Currently viewing the tag: "Guantanamo"

The US Naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, GTMO, has been an integral part of American politics and policy for more than a century. Its foundation was laid in 1903, when the US exacted a lease with Cuba granting Cuba total sovereignty over the territory, but the US total jurisdiction – creating a “legal black hole” and laboratory for addressing unprecedented threats. The unique qualities of the site – its legal ambiguity, political isolation and geographic proximity, and architectures of confinement – have been used and reused to detain people who fall between the boundaries of legal protections and political imperatives. Its detention infrastructure was laid long before 9-11: for suspected enemy spies in the Cold War; for over 20,000 Haitian refugees subject to the first mass screening for HIV; for more than 30,000 Cuban rafters rescued at sea held while President Clinton renegotiated immigration laws. Today, facilities for new uses are now being constructed. The 1903 lease with Cuba grants the US total jurisdiction over the bay until both countries agree to end the arrangement. For better or for worse, then, GTMO is open and available for any future administration to use – in the War on Terror or otherwise. How did we get here? What should happen next?

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Discussions among the Coalition have suggested that memorials for human rights can seek to build a heritage of conscience: Such heritage would be based on a collective memory of moral acts and choices, of cruelty, compassion, and courage. Memorials could offer a space for the ongoing interrogation of the nature of those choices, the reasons for them, and what they suggest for the future. In other words, human rights memorials can develop a heritage of doing rather than being – an identity based in action. Not who we were in the past and who we are today, but what we did do in the past and what we want to do today.

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