June 14th, 2006

Spreading the Gitmo Meme

by Philip Baruth

I have a new crackpot theory about Guantanamo Bay.

I used to believe that Guantanamo — with its torture and force-feeding chairs and waterboarding and pliant psychologists and force-fed gay porn — was a secret government operation that had been accidentally brought to the attention of the world.

bush, in denialI used to believe that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld were livid that their extra-legal bolt-hole had been exposed to minimal public scrutiny. I used to believe that they were frantic about the disclosure of their bizarre and whimsically cruel tactics.

But I have a new theory: that the point of Gitmo is to have its twisted existence broadcast, on a daily basis, to every corner of the globe. That Gitