Remembering James Baldwin
Chanukah in Jerusalem

Guantanamo Bay: Five Years of Injustice

For over five years, the United States has held hundreds of people at Guantanamo Bay. The system for legal recourse has been criticized by human rights activists and political leaders around the world. Monday's Boston Globe has an exceptionally moving opinion piece from Sabin Willett, a lawyer representing prisoners in Guantanamo. The prisoner Willett writes about, whom he calls "Joseph," is not guilty of any crime, even by the standards of the military court who tried him: "The military told him in 2002 he was innocent. Again in 2003. Again in 2006."

Unsurprisingly, Joseph has given up hope of ever being released.

"I also have something important to tell you," Joseph said. "About my wife."

What came next was deeply personal. (It is why I use "Joseph," a pseudonym for this good husband.) A Muslim, he does not like to speak to me of such personal things. But he had no choice.


"I want you to tell her that it is time for her ... to move on."

"You mean . . .?"

"Yes. I will never leave Guantanamo."

His affect was flat, his voice soft. He looked up only once, when he said to me, urgently, "She must understand I am not abandoning her. That I love her. But she must move on with her life. She is getting older."

At Daily Kos, teacherken offers a passionate analysis of Willett's piece.

We will hear voices that justify not responding to Joseph's simple request.  We will hear yet again the doctrine of 'state secrets" (although in my many years of reading the Constitution I have yet to encounter that phrase).  Those of us who challenge actions that are so much an unfortunate part of this administration will yet again be accused of being anti-American or merely seeking partisan political advantage.

I acknowledge it.  I am guilty.  I hate what America has become under this administration, and scream, with Langston Hughes, "Let America be America again."  And I absolutely seek the "partisan" advantage of human rights, of being on the political side of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider this week whether "the appeal of Guantanamo prisoners who say a 2006 law unconstitutionally denies them a meaningful way to challenge in court their detention at the U.S. Naval Base on Cuba." Given that even detainees like Joseph, who under this system are held indefinitely even when proven innocent, can there be any doubt?

Jessica Bennett is the Blog Editor of Beacon Broadside. December is Human Rights Month, a good time to read or re-read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.