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Over thousands of years systems of justice have been painstakingly honed to deliver justice ever more equitably. The villain is intended to be deservedly punished by regulated and humane systems to discourage further offence and to register society’s displeasure. The innocent are intended to be reassured that wrong-doing is not ignored, accepted or routine. Systems that secure justice and fairness encourage trust in each other and trust in a stable future that fosters peace and prosperity.
In 2001 a group of suicidal young men flew planes into US buildings acting out fantasies about religious conflict in which it is thought they believed their own obsessive cult could prevail through cataclysmic violence. We shall never know what they thought would ensue but the consequences that resulted were not inevitable. The ‘lame duck’ presidency, (it’s always the weakest who are most unpredictable and dangerous), aiming to reassert authority and control, made extravagant plans for conquests around parts of the Muslim world which they blamed indiscriminately for their humiliation. Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq followed, with all the attendant pain, animosity, mistrust and wholesale injustice. Peace and normality were eclipsed.
As part of a PR blame game in Afghanistan a vindictive trawl for ‘foreign Muslims’, with or without any hint of association with anything radical, fundamentalist or criminal, netted overwhelmingly innocent men. Governments, secret services and the military colluded and granted themselves sweeping powers to visit medieval barbarism upon anyone captured as if they had personally sadistically slaughtered cherished sweethearts. In the hysterical scramble for retribution and to counter humiliation, evidence was dispensable as just a pesky hindrance. Some may think this applied to the entire enterprise.
For effective justice to function there can be neither detention without evidence nor punishment without trial. Discarding these basic rules opened the floodgates for lawlessness, sadism, injustice, mistrust, antagonism and chaos. This was not accidental since the US government, with extensive and widespread international collusion, embarked on measures deliberately intended to put its actions beyond the scrutiny of law. Government PR vicariously whipped up hatred, mobilising mob hysteria vilifying normal, peaceful people and cultures; exciting calls for unforgiving retribution, often against entirely innocent unsuspecting victims. Gratuitous barbaric treatment of those who should otherwise be our friends and supporters, of those deploring violence and who intuitively condemn extremism in all its manifestations, is illogical and immoral. To brutalize the innocent and give them cause for hatred, distrust, and for genuine grievance, is absurd and brainless.
If anyone doubts that the entire process was a deliberate fraud they have only to look at available evidence. Almost 800 victims were kidnapped and rendered to Guantanamo, many entirely unconnected to Afghanistan and the “battlefield”, some seized in diverse places in Europe or Africa. An overwhelming proportion of those seized and abused have simply been ‘let go’. Of those remaining most have been cleared, through multi-agency review and scrutiny, for immediate release since 2007. A handful of ‘show trials’ by kangaroo court have been staged or are pending. Evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the victims, after 12 years’ work, is a scarce as hens’ teeth.
Once lawlessness is institutionalised and established, which Guantanamo and all its attendant prisons, procedures, kidnap, torture and rendition is, then it can become increasingly difficult to unwind and reverse. Since there is no justification for institutionalised lawlessness in the first place where should the establishment look for the rationale to end it? There was a co-ordinated establishment PR effort to sell injustice and lawlessness as reasonable and justified; but can there be a contra- PR exercise to repudiate it? Could it be possible authority would admit it was unjust, unlawful and unreasonable all along? Since it wasn’t an evidence based process how can there be judicial process to end it? Surely there can be no publicly available evidence or trials?
Are those who perpetrated this fraud likely to put their hands up and admit their guilt? I think not. The most likely scenario is that the guilty will melt away through retirement, reassignment or death. Many will protest ignorance or of having been themselves victims of deception. Some will profess their good intent. No one will admit bad faith or guilt. The only thing on trial is justice itself. What we are witnessing is the predictable scenario of no one being responsible or accountable and the way being paved for ambiguous decline. Governments will make payouts to some victims without admitting guilt whilst concealing the clandestine illegality and sadism of those responsible. Colluding secret services with their own back channels of communication, open 24/7/365, will pull strings to manage their own obscurity whilst professing to act on orders for our own protection.
For those who believe in fairness and justice, peace and normality Guantanamo and its officially sanctioned lawless barbarity is a serious challenge. That this appalling atrocity occurred at all is a threat to all civilised values that are a basic foundation to peace, harmony and friendly relations. Worse is that it was the work of supposed civilised democracies like the UK and USA, and many other states worldwide, both democracies, aspiring democracies and stable states professing high standards of civilisation and a commitment to justice and human rights. States involved in the writing of the Human Rights Act and its attendant clauses of international justice are held up to the world as beacons and shining examples of high principles and good practice. Their emissaries may believe this themselves as they attempt to persuade others, not yet convinced, of our virtues and the benefits of good practice. How can states guilty of routine torture, of indefinite detention of the innocent without trial, of cover up and collusion, possibly hold their head up and claim to set example to others?
