The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewTom Engelhardt Archive
Erin Thompson: Curating Guantanamo
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

Few Americans ever took in the vastness of the prison outsourcing system the administration of George W. Bush set up from Afghanistan to Iraq, Thailand to Poland, the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. In those years, I began referring to that global network of prisons as our own “Bermuda Triangle of injustice.” At one point, it housed at least 15,000 prisoners from Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca in Iraq to the “Salt Pit” in Afghanistan and, of course, Guantánamo. They were often kept under the grimmest of conditions, involving in a striking number of cases torture and sometimes death. All those prisons, large and small, were borrowed or built to ensure that captives in the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror, the innocent and the guilty alike, whether taken in battle, traded for bounties, or kidnapped by the CIA off the streets of global cities as well as in the backlands of the planet, would be — every last one of them — beyond the reach of the law, American or international.

And that couldn’t have been more intentional. An administration whose top officials had torture methods — the euphemism of that moment was “enhanced interrogation techniques” — demonstrated in the White House wanted a free hand to do whatever it damn pleased, including waterboarding, slamming heads off walls, depriving prisoners of sleep, or just about anything else. They were going to “take the gloves off,” as the phrase of the era went, and no judge, no legal system was about to stop them. Their lawyers in the Department of Justice even redefined “severe physical or mental pain or suffering” in the classic legal description of torture so that an act would not be considered torture if “intent” wasn’t there — and the only way to know about intent would be to ask the potential torturer. (Even then, he or she would need to have “specific intent to cause pain” in mind.)

In this web of CIA-operated “black sites” extending across significant parts of the planet, the jewel in the crown, a veritable recruitment poster for jihadist groups, was Guantánamo. It was tantalizingly just 90 miles offshore from American justice and pioneered those iconic orange jumpsuits for its prisoners that would later be adopted by ISIS for its torture and murder videos. There, prisoners could be kept more or less forever without either charges or trials, a system for which Donald Trump has shown remarkable enthusiasm.

ORDER IT NOW

TomDispatch has been covering all of this for years and yet I felt I first came face to face with Guantánamo only the other day in the strangest, quietest way imaginable. I went to meet Erin Thompson, author of Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present. She then took me through “Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantánamo,” the first show of paintings and other works by some of the prisoners there, which she had curated. Who even knew that they painted, no less with a startling proficiency? Though the works were (as she describes today) in some way faceless — untitled and largely without human images — something about finally “meeting” those prisoners (and ex-prisoners), however facelessly, can’t help but take your breath away and remind you that we are all, however uncomfortably, in the same grim world.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Guantanamo, Torture 
Hide One CommentLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
    []
  1. Muh greatest ally! Jew-worshipers who have pledged allegiance to Israel seem quite eager to degrade their nations with Crusades for the Hebrews—even against their own people.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
    AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
    These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
    Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
    Sharing Comment via Twitter
    /tengelhardt/erin-thompson-curating-guantanamo/#comment-2104496
    More... This Commenter Display All Comments
Current Commenter says:

Leave a Reply -


 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments become the property of The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Tom Engelhardt Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
Eight Exceptional(ly Dumb) American Achievements of the Twenty-First Century
How the Security State’s Mania for Secrecy Will Create You
Delusional Thinking in the Age of the Single Superpower