Will Guantanamo stay the forever prison?

Debra Sweet | February 2, 2021

Is the torture colony established by the U.S. in 2002 a forever prison? Three U.S. presidents said: "Yes, these are the worst of the worst;" "No - that's not who we are;" and "Hell yes...let's build more Guantanamos." Until some decisive action is taken to close it, the prison at Guantanamo Bay is there as a monument to what the U.S. actually stands for.

What Biden will do is not clear, but here's what some people working for justice are saying:

Seven men formerly imprisoned at Guantanamo wrote an open letter to Biden published in The New York Review of Books on January 29. They call for the idea of "forever prisoners" to be rescinded, an end to the Military Commissions set up by Bush, expedited repatriation and changes in how prisoners are released:

"Many of us were abducted from our homes, in front of our families, and sold for bounties to the US by nations that cared little for the rule of law. We were rendered to countries where we were physically and psychologically tortured in addition to suffering racial and religious discrimination in US custody—even before we arrived at Guantánamo.
Some of us had children who were born in our absence and grew up without fathers. Others experienced the pain of learning that our close relatives died back home waiting in vain for news of our return. Waiting in vain for justice.
Most of the prisoners currently or presently detained at Guantánamo have never been to the United States. This means that our image of your country has been shaped by our experiences at Guantánamo—in other words, we have only been witnesses to its dark side." Read more....

The psychologist Roy Eidelson, an opponent of Guantanamo for years, is adamant that psychologists should lead the call to close Guantánamo:

"As an American psychologist, I recognize that my profession should be among the most vocal in supporting this humanitarian call. There are three compelling reasons why. First, the ugly, unwelcome truth is that psychologists--and other healthcare professionals--were key participants in designing and implementing the brutal 'war on terror' detention and interrogation operations that have caused so much grievous harm. According to a Senate report, for example, a military psychologist and psychiatrist stationed at Guantánamo during its first year of operation recommended that 'all aspects of the environment should enhance capture shock, dislocate expectations, foster dependence, and support exploitation to the fullest extent possible.'

Likewise, according to a memo from the Department of Justice, 'close observation' by psychologists and physicians was required whenever waterboarding and other torturous 'enhanced interrogation techniques' were employed at the CIA’s infamous black sites. In short, Guantánamo is a potent symbol of a shameful catalog of abuses and torture from which psychologists cannot hide, one that includes sleep deprivation, extended isolation, stress positions, sensory bombardment, forced nudity, freezing temperatures, sexual and cultural humiliation, and confinement in coffin-like boxes." Read more....

Next month, Mohammed Slahi's story, Guantanamo Diary, will debut as the film The Mauritanian with Jodie Foster as Slahi's attorney Nancy Hollander. Other cast members are Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Here is information on writing to the prisoners provided by CloseGuantanamo.org:

If you are an Arabic speaker, or speak any other languages spoken by the prisoners besides English, feel free to write in those languages. Do please note that any messages that can be construed as political should be avoided, as they may lead to the letters not making it past the Pentagon’s censors. Be aware, though, that your messages may not get through anyway — but please don’t let that put you off.

When writing to the prisoners please ensure you include their full name and ISN (internment serial number) below (these are the numbers before their names):

>> List of Current Prisoners. 40 men are still held, and five of these men were recommended for release by high-level governmental review processes under President Obama, decisions that Donald Trump chose to ignore after taking office in January 2017. A sixth man was approved for release towards the end of the Trump presidency.

Please address all letters to:
Detainee Name
Detainee ISN
U.S. Naval Station
Guantánamo Bay
Washington, D.C. 20355
United States of America
Please also include a return address on the envelope.

Debra Sweet, Director, World Can't Wait
Stephanie Rugoff, Coordinator, WeAreNotYourSoldiers.org

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.