Shaker Aamer was an innocent fall-guy, so convinced of the importance of helping those less fortunate that he uprooted his family and travelled half-way round the world to do charitable work in a land impoverished by years of war. He was involved in building schools and digging wells, projects to aid Afghanistan when few others wanted to know. For him merely putting money in the collection on Fridays was insufficient. He abhors violence which he believes promotes more violence. He was cleared for release in 2007 but remains imprisoned, it is believed because he holds information authority prefers not made public. There were others in Afghanistan for personal motives of higher or lesser order. Some were never in Afghanistan. Overwhelmingly those arbitrarily rounded up and tortured opposed the 9/11 attacks and fanatical precepts. Many hundreds were simply let go, some financially compensated by complicit governments. The US government doesn’t admit that anyone seized was innocent, merely “no longer a threat.” It’s believed governments and secret services dawdle deliberately hoping public interest will atrophy. They are largely assisted by mainstream news media. Authorities are using every stratagem available to cover tracks, conceal truths and protect the anonymity of perpetrators and those complicit. All around the world the clanging of gates frustrating lawful enquiry echo. In 30 years’ time documentary evidence may surface enabling historians to determine complicity in deceit and medieval injustice. Victims will already be partially aware of who is responsible. The course of peace and justice has been irreparably set back for many years and the honesty and integrity of politicians and political systems will forever remain in doubt. International relations are impeded and a sense of injustice will linger so long as no effective action is taken to redress the criminal illegality and injustice.
Guantanamo and its attendant anarchy was a malicious hoax perpetrated on law-abiding citizens worldwide. It was a systematic cynical perversion betraying everything that is decent and just for which millions have worked tirelessly for hundreds of years. It was a fundamental betrayal of trust executed deliberately in bad faith using language calculated to bamboozle the public at large. Phrases like “the worst of the worst” were applied indiscriminately to the innocent, the sick, the young and the old, to charity workers and others in order to persuade and confuse. It may be melodramatic to draw parallels with the Third Reich but the tactics were not dissimilar. In this instance however opposition is muted and official closed ranks are indicative of collusion. Indiscriminate hatred of Islam is a by-product which threatens a kind of two-tier rationality, one for us and another for them. Yet all the Muslims I know would never become radicalized by such arbitrary provocation. Many are now openly fearful of being spied on by bigoted authority but take such discrimination calmly with fortitude.
In an ideal scenario there should be admissions of guilt and complicity. The torture camps and procedures could be speedily terminated. The guilty could be treated according to the law and the rest of us could move on. If this seems unlikely then maybe some middle way might be found so that victims could feel that injustices were addressed and systems were put in place preventing repetition. Those falsely imprisoned and tortured to appease the sense of humiliation, felt by those in positions of authority and trust after the outrageous attacks of 9/11, could be quickly released and rehabilitated; with appropriate consideration for the debilitations and deprivations suffered. The greater prize is not the retribution, though justly deserved, but that those responsible be exposed and prevented from any further involvement and access that might expose the rest of us to illegal and barbaric conspiracies. Also that those outrageously mistreated be restored to their rightful place as constructive and useful members of society. In an ideal world those responsible would be answerable for their criminality and severely punished but practicality suggests the focus ought to be on avoiding repetition and affording such satisfaction as feasible to victims.
That this has been done so openly without serious repercussions for the perpetrators raises the possibility there may yet be repeat offences. This particularly should worry us all. Recent revelations by Wikileaks and Edward Snowdon illustrate just how closely we are all monitored. The old adage, “if you have done nothing wrong there is nothing to fear”, rings particularly hollow after Guantanamo. Who knows for certain what deluded authority might initiate in future? Could the snooping mechanism recently exposed be put to use in the service of some future perverted ‘security’ campaign? Without oversight and the rule of law the’ surveillance state’ is a sinister monster capable of previously unimagined aberrations. If Guantanamo and all it stands for is not repudiated then it will remain on the shelf as a weapon in the arsenal of future deviant authorities. Closing the camp and releasing prisoners cannot be the end of the process.
“We should cease to talk about vague ... and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist.Noel Hamel
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”