There reaches a certain point in an individual’s life when a veil of indifference is tugged down over the eyes. Just the knowledge that children half a world away clench their grumbling stomachs like wet dough is no longer cause enough to care. Evil becomes a largely impersonal entity – a fate that befalls nameless men and women in nameless places. I don’t know a single soul who turns on Channel Nine news in the evening and cringes so hard at the report that they are rendered inconsolable from the trauma of watching it. It is natural to grow accustomed to certain cruelties, and thus, naturally, develop a sort of apathy as we watch events tragically unfold. This is the way of man and his predecessors and posterity. Well, my friend, I raise you one: Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. If there ever was an exception to our societal disinterest, this is it.
Established in 2002, Guantanamo Bay was a hallmark of President Bush’s war on terrorism – a tangible element of his largely idealized mission. The detention center would house those who committed war crimes against the United States – enemies of not just the government, but the people – with the purpose of not just capital punishment, but eliciting intelligence.
It’s difficult to say if GITMO ever achieved its purpose as a prison (the purpose being rehabilitation) considering the severe human rights violations and immoral practices that still take place there today. The Central Intelligence Agency actively practices, what they charmingly call “enhanced interrogation techniques,” otherwise referred to as torture by anyone with a sane grip on connotative language. This violent method of interrogation was intended to force detainees to confess their guilt, rat out their coconspirators , or with a more sadistic intent , simply for the entertainment of GITMO’s guards. What is worse, perhaps, is how their answers are treated as incriminating evidence, despite the fact that they were horrifically coerced to admit their guilt. In any other situation, we’d treat that as a violation of the sixth amendment. But then again, the government doesn’t exactly have an excellent track record when it comes to keeping promises, nevertheless abiding by its own laws.
I introduce you now to Latif Nasser, investigative journalist and host of the podcast The Other Latif. The media journal is centered around the story of Abdul Latif Nasir, Nasser’s namesake. Nasser accidentally discovered his existence through a tweet by Abdul Latif’s attorney, begging then-President Obama to rectify a critically important clerical issue in Nasir’s file. The catch? Abdul Latif Nasir is Detainee #244 at Guantanamo Bay, held as a prisoner of war and charged with heavy involvement in radical jihadist groups in the Middle East. What follows is a riveting expose within a collection of interviews, guest speakers, and narration by Latif Nasser. Episode after episode, listeners hear from expert guest speakers: Nasir’s attorney, Senior CIA Officer Gary Bernsten, and a multitude of other professionals related to Nasir’s case. These individuals tell the stories of GITMO detainees and the grisly conditions they’ve faced. Listening to these personal recounts is like watching firemen dragging a body from a burning building, but in this case, that corpse is the United States – a country built upon the principle of fair justice. There is absolutely nothing democratic about what takes place in Guantanamo Bay.
Among other typical torture techniques, according to Nasser’s guest speakers and research, the detainees are also subjected to severe light and sound exposure, waterboarding, threats of harm to their family, sexual assault, etc. At one point an unnamed speaker on Nasser’s podcast poses the question, “Would you rather listen to Barney’s ‘I love you’ at a deafening volume for two weeks straight or take a razor blade to your genitals?” Nasser stutters, unsure of how to answer such an impossible question. “I suppose I’d take the music,” he timidly answers. His guest immediately shoots back, “That’s the wrong answer. Physical torture, no matter how terrible it may be, has a definite end. Psychological torture, on the other hand, never leaves you.” Allegedly, the prisoners subjected to psychological torture at GITMO would hear voices long after the music had ended, a long term side effect of the sound exposure. If these men weren’t avid enemies of the American Government before, it’s a safe bet to say they absolutely are now.
So no, Guantanamo Bay Detention Center never achieved its goals as a prison, but it most certainly did as a torture den. But what was the cost? Who are we then, to speak of democracy or justice like it means anything, when mere miles off the coastline of Florida, sixteen-year-olds are being subjected to torture? Yes, even minors are not immune to the cruel hand of “due process” at GITMO. Whatever America was built upon, whatever righteousness or liberty or good intention, I can say with certainty it was never meant to be this. Listen to Latif Nasser’s The Other Latif and ask yourself the question: “Is this justice?” I’m fairly certain that you will not like the answer.