The news that six of the prisoners long held (12 years!) in the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were sent to Uruguay flitted by me with lots of other stories yesterday. But something about that particular report snagged on a rough edge in my mind. Finally, I realized what bothered me was that we continue to control these men’s lives, and deny them access to their loved ones, wherever they might be. I deplore the military actions these men may have engaged in against U.S. interests and citizens (they were never charged) as much as I deplore the killing done in any war, by us or by “them.” But to isolate them from their lives and loved ones for so long just seems wrong. The BBC report mentioned that the six men arrived in Uruguay as free men. Does that mean they can go home and be with their families? I’m not sure.
The figures have always been a little squishy, but one source suggests we have detained as many as 759 men from various Middle Eastern countries for years and years, most of them without any charges. The figure for Guantanamo is reported as 367, with 136 still there. And the figures on how many have been held and maybe tortured in “rendition sites” somewhere in the world are really hard to come by.
I understand that when nations go to war, there will inevitably be prisoners of war. But until the Bush boys got us into this MIddle Eastern business involving Osama bin Laden and others, we seemed to play by the rules (established in the Geneva Conventions), for the most part. One of those conventions states (with regard to POWs) that repatriation of prisoners shall be effected with the least possible delay after the conclusion of peace. Well, since we declared war on terror–a quest that will likely never end–there is no peace in sight. If anything, we’ve created more and more enemies by killing so many people in the Middle East already. Which apparently means we will continue to fight and take prisoners and hold them and hold them (maybe torture some of them) ad nauseum.
I know I’m pretty naive for a 65-year old, but that doesn’t seem right to me.