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We're still not fully committed to this democracy thing.
Happy birthday, Gitmo!
You’ve been with us ten years now.
But after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centers, Americans feared our still-unknown assailants far more than we feared the implications of unchecked executive power. We could not get the lid off that particular petri dish fast enough. Less than a week after 11 September 2001, Congress passed the Authorisation for Use of Military Force, which grants the president unlimited power to use force against anyone in the world – any nation, organisation, person, associated forces and so forth that the president determines was, in any way, involved in 9/11. Military Order #1, passed two months later, authorised the president to direct the capture of any non-citizen anywhere in the world allegedly involved in international terrorism, and detain that person indefinitely without access to the remedy of habeas corpus. (In another example of the deterioration of Americans’ rights post-9/11, that power can now be applied to citizens as well.)
Guantánamo numbers 171 men today – many of them held since the camp's opening nearly 10 years ago, and some cleared but still wasting away out of sight and out of mind. That number also includes 46 who have been approved for "indefinite detention", who will probably live and die there. In some cases, this is because the primary "evidence" against them has been elicited under torture, and even the most conservative judges have ruled that this renders their "confessions" invalid. In other cases, the administration is allowing detainees it considers "dangerous" to languish without trial so long as neither the Congress nor courts insist otherwise. First, the Bush administration claimed, and now the Obama administration still claims, that either they were in groups associated in some way with 9/11 or terrorism, or they are dangerous.

The story of Guantánamo's 10th anniversary and the deterioration of civil and human rights in post-9/11 America is a story about what fear will do – the breakdown of a body politic that occurs when a country attacks its own constitution in the name of defending it.


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January 2017

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