Guantanamo Bay concentration camps – What’s the fuss?

The term “concentration camp” entered the political vocabulary during the second Boer war (1899-1902) in South Africa. The colonial British rulers imprisoned the Dutch settlers (Boers) and their Black workers to camps in order to quell the rebellion. Thousands perished as a result of diseases due to hunger, thirst, and bad sanitation. The drastic measures could be explained by the fact that enormous amounts of Gold in Transvaal and Diamonds in Kimberley were discovered. The capitalist colonialists will argue the merits of a profit based market economy, but its victims will highlight the old phrase “money is the root of all evil”. A similar process took place during the Malaysian uprising but the British called it “resettlement camps” which was later labelled as “new villages” but it had all the characteristic of a “concentration camp”. The term “concentration” was reflected in the internment of large number of civilians in a particular location. Nevertheless the real defining characteristic of the “concentration camp” is the imprisonment of people without being subjected to the due process of the law. They are incarcerated without charge or legal representation at the whim of their captors. Britain’s coalition ally Spain, also engaged in the same practice in Cuba during the third war of independence (1895-1898). In order to cut off support for the rebels, the Spanish governor, Valeriano Weyler forcibly moved rural populations to suburban areas of large cities. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths (largely of women, children and the elderly) to disease, overcrowding, and exposure. The phenomenon of “concentration camp” reached its climax under the Nazi regime of Germany. However the final and the most significant member of the coalition, the USA, has been the pioneer of building “concentration camps” with a record that is at the very least comparable to the Nazis.

In 1828 the Native American Indian tribe called the Creeks were decimated and all their lands were confiscated. The European “settlers” (Occupiers) then turned the pressure on the remaining major tribe of the Cherokee Indians. Therefore in 1838, President Andrew Jackson ordered the U.S. Army to enforce the Indian Removal Act of 1830 by rounding up the Cherokee into prison camps before relocating them. Many died due to starvation and bad sanitation as minimal facilities and food were provided. Then as the tribes were forcibly relocated to another state, huge numbers were exterminated. This later became to be known as the “trail of tears”. The process was repeated with other Native American tribes. The US repeated the process of internment with the civilian population of German-American descent during the First World War, then the Japanese-American during the Second World War. It could be argued, that the conditions of African slaves being used as forced labour in plantation and farms are the earliest forms of “concentration camps”. Hence subjecting foreign people to “concentration camps” without the due process of the law is part and parcel of US history, thus Guantanamo Bay is not the exception but the norm.

The initial pictures depicting the captives chained, gagged and shackled were deliberately released by the Pentagon in order to send a message and to humiliate the Islamic world. It has now been confirmed through many independent sources including first hand accounts of released prisoners, that the captives are being subjected to torture and a few have been executed or killed. The prisoners also include children below the ages of 16. Even so, the commotion is not just due to the maltreatment of these captives but much more due to the fact that the US is supposed to be the leader of the free world and a prime example of upholding human rights values. In fact it is one of the reasons that she uses to justify the war in Iraq. For these reasons the world witnesses in shock, horror and in total disbelief the overt shameless hypocrisy of the Bush Administration in selectively chastising its enemies for violating human rights, whilst it is engaged in the same activity. We have already seen her hypocrisy in many areas, chastising Iraq for its mythical WMD whilst using Napalm, depleted Uranium, JDAMS and Cruise missiles, all of which used collectively most certainly would qualify as WMD. Similarly we hear about free speech but as soon as Al-Jazeerah started to air an alternative viewpoint, which it disapproved of, it faced the wrath of the American military and diplomatic pressure. We hear about democracy but yet Bush himself has been fraudulently elected nor is democracy reflected in the highest political institution set up by the US, i.e. the UN. Everyone witnessed the exercising of the American veto with regards to Syria and Palestine recently opposing over whelming world opinion. It seems when it suits the US she has no qualms in making democracy function in reverse, “rule of the minority by the minority for the minority”. What makes the issue of Guantanamo Bay concentration camp an exception is that this goes to the heart of any democratic society that claims to uphold human rights values and the rule of law. Arbitrarily imprisoning people held without legal charge, gagged, chained and shackled, such behaviour clearly blurs the distinction between a democratic and dictatorial Nazi type of society. Concentration camps like Nuclear, Chemical and Biological weapons, Cluster bombs, Cruise Missiles, CIA torture methods, sophisticated torture equipments, genocidal policy of exterminating native populations of conquered regions, Nazism, Fascism are all essentially the product of Europe and proponents of Democratic societies. It is only a matter of time when such notions once again become synonymous with the Islamic world even though its origin and practice is in European civilisation. During the war in Bosnia we witnessed the growth of these “concentration camps” in the hands of the Serbs. Israel has also embarked on building its “concentration camp” in a much larger scale by building the segregation wall with the blessing of the US. Which is natural since the US has plenty of experience in creating segregation in society and concentration camps?

The argument presented in defence of the Guantanamo Bay [1] cages is that the captives are “illegal combatants” not prisoners of war or any other form of prisoners as we understand in the conventional sense. A nation can only justify holding foreign subjects under the existing legal framework of the international laws and conventions, which includes bilateral treaties. The notion of “illegal combatant” is unprecedented and has no international consensus. It is simply an unknown quantity in terms of its definition, scope and application. Hence the term has no legal basis and the US is committing a crime by relying upon this term. So, some argued if the international laws and conventions are not applicable then surely they should be subjected to the domestic US laws. The US government again argued that Guantanamo Bay is not part of American territory even though she has total control over the land. It seems the US is determined not to subject the prisoners to the normal due process of the established laws and conventions, hence violating the most basic fundamental human right. She is claiming that neither the international nor the domestic laws are applicable to the subjects. By her own admission therefore, the US is operating illegally and outside the established laws and conventions. Hence the prisoners are kept arbitrarily at the will of the US government under the pretext of the so-called “legal hole” of “illegal combatants”. Which is nothing more then an excuse for her to circumvent the laws, in order to imprison the captives, as she has no real evidence. All this is no different from a typical brutal dictator (e.g. Saddam Hussein) who imprisons people without any charge or applying the due process of law. Is this not what the likes of Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Hitler and Stalin used to do to their opponents? Everything indicates that the US has no clear evidence otherwise she would have either proceeded to charge them or try them through the courts.

Another important point to bear in mind is that many of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay like Moazzam Beg have been literally kidnapped (Pakistan, Ghana and Bosnia) and many others have been simply arrested with the flimsiest of evidence. They should be released immediately as their capture was illegal from the onset. The US government should start to apply what she preaches to the world. Simultaneously the world should highlight the vanishing veil of “democracy” and “human rights” from the face of US. She should be treated no just as a rogue state but what she really is, an organised crime syndicate and a brutal fascist dictator.

The US has yet to realise the ramification of this conduct. At present she seems to have been blinded through her sheer arrogance and hypocrisy. She has given a license to other nations to use the same unprecedented and subjective “principal” of “illegal combatants” to its own citizens be they captured on the battlefields or even kidnapped.


[1] Guantanamo Bay (Source: Wikipedia – The free Encyclopedia)