Guantanamo: The U.S.’s Very Own Concentration Camp

At a time when the U.S. pretends to be a beacon of freedom and liberty to the world, one would expect that Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp – a symbol of blatant repression — would not exist. It logically would be seen as an anathema the U.S. would want to keep hidden. Instead, the U.S. flaunts it like a teenager showing off his muscles.

Why did the U.S. leadership decide to build it in Cuba in the first place? What kind of mentality did it take for Cheney, George Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Ashcroft, and others to sit down and decide to construct a torture chamber out of a former military base?

If the question is approached from a psychological point of view, from a military standpoint, and as a law enforcement question, none of these frameworks explain the continued phenomenon. When Obama ran for office, shutting down Guantanamo was one of the myriad broken promises made by the president. Even before his election, he was disgusted with the obvious failures of this prison camp. As a nation all we could do with Bush’s atrocities was to shake our heads in disbelief; yet, Obama continues on the same path as his predecessor.

Although Americans have prided themselves in promoting and touting democracy and a justice system based upon constitutional principles, our country remains silent in the face of a prison camp.

A prison camp just doesn’t emerge out of nowhere on a particular day; nor does it arise from the destruction of buildings by a terrorist group. On the contrary, even though there could be military retaliation for a strike on a country’s home soil, a prison camp requires much more. Indeed, it is necessary for a people, whether they be citizens or not, to be slowly inculcated with a mentality that imprisoning people in order to ensure national security and the ability to gather intelligence is acceptable legal and moral behavior. It also helps to de-humanize them as “enemy combatants” rather than as suspects or human beings.

Guantanamo is not authorized by the constitution of this country. The foundation upon which this country is based, its belief in its legal processes, including due process, as well as our very basic moral dignity, have been thrown out the window. The existence of a Guantanamo renders torture and atrocities as so commonplace as to go unnoticed and make it an approved national policy.

The daily reality of Guantanamo is easy to ignore. It lies off the coast of the U.S. and remains, basically, out of sight. We hear no news from or about the camp. It is located inside a closed and secured naval military institution, inside another country. Freedom of the press is non-existent in such a concentration camp. It not only has a justice system of its own, outside the purview of the U.S. legal system, it adheres to a justice system clearly incompatible with U.S. law. The existence of Guantanamo, and its use of violence and torture as  legitimate instruments of interrogation, is demonstrated by the fact that the nationally syndicated television show, NCIS [10-18-11], has its fearless hero threaten a potential suspect by suggesting that she would send the man to Guantanamo for questioning if he didn’t confess to the crime.

For a concentration camp to exist the general population must become accustomed gradually to the torture of their own people at home on their own territory. This is accomplished by incarcerating hundreds of thousands of people into ad-seg units, Security Housing and Control Management units throughout the country. Justice becomes a different word with a different meaning to Afro-American and Hispanic families constantly under threat from police forces and a prison system that incarcerates them first and foremost. Law and Order becomes the euphemistic words for racism and injustice.

A concentration camp allows for this country’s leaders to kill, isolate, and maim at will. In the process they also serve, as all brutal prisons do, to quell angry citizens who might threaten the Pentagon’s privileged status.

The camp’s existence also demonstrates to the world that the U.S. can intimidate, murder and torture anyone, anywhere, with impunity. It is the essence of arrogance and blatant lawlessness that elevates the hypocrisy of the U.S. government to its highest level.

The ultimate reason for this symbol of violence and lawlessness is that it underscores our military dominance and superiority over the world’s people. It establishes the U.S. as the meanest nation in the world where none dare oppose us because nobody could be as vicious and cruel as we are. There is no pretense at truth or justice involved here; rather, it is the exercise of raw power stripped to its most basic core. Granted murder and slaughter take place all over the world, but Guantanamo says to everyone:  You want bad, we’ll show you bad.

Is it part of the American psyche? Is it based on a psychotic dominance personality and bureaucracy? Torture, renditions, and murder are not info-gathering techniques; they are a dominance factor whether they reside in a Security Housing Unit or Guantanamo. To the extent this camp exists as a manifestation of a psychotic military mentality, it is time for the American people to regain control over our armed forces.

Is it too late to ask: When will we shut down the concentration camp at Guantanamo? This camp is to the American people what concentration camps were to the German people. How long will we allow this camp to define our national character as so contemptible? For as long as Guantanamo exists, this country will rank with Nazi Germany and pre-apartheid South Africa as one of the most heartless and lawless regimes in the history of mankind.

Luke Hiken is an attorney who has engaged in the practice of criminal, military, immigration, and appellate law. Marti Hiken is the director of Progressive Avenues. She is the former associate director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and former chair of the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force. Read other articles by Marti Hiken and Luke Hiken, or visit Marti Hiken and Luke Hiken's website.