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The Guantanamo Effect: A Constant Reminder of America's Role in Perpetrating a Global War

April 5, 2013 in Blogs

By Mariam Ghani, Chitra Ganesh, Creative Time Reports

The U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay has, over the last 11 years, become much more than a place. In the sphere of U.S. domestic politics, it is an irresolvable problem over which pitched partisan battles have been fought. Its continued existence is a snarl in the larger geopolitical fabric, an irritant that constantly recalls the role of the United States in theorizing and proliferating a state of global war.

At the same time, the camp at Guantanamo and the people imprisoned within it have become bargaining chips used by the United States in structuring its informal state-to-state relationships. For example, in 2005, the United States paid for the construction of a new block of Afghanistan’s Pul-e-Charkhi prison in return for the Afghan government’s agreement to imprison and try detainees transferred from Guantanamo to Afghanistan. Most important, Guantanamo, which originally served the Department of Defense and other government agencies as a “battle lab” where new strategies for the “global war on terror” could be tested, has developed into a set of principles that are now enshrined in U.S. law. This doctrine visibly surfaces in a now-declassified appendix of the U.S. Army Field Manual on Interrogation (rewritten in 2006 to reflect experiments with new methods at Guantanamo), but remains hidden in the classified JTF-GTMO Standard Operating Procedures that have nonetheless influenced detention operations everywhere from Bagram to Abu Ghraib to the Indiana Supermax prison known half-jokingly as “Guantanamo North.” This emergent code of conduct deploys covert and extralegal surveillance, imprisonment, torture and killing to persistently separate and mark out a particular group of people from the rest of humanity. The Guantanamo code has proliferated like a self-replicating virus in various permutations across the globe, ultimately circling back to spread within our own borders through the tandem expansion of drone strikes and surveillance based on “imminent threat” rationales, and extreme isolation programs in domestic prisons.

While specific debates over the territory of Guantanamo and the fates of the people still imprisoned there remain urgent, larger discussions of Guantanamo qua policy or politics must admit the broader reach and influence of Guantanamo the idea.

In this commissioned web project for Creative …read more

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