4-29: Close Guantanamo

Rebecca Gordon wrote a lengthy article for The Nation magazine. It’s title and subtitle read:

The CIA Waterboarded the Wrong Man 83 Times in 1 Month

None of the allegations against Abu Zubaydeh turned out to be true. That didn’t stop the CIA from torturing him for years.

The entire piece can be found at: http://www.thenation.com/article/the-cia-waterboarded-the-wrong-man-83-times-in-1-month/.

Mostly Gordon focuses on the horrific case of Abu Zubaydeh, but she also has plenty to say about President George W. Bush, his administration, and agencies, particularly the CIA, who carried out the war crimes.

As stated previously in this space, I am 100% in favor of closing the torture hole at Guantanamo Bay. I would go even further and add that we should close the camp, leave the island, and cede the entire territory to Cuba. Any tactical measures that the Navy is performing there now can be done just as easily and proficiently from Florida.

Instead, by its very existence Guantanamo symbolizes America’s hubristic belief that international law does not apply to a superpower. We now have stockpiles of evidence that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld at least knew about the torture and at worst one or all of them approved and maybe even ordered “enhanced techniques” be applied to prisoners.

I can’t even think of torture without getting goosebumps. It is the thing I feared most when I was in Vietnam. I know now that I was wrong, but I couldn’t imagine that the US would perpetrate such atrocities. That’s what made us better than them. Right? Wrong. I guess when it comes to acts of war we are no different than our foes. Think about it. Despite all the nastiness of tyrants and dictators and such over the centuries, the United States is the only country to ever drop an atomic bomb. We are culpable and we are capable.

Dante to American Leaders

Although America does plenty of good around the world, it’s our military presence that is most felt. For every Peace Corps project there is a bombing.

I never liked Dante’s The Prince, supposedly a primer for the powerful among us. In his “text book” the line I despise the most is: “It is better to be feared than to be loved.” So, according to Dante, people such as political/governmental leaders, ultra wealthy captains of industry, maybe even religious leaders fare best in this life when they, in turn, dehumanize/demonize opponents, force downward pressure on wages, and warn of an eternity filled with misery.

We must defy Dante’s tenets. Leaders must lead, of course, that’s what we want them to do. But it is not natural that we fear retribution all the time. Is it not true that “to err is human”? Through the ages the shepherd has been used symbolically in art and literature to represent the kind and gentle leader of his flock. I think the following two-verse poem by William Blake is a healthy counterbalance to Dante’s views.

The Shepherd

How sweet is the Shepherd’s sweet lot, / From the morn to the evening he strays: / He shall follow his sheep all the day / And his tongue shall be filled with praise.

For he hears the lamb’s innocent call / And he hears the ewe’s tender reply, / He is watchful while they are in peace, / For they know when their Shepherd is nigh.

In the end, the ideal leader tends to our needs and “is watchful while ‘we’ are in peace.”



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