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The Guantanamoization of America

Tehran Times | Oct 18 2004

What is the so-called war on terrorism really all about? Well, one thing is certain, it is not what it seems.

The ideologues in the U.S. administration claim it is some kind of battle between freedom and democracy on one side and barbarism and despotism on the other, a sort of battle between good and evil. This comic-book simplification of geopolitics is so patently absurd it hardly warrants a refutation. Yet, for the sake of argument, it should be said that the failure of these so-called defenders of freedom to address the root causes of what they call terrorism, such as hunger, poverty, injustice, occupation, and racism, gives the lie to their fake mission to save the world.

Many Muslims believe the so-called war on terrorism is really a war on Islam, but they are only partly right because that is just one aspect of it. The campaign against terrorism is a war on true Islam, despite all the rhetoric coming out of the West about it only being a campaign against certain intolerant fanatics who claim to be Muslims. U.S. President George W. Bush’s use of the word crusade may be dismissed as a slip of the tongue, yet the evidence proves that is what he meant. U.S. officials’ remarks about revising the school textbooks in the Islamic world by deleting the Islamic teachings they disagree with makes the point loud and clear.

The war on terrorism is also a war on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, indigenous religions, and every other traditional religion and spiritual belief system. It is focused on Islam in order to divert the attention of the followers of other religions from the fact that they are being targeted, too. Islam is also the main religion being targeted because the powers that be see it is as more of a threat than the other religions.

Many people in the global South say the war on terrorism is a war on the people of the Third World. The war on terrorism clearly uses rhetoric that is racist against the people of the Third World, and seizing resources of the Third World is obviously part of the plan. Yet, the scope of this phenomenon is even more far-reaching.

The war on terrorism is also a war on the citizens of the Western world in general and a war on the citizens of the United States in particular. It is a war on civil liberties and personal freedom.

The U.S. Constitution is a prime target of the so-called war on terrorism because it is a legal document protecting civil liberties and personal freedom. The restrictions on civil liberties and personal freedom in Patriot Act I and Patriot Act II are clearly violations of the U.S. Constitution, yet very few U.S. citizens have protested, either because of their fear of “terrorism” or because of their fear of reprisals from their own government.

Fear and disinformation are pillars of the so-called war on terrorism. Places like the Guantanamo detention camp are used to scare people. There is now even a popular saying about the Guantanamo fear factor: “Stay in line or off to Guantanamo you go.”

This is the Guantanamoization of America. And the Guantanamoization of America is one aspect of the Guantanamoization of the world. This is the goal of the so-called war on terrorism.

The Guantanamo detention facility is a bizarre place, more akin to a medieval dungeon than a 21st century prison. U.S. officials have declared that the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Constitution do not apply there. The prisoners, captured after the U.S. military’s invasion of Afghanistan and incarcerated on suspicion of being members of the Taleban or Al-Qaeda, have been classified as non-lawful combatants. Under this pseudo-legal classification, they are not considered to be prisoners of war or ordinary prisoners and hence not protected by international law, the Geneva Conventions, or the U.S. Constitution.

Guantanamo is a legal netherworld. One can be detained there indefinitely without being charged with a crime. How can one describe such a place? Even words like Kafkaesque and Orwellian fail to hit the mark. Does no one see the irony in the fact that self-professed “freedom lovers” in the “free world” have set up a concentration camp to defend their cherished freedoms? Even if the Guantanamo prisoners are guilty of the most heinous crimes, should they be denied due process of law in a civilized society?

It seems that the Guantanamo prisoners are meant to be an example and a warning. Stay in line or off to Guantanamo you go. Is it necessary to establish a police state to combat terrorism? Or is the so-called war on terrorism being used as a means to establish a police state?

Unfortunately, one day U.S. citizens may wake up to find they have become a nation of Niehmollers.

For those not versed in history, Pastor Martin Niehmoller was a Protestant clergyman in Germany during the early days of the Nazi government in the 1930s. He initially supported Hitler but later actively opposed the Nazis. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1937 and sent to the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. Allied forces liberated him at the end of World War II. After the war, Niemoller famously said: “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left to stand up for me.”

The so-called war on terrorism is a war on Islam, a war on all world religions and cultures, a war on the Third World, a war on the citizens of the West, a war on international law, a war on the U.S. Constitution, and a war on civil liberties and personal freedom. The so-called war on terrorism is itself terrorism. It is a war on the people of the world. The so-called war on terrorism, hand in hand with globalization, seems to actually be leading to global Guantanamoization. Is this what we want? Are we merrily going down the primrose path to dystopia? Is anyone paying attention?

It’s time to wake up before we are all very very sorry and have no one but ourselves to blame.