It’s been three years since the United States started to take custody of so-called “enemy combatants” as part of the invasion of Afghanistan and later Iraq. Such inmates — carefully classified not as soldiers, but as “enemy combatants” to circumvent the Geneva Convention — are being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and for three years the public has had virtually no access to information of what is going on inside the walls of the camp.
Mounting evidence has been suggesting they face harsh conditions at best and torture at worst. Without access, though, it is hard to say, and the Pentagon adamantly claims conditions are acceptable.
But the way the Pentagon and other government organizations portray what is supposedly going on in the camp raises more questions than it answers.
Tuesday, for example, the Pentagon responded to reports by the British paper The Guardian, which reported dozens of inmates had attempted suicide. The Pentagon’s version is that the incidents did occur, but had not been genuine suicide attempts. The Pentagon states the 23 prisoners had staged a “mass protest” in 2003 by attempting to strangle themselves.
The government is playing word games. While the Pentagon deemed the cases unworthy of reporting to the general public (the question is raised whether such negligence had anything to do with the presidential election), the actions reportedly committed by the inmates should be taken seriously.
In the end, it does not matter if the inmates committed what the Pentagon labeled “self-harm incidents” in order to injure themselves but not to commit suicide.
Either action suggests that the conditions are deemed so harsh by the inmates that they chose this method of protest. It’s time to stop focusing on semantics and find out what is really going on.
If there are indeed human rights violations occurring, a fact that many former inmates and other witnesses assert, this is not a problem that will go away. Rather, it has the potential of being a blemish on America’s legacy that will grow in magnitude and consequence as time goes on.