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The Gitmo I Didn't See

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Photo: Don Vansant)

I am haunted by the other Gitmo. The one I did not see. The hidden one.

I just returned from a prison where only the detainees, a judge, prosecutors, defense lawyers, witnesses, a lottery selected press pool, a lottery selected group of NGOs, and 5 lottery selected people like me--close family members of those nearly 3000 people were killed on September 11th, 2001--can observe the so-called trial of the century.

The name of the prison is Guantanamo, but we all know it as Gitmo.

Gitmo is really two places.

The one I saw is seemingly a civilized, orderly courtroom where the pretrial hearings of the 5 men accused of masterminding the events of 9/11 take place.

But from the arraignment on May 5, 2012 until now, the defense has been forced to operate under the complete control of the prosecution. Lawyers have limited access to their clients and face rules limiting all materials brought to their meetings. They are forced to argue about these matters in front of the judge, making it impossible to develop a smooth client-attorney relationship. Material is removed from the prisoners' cells without notice to either prisoner or attorney, listening devices have been discovered in rooms where attorneys and clients meet.

During the course of hearings, unauthorized people can listen in on the hearings from remote spots outside of Gitmo and intervene to stop the procedures. Gitmo is a place where only the privileged few can see what the whole world should be able to see. 

If 9/11 changed the world as we have been told endlessly, the the whole world has the right to see this process.

I am haunted by the other Gitmo. The one I did not see. The hidden Gitmo.

In that place over 100 men are on a hunger strike, and many of them are strapped into chairs and force-fed through tubes inserted into their noses to their stomachs.

I was shown the chair in which this occurs and asked by the marine showing me it “Isn’t that a comfortable looking chair?”

In that other prison, there are  detainees who have been cleared of all charges and declared eligible for release but who are still there because politicians argue about where to send them.

In that other Gitmo there are many men who are being held indefinitely, in a limbo more like a hell.

We, the American people were told repeatedly after that day in September that 'they' hate us for our values.

And I ask:

Are these our values?

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