The Ghosts of Guantanimo Bay
The movie Rendition (October 2007) is set almost in real time, focusing on the issues of torture and imprisonment with out trial that have made Camp X-ray and Guantanimo Bay synonymous with evil around the world. The Obama Administration shall have to deal with repairing the image of the United States. Closing Guantanimo Bay just may be the first step in that effort. Articles of Impeachment have been filed against George W. Bush on two occasions in the House of Representatives. The future shall determine whether or not anyone will be prosecuted for decision made by a President during a time of war.
The Ghosts of Guantanimo Bay I. That the government of Cuba shall never enter into any treaty or other compact with any foreign power or powers which will impair or tend to impair the independence of Cuba, nor in any manner authorize or permit any foreign power or powers to obtain by colonization or for military or naval purposes or otherwise, lodgment in or control over any portion of said island. [From the Pratt Amendment March 2, 1901]1 We have a President who has misgoverned and a Congress that has refused to hold him accountable.
[Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney on the floor of the House of Representatives December 8, 2006] 2 Rendition In the movie Rendition (October 2007) Meryl Streep and Jake Gyllenhaal play two Twenty-first Century bureaucrats waging a-nobody-wins War on Terror. Suddenly, they find themselves caught up on direct polar opposite ends of a contentious political and ethical divide. It is a drama uniquely struck in real-time, during the frantic 24 hour cycle of the contemporary news media; at a time when the April 2004 revelations of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib were still rather fresh in many people’s minds.
The United Nations High Commission spoke to the issue of Guantanimo Bay early on. 3 However; it would still take all of six years until June 29, 2006 for the United States Supreme Court to finally rule in a 5 to 3 decision that Bush the Younger had indeed overstepped his authority by ordering military tribunals for detainees at Guantanimo Bay. 4 The Center for Constitutional Rights had filed its very first case on behalf of Guantanimo detainees in February 2002. (Fletcher, Sec 2:2) Ultimately, in another landmark ruling six years in the making, on June 12, 2008 in Boumediene v.
Bush / Al Odah v. United States, the high court ruled 5 to 4 that Guantanimo detainees did indeed have a right to habeas corpus. All of a sudden, the bizarre fickle facade of momentous abuses of Executive power would begin to come crumbling down on the sidewalk of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In as similar way, this is how the movie begins to grab on to you, and it is perhaps because of its proximity to gripping real-time human events, that you start to really feel for the characters in Rendition.
The movie pulls you into an intimately private ethical discourse, until suddenly you begin to recognize this drama and this moment, as something very personal. It reminds you once more of that particular day when the world actually appeared to have been totally tossed upside down for you. There is probably not one mature American alive today who has not had this experience. It was that moment sometime directly after 911 when it all finally began to settle in your mind, and then; it just hit you. It felt as if the whole nature of what it meant to be an American had all of a sudden been thrown open to question.
Forged within the gravity of U. S. Government programs that actually sanction torture and dehumanize at the blink of an eye, this becomes the narrative of a nation’s soul at a time when America has completely lost its innocence. Things like kidnapping, disappearances, imprisonment without trial, and let us not forget torture, these were simply not a part of the lexicon of what we came to think about our own country. These were the things that were supposed to happen only in far away distant places like El Salvador, Guatemala, Chili, and South Africa.
We must have all been so dangerously naive. For the most part, these things only seemed to ever affect us in the abstract anyway. This was as just another part of the dirty dealing that our government is often forced to engage in; so what? It’s no big deal! Who would have thought that our own government was the culprit that the world was actually speaking about? All of a sudden, the dream sequence of American life began to unravel. Under Galvin Hood’s superb direction, Rendition is a movie that truly grips hold of you.
In time, you will find yourself drawn completely into the action that takes place in a strange emotionally and ethically-charged no-man’s-land. Here is where we discover the life of Anwar El-Ibrahimi played by Omar Metwalley as an Egyptian born American chemical engineer suddenly ‘disappeared’ and for all intents and purposes rendered a ghost to his family and to the rest of the world. He is a man it seems, that has simply fallen off of the planet. He was stolen from American soil by the CIA in a ‘rendition’, which finds him kidnapped from his family, dragged overseas and then thrown into the black hole of a dark prison.
It becomes for him a nightmare, in a jurisdictional no man’s land where he is tortured for several months. Suddenly this story begins to sound all too familiar to you, not as something culled out of Hannah Arendt’s notes on the Eichmann trial. But, as something more real, concrete, and contemporary, as if it was ripped directly from out of the headlines of current events; like the Frontline interview that aired only weeks after the film’s debut. It was about a number of former Guantanimo detainees who had finally decided to speak out about their treatment.
