Posted on January 11, 2012 in Arab American Institute

Ten years ago today, the Bush Administration opened the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Today, as the nation reads stories about the prison, its practices, and its impact on our global standing, consider these numbers:

  • 775 detainees (by at least one of the many, varied, and sometimes dubious government counts) have been held in this “not-in-our-back-yard” facility

  • Of the 775, 6 have been convicted and 600 have been released or transferred

  • 89 of the 171 detainees still held there are cleared for release, but remain in custody—57 of whom are Yemenis whose continued detention is due solely to instability in their country.

These figures represent real people. As demonstrated by the example of former detainee Lakhdar Boumediene, lives were disrupted, families torn apart, and futures destroyed. And among the victims is our own Constitution—a document hailed as “the only safeguard of our liberties.”

When Guantanamo was established, the country was in shock from the horrific attacks of 9/11. Congress met little resistance in passing the USA PATRIOT Act and the public was bombarded by government and media reports about terrorist cells in our midst. The President told us that we were a country at war with enemies both seen and unseen. Today, we are able to weigh our words and actions without the immediate wrenching burdens of grief and fear. We are able to examine both the effectiveness and the impact of our policies.

Today, Guantanamo remains open, its continued existence ensured by the recently-passed National Defense Authorization Act. Not only does the NDAA fail to right this country’s decade-old wrong, it plunges us even further into a moral abyss, authorizing the indefinite military detention of American citizens at home or abroad.

Americans can no longer rationalize our national acceptance of Constitutional abuses. We must speak out, calling into question the actions of our legislators, our judiciary, our administration, and our candidates. We must demand that our country, once again, show leadership not simply through economic or military force, but through the power of sound, moral judgment and action.

Hundreds will make this call in protests around the country today. You can make the call, as well.

  • Click here to ask your Representative and Senator to sign on to legislation which would make it unlawful for the government to indefinitely detain American citizens or lawful U.S. residents without charge, ensuring that all Americans receive due process, as guaranteed by the Constitution.
  • The next time you attend a town hall or candidate rally, ask the people vying for your vote what they plan to do about Guantanamo. Get them on the record.

We will keep you informed about these and other bills—and we’ll make sure that you’ve got the latest information about what your officials are saying and doing, and what the candidates are promising. But remember that the information we collect is only valuable when you use it. 

In the words of Kahlil Gibran, “a little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.”


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