Guantanamo: Obstructing Justice, When Justice Is Nowhere to be Found

When I was a freshman in college, I was given the once-in-an-American-lifetime chance of visiting Cuba on a cultural exchange tour with my choir. Between the art, the food and the music, I spent the entire week entranced by the vividness of Cuban life. But I will also never forget being invited into the home of a local Havana woman to take part in a Santeria ritual. I was touched by how the Cuban people could welcome Americans into their lives, while also despising the practices of our government.

The cloud that the U.S.'s maligned reputation had cast over our trip was especially palpable when we traveled around the city of Guantanamo. Here was a structure, a prison, which stood to represent American-branded justice, yet its very existence went against everything our country stood for: the right to a fair trial, the notion of innocent until proven guilty, and protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Since its inception, Guantanamo has sparked outcry from human rights activists, not only because it denies the detainees any right to a fair trial, but also because of the use of torture that is purported to be widespread in the prison. As if these detainees didn't have all conditions set against them already, now a Guantanamo judge who has a history of, gasp, enforcing correct protocol set by the rules of the Military Commission Act, has been abruptly relieved of further duties. Army Col. Peter Brownback's removal conveniently coincides with a new set of charges brought against multiple defendants.

Brownback had caused a stir in legal proceedings twice, when he tried to call out procedural abuses by the prosecution in order to be fair to the defendants. Seeing as how a top DoD official was quoted as having said, "We can't have acquittals," I guess we are to assume that the Pentagon did not appreciate Brownback's attempts to turn Dick Cheney's show trials into some form of a fair and balanced legal process.

The fact that a judge can be dismissed for adhering too closely to the protocol of a set of bogus legal procedures shows just how much the Patriot Act has manipulated this country's brand of justice. The detainees in Guantanamo are real people whose lives have been changed forever, and the Pentagon wants to use their trials to make some political point about our government's ability to catch terrorists. If the Pentagon is so confident in the guilt of the detainees, why would they go to such great lengths to assure these men are convicted?

Liberty is a fundamental value in the American landscape; it is why the founders of this country insisted on inserting a Bill of Rights into our Constitution. I would like to, one day, be able to travel abroad and not have to excuse the behavior of my government to everyone I meet. Closing Guantanamo is essential to restoring our international reputation as a country that values the individual liberties of all people.

Tags: Guantanamo, human rights, torture, War Against Terrorism (all tags)

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