Happy Birthday, Anne Frank
Today is the Anniversary of Anne Frank's birth, which was kind of the last straw for me. I have been listening to NPR, as I do all too often, and following recent events at Guantanamo Bay prison, where 3 people have abandoned all hope and killed themselves.
“The Nuremberg Defense” is generally characterized as “I was just following orders”, when people refer to “the Nuremberg defense” today, thats what they mean. But in reading the transcripts from the tribunal you find that the Nazi defendants carried out their master race policies under the belief that Germans were entitled to subjugate, dominate, and exterminate other races and peoples. At least one of the defendants was quoted as saying that no one ever said that what they were doing was wrong.
On the anniversary of Anne Frank's birth, our own government is rounding up people of a certain religion and nationality, and taking the position that they are entitled to subjugate, dominate, and exterminate other races and peoples. They insist that there is nothing wrong with what they are doing.
The fact that a handful of Saudi Arabs, working out of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Germany, hijacked 3 plane's in America is somehow being used as an excuse to invade Iraq (go ahead, try to connect those dots) and imprison hundreds of people, without charge, to circumvent our justice system with a trick of geography that keeps them in legal limbo, without legal counsel, without any access to any form of justice indefinetely. And, some how, all of us are going along with it. Too many of us, in any event.
Even in their most desperate hour, with all else is stripped away, all hope gone, their suicides --the thing that most potently demonstrates their shared humanity with us-- is characterized as “an act of aggression”. Dude, suicide is not an act of aggression. It is an act of desperation.
I am a psychology major, and have not doubt (much as I wish I did) of just how inherently detrimental conditions at Guantanamo Prison are. Locking people up for years, absent any system or procedures for challenging their incarceration or proving their innocence; absent any rights; sealed off from all contact with the outside world, legal counsel, family, or representatives from their own faith; traped there, in the knowledge that they can be held indefinetely. There can be no question of the irreperable impact this would have on any human being (what ever anyone may think of them, we may not deny their humanity). The effects are clearly documented and understood by the mental health community (we have a wealth of research and data based on survivors of other concentration camps and holocausts) and yet there is this deafening silence on the part of that very community. The shame of that silence is more than I can bare.
The cells at Gitmo, if you can call them that, are smaller, less protected from the elements, and more humble than the hen yard that Ruby and Ester live in. Proud as I am of my poultry palace, I am horified that anyone, anywhere would consider it an acceptable place to hold a person, even temporarily, let alone for 5 years and counting. I cant imagine anyone being immune to the hopelessness, degridation, and dispare that would come of being trapped in such a place. I can fathom no justification for it.
During the Holly Wars, Afghanistan made a point of treating their prisoners of war humanly. They did this absent any Genivia Convention, UN observers or letters from Amnesty International. They did this not out of bleed-heart liberalism, not even out of an ethic of assuming innocence until guilt was proven. They treated their prisoners with basic human dignity because of how doing so reflected on they themselves, the captors. They held themselves to high standards, and in doing so, held the moral high ground. This policy of humane treatment did not make them weak, or vulnerable, or less effective in their wars. It just meant they stood for something.
I considered whether or not to get up on this soapbox, but there was this news about Gitmo, and there was Margaret Cho on the DVD I was watching last night, saying “If we all got together and had this big, too-much-information, go-there voice, if we just went and did it, that voice would equal power, and that power would equal change, and that change would equal a revolution”
We need that voice, it has to start somewhere: I am using my go-there voice, on this anniversary, to say that what is happening in Guantanamo Bay is wrong. Years from now, when those who conceived and authorized the policies at Guantanamo, in the Patriot Act, and throughout this so-called “War on Terror”, are brought before a tribunal of their own, let none of them be able to claim that no one ever said that what they were doing was wrong.
When I was growing up, one of the great burning questions of history was how “good Germans” could have allowed what was going on during the war to go on. They saw the trains, they knew about the camps, why didn't they do something? We all believed we would have done something. What will we say we did about what was going on during the 'war on terror'? We know about Gitmo, we saw the photos of the torture. What now must we do?
Human Rights Watch
Foreign Prisoners Support Services