On this particular broadcast, journalist Steven Grey interviews Abu Omar al-Masri, another Egyptian, this time an Imam who tells the real life story of how he too was stolen off the planet on February 17, 2003. “Then, he says, I disappeared from history! It was not Afghanis who flew me in an airplane. It was not Afghanis who shackled me and did what they did to me! It was Americans” he says. (Grey, 2008) In the movie, Reese Witherspoon is Isabella El-Ibrahimi, Anwar’s pregnant wife who captures the indignation of the entire world as she screams bloody murder 5.
Alan Arkin plays United States Senator Hawkins (get it ‘hawkish’) who sees no inconsistency in American values whatsoever, and the torture of a few innocent Arab suspects after what happened to us on September 11, 2001. U. S Terrorism Chief Corrinne Whitman (Meryl Steep’s character) is totally convinced of her rendition program’s feasibility, in spite of whatever ethical issues may be involved. “Seven hundred people remained alive in London last night because of programs like these! ” Whitman reminds us, sounding more and more like Hollywood’s version of Condoleezza Rice.
(Hood, 2007) However, CIA Analyst Douglass Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal’s character), still isn’t buying it. He has simply seen enough, and it is through Shakespeare that he seeks to evoke his distain. “I fear you speak upon the rack, where men enforced do speak anything” he says. (Merchant of Venice 3:2) For the Obama Administration these once unconscionable issues of torture, rendition, and abuse at Guantanimo Bay are sure to immediately rise in prominence in an environment of progressive renaissance; after so many long years of bureaucratic roadblocks and frustration.
No one can doubt the fact that Bush the Younger’s War on Terror has indeed produced a serious image problem for America. Guantanimo Bay has been a contentious issue of political debate ever since the United States seized it under the Platt Amendment in 1901. (Foner, 1972) There are many ghosts in Guantanimo Bay. Its use as a prison facility began with Bush the Elder’s interment of Haitian refugees, who had fled their country after a coup that rocked the first Aristide Administration. (Franklin, 2008) At that particular time, H. W.
Bush (Bush the Elder) tried to use the logic that the Haitians were not actually considered enemy combatants since they were being held on sovereign Cuban territory; thereby tossing them into the black hole of a legal no-man’s-land. After the creation of Camp X-Ray in 2002, a facility meant to perpetually warehouse people that the President deemed “unlawful combatants” in the War on Terrorism, Bush the Younger used exactly the opposite argument. The first inmates arrived from Kandahar on January 11, 2002. (Franklin, 2008) In order to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, the prisoners in Guantanimo Bay have never been called POW’s.
Nevertheless, five days after their arrival the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson disagreed with the U. S. government, stating that the prisoners were indeed POW’s and under the Geneva Convention they had rights just as any other enemy combatants captured in war. (Ibid) The Bush Administration seemed to arrogantly balk at this and many other aspects of international law, giving the world the impression of America as an arrogant rouge state bent on doing whatever it pleased. Suddenly, the nation that was once overwhelmingly looked up to was now being looked down upon.
We had become the bully on the block that just would not play nice. Even the scrutiny of some of America’s most trusted allies did not seem to nudge an Administration that appeared to be bent upon unilateralism around the world. During that following week, on January 20, 2002, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw requested that nine British citizens be released from Guantanimo Bay. He was denied. Two years later, Straw asked the Bush Administration to explain the pictures of inmates apparently being tortured that had been quietly making their way around the world.
(Ibid) The shocking revelation of these images of atrocities committed by U. S. troops at Abu Ghraib sickened many Americans. They were a powerful reminder of why there are limits on Executive power, and checks and balances in the Constitution. The Red Cross even tried to push for P. O. W status for the captives at Guantanimo Bay, but to no avail. By this time there were more than 600 inmates from nearly 50 countries in the detention center. More than two dozen inmates had already attempted to commit suicide. In March of 2004, five prisoners who were citizens of the U. K.
were finally turned over to the British Government. The Britons promptly released them to their families on the following day. (Ibid) Did the British know something about them that the U. S. Government did not know? It sure looks that way doesn’t it? Healing the damage caused internationally by the crisis at Guantanimo Bay is what has come to be expected of the President-elect. Standing as an agent of change, and as the face of a newly emerging brand of American idealism, hopefully soon to be marketed around the world, Americans really just want this tragedy to finally be over.
However, the nation of Cuba and other countries in the region shall most likely attempt to continue exploiting the perceived ethical morass of the United States in the eyes of the world. This could only be a potent opportunity for them to re-invent their relationship with their stronger northern neighbor. With the exception of the 35 year military dictatorship of General Fulegencio Batista (1933 until 1958) historically, the United States was never really able to successfully force its own brand of democracy upon Cuba; like it has on Guam, Hawaii (with which we are legally still at war), Puerto Rico, and to a lesser extent with Haiti as well.
Guantanimo Bay has been fixed in the minds of the Cuban People as a glaring example of naked ruthless U. S. imperialism. Cubans have never really gotten over the sting of U. S. colonization in the wake of their historic defeat of a Spanish army that was more that three times their size. The 20th Century was meant to be the dawn of independence for the proud Cuban people. They had spread their courageous guerrilla forces all throughout the island, and armed the entire population. Just like Haiti, they felt that they had a right to claim their place as an independent sovereign nation.
Yet, it was not to be. The Cuban campaign would actually signal the dawn of America’s greater imperialist ambition, in the region and in the rest of the world. The Platt Amendment would only become for Cubans, the resentful icing on the despised cake of ‘Yankee imperialism. ’ The United States continues to pay the Cuban government the fees agreed upon in the 1901 amendment to the Cuban Constitution. Nonetheless, since 1958 Cuba has rejected out of hand these payments upon the lease of what they consider to be their own sovereign territory anyway.
(Foner, 1972) Can George W. Bush and members of his Administration still be found legally liable and held accountable for any unlawful acts disclosed after he leaves office? Perhaps, but the jury appears to still be out on that one. Most of the seemingly extra-legal actions that Bush has taken appear to have been carefully scripted to argue within the parameters of the wartime powers of a U. S. President. However, one thing is clear. In spite of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s 2006 declaration “Impeachment is off of the table!
”(October 2006) no stone seems to have been left unturned, and on two separate occasions in the House of Representatives articles of impeachment have been filed against the President. House Resolution 1258 With great fanfare, on June 16, 2008 Former Congresswoman and Green Party Presidential Candidate Cynthia McKinney issued A Call to Action’ in Support of former Democratic Presidential candidate Congressman Dennis Kucinich for his extraordinary courage in putting forth 35 articles of impeachment against the President of the United States.
McKinney had struck the initial blow before leaving office in December, 2006 6 now she would speak as the proven authority: With great satisfaction I learned of the courageous action taken by Congressman Dennis Kucinich on Monday, June 9th. On that day, on the floor of the U. S. House of Representatives, he rose to introduce [a bill] containing 35 Articles of Impeachment against President George W. Bush. The litany of documented High Crimes and constitutional abuses by the Bush administration took over five hours to recite….
Under House Rule 9, which Representative Kucinich invoked in introducing House Resolution 1258 – “a question of the privileges of the House” – the full House of Representatives was compelled within 48 hours to bring the matter to a vote. Consequently, two days later, on Wednesday June 11th, our Congressional Representatives voted overwhelmingly (by a 251 – 166 margin) to refer the matter to the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Congressman John Conyers.
Kucinich’s Articles of Impeachment effectively lay out the case against a lawless, degenerate regime that places corporate power and profits above the good and welfare of the U. S. Citizenry! (McKinney, 2008) It would appear as if in spite of Speaker Pelosi’s charge, still Bush the Younger was ultimately being cited for a host of High Crimes and Misdemeanors in 35 Articles of impeachment sworn upon him on the floor of the US House of Congress on June 10, 2008. Just for the record, these would include:
Manufacturing a fraudulent case for war, to tearing up the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other binding international treaties to which the U. S. is signatory to failing to provide protective gear to American troops. (Ibid) Pelosi has continued to maintain her belief that there were no crimes committed. Is this just another example of a prominent political leader who is just simply out of touch? Or perhaps there something that Madame Speaker knows about the wartime powers of a President that we do not?
Oddly enough, if we were starting to believe that this was an Administration that was truly in touch with the pulse of the American people, we needed only to wait just one day before the Fourth of July to be knocked back into reality. In an interview on Bloomberg Television’s ‘Conversations with Judy Woodruff’, Secretary of State Condi Rice seemed to express what has appeared at times to be the rather skewered vision of the Bush Administration. She was “proud” she said, speaking of America’s decision to invade Iraq.
Then, during the Beijing Olympics seven weeks later, she responded to Russia’s invasion of neighboring Georgia by intimating that thuggishly attacking a sovereign nation was not how “things are supposed to done in the 21st Century”. (CNN, 2008) Nonetheless, for the moment, she still went on to maintain that invading Iraq in 2002 was the absolute right thing to do. Then, as if setting a new low standard, Rice was adamant that the world is not more dangerous than it was when Bush the Younger took office.
One must wonder just how comforting all of this must have sounded: We’re now beginning to see that perhaps it’s not so popular to be a suicide bomber she said. We’re beginning to see that perhaps people are questioning whether Osama Bin Laden ought to really be the face of Islam. Rice told Woodruff. 7 The issue of Guantanimo Bay is sure to be heavily scrutinized and debated in the coming months. It is most likely that some form of an independent Truth and Reconciliation commission will be in the works, granting immunity to all who would dare to testify.
Nonetheless, once more Kucinich and McKinney had dutifully pushed the progressive mandate; just for the record. Who is to say that a more contentious effort may not be in the works? The case of abuse at Guantanimo Bay centers upon enemy combatants facing years of imprisonment without trial, the denial of habeas corpus to the detainees; and the attempt to try these men under a military tribunal. Bush the Younger may have lost the battle in the court of law. However, what should be most disconcerting is the president that he established.
It is about just how far the limits of power may be stretched before the nation heads foot-long into something that would remind us of the fascism over there that we were so often told not to worry about. But, then again, that was during the Age of Innocence; a time that is for us no more. There are ghosts in Guantanimo Bay. There are the ghosts of The Revolution in 1959 and the ghosts of Marti’s Revolution in 1895. There is the ghost of Che Guevara, and the ghosts of Jose Marti and Maceo; and all that they meant to the Cuban people. There are the ghosts of President McKinley and F.
D. R. during the time of the Platt Amendment, and of J. F. K. during the Bay of Pigs. However, in Cuba these spirits do not simply dwell in a political vacuum. Like Haiti, there are ghost that remind the people of incontestable valor in the face of unbelievable odds, and there are ghost retribution, betrayal, and colonial mandates turned inside out like. The future of U. S. Cuban relations may very well depend upon just how active and how acrimonious some of these ghosts really are in the lives of the people in both Cuba and the United States.
To the Cuban people, these are the ghost that either vanquished or re-affirmed their living hopes and aspirations. So it is that one could easily expect them to be familiar to most of the people; for most Americans however, these where only the ghosts of legend, rumored to have fought with America in the bygone days of the Age of Innocence. What will the political situation eventually look like under a new Administration? The possibilities are almost limitless. It may well be that the future of American foreign relations will be shaped and determined in the course of deciding just what to do about Guantanimo Bay?
Cuba has never conceded this portion of their land. Is it possible that the Guantanimo Bay will be returned back to the island nation? Why not? In 1997 Hong Kong was returned to China by the British. In 1999 Portugal returned the Macau Island to China as well. In January 2000 the Panama Canal was returned to Panama. Once again the American people have begun to learn the same lesson which sadly enough, has been taught to them generation after generation over an over again; we cannot fight unjust wars abroad and simply expect to have peace and harmony at home. End Notes
1 The Pratt Amendment was a set of rules attached to the Cuban Constitution governing the future of relations between Cuba and the United States. 2 On December 8, 2006 3 On January 16, 2002 The United Nations High Commission ruled that prisoners at Guantanimo were Prisoners of War subject to the guidelines of the Geneva Convention. 4 In a 5-3 ruling on Friday, June 6 2006 the United States Supreme Court rejected the Presidents claim of special wartime powers which allow for military tribunals of the Guantanimo detainees. 5 See Christian Amonpour’s documentary ‘Scream Bloody Murder.
’ 6 Cynthia McKinney entered Articles of Impeachment into the Congressional Record on December 8, 2006 7 CNN Rice: Russia becoming isolated irrelevant September 19. 2008 Works Cited Arendt, Hannah. The origins of totalitarianism. Harvest Books. 1973 Benjamin, Daniel. The Washington Post. 5 Myths about rendition (and that new movie) October, 20, 2007. Retrieved Online At:<http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp- dyn/content/article/2007/10/19/AR2007101900835. html> Chomsky, Noam. Hegemony or survival: America’s quest for global dominance. Henry Holt and Company Fletcher, Laurel.
Eric Stover with Stephen Paul Smith et at. Guantanimo and its aftermath. u. s. detention and interrogation practices and their impact on former detainees. Human Rights Center. University of California Berkley in partnership with Center for Constitutional Rights. November 2008 Sec 2:2 Franklin, Jane. History Network News. How did guantanimo become a prison? April 11, 2005 http://hnn. us/articles/11000. html Foner, Philip S. The Spanish-cuban-american war and the birth of american imperialism. Monthly Review Press. January 1, 1972 p3, 210 Grey, Steven. Frontline World. Extraordinary the detainees speak.
November 6, 2007. Video archive on line at: <http://. www. pbs. org/frontlineworld/stories/rendition701/video/main. html> Ratner, Michael & Eilen Ray, Anthony Lewis. Guantanimo: what the world should know. Chelsea Green Publishing. 2004 McKinney, Cynthia. The black agenda report. A call to action in support of kucinich’s articles of impeachment against bush. June 18. 2008 Woodruff, Judy. Conversations with judy woodruff. Interview with condi rice. bloomberg Television. July 3, 2008. Retrieved at: <http://www. bloomberg. com/apps/news? pid=20601087&sid=aIefxPxr_Gw8&refer=worldwide>Sample Essay of Edusson.com