesn't want us to know much about them. These prisons tend to operate in a world beyond law, oversight, and accountability. I believe we should talk more about that operational decision.

There is some information on the record about Guantanamo, which stands, nearly a decade and a half after the September 11 attacks, as the most visible element of the American extraconstitutional prison system. What we know about Guantanamo is worth discussing, too.

Here is some of what my tax dollars paid for at Guantanamo:

* Physical beatings

* Sexual abuse

* The use of attack dogs upon detainees

* Withholding of medical treatment

* Psychological abuse such as prolonged sleep deprivation

* Murder

Whether or not we feel like changing the subject, the rest of the world has a problem with the legacy we've established in Guantanamo. Astonishingly, the discussion in the US has focused, not on whether such techniques were and are in conflict with our values as a nation, but whether they work.

For the record, they don't work.

Most Americans maintain a steadfast, Orwellian refusal to admit that their nation uses a host of tactics indistinguishable from war crimes. 

In order to pull off this kind of denial, as a society, we have to get good at not knowing about whatever we choose collectively not to know about. (Such as the eyewitness accounts of murder at Guantanamo. Do you know about that now, or not?)

And we also have to "know" things that are not actually connected to reality. (Such as the certainty most Americans still have that all those who are still held in Guantanamo were engaged in terrorist activity. This is false.)

I wrote a novel about, among other things, this broad-based denial phenomenon, explicitly connecting it to mental illness on both a personal and a national scale. 

The protagonist of JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, an American citizen, is held in a secret prison. 

The novel and I had our ups and downs along the way, but I am proud of where we ended up together. As of today, the book has made the second round of the prestigious Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition.

To sign a petition demanding accountability, adherence to international law, and respect for human rights at Guantanamo, click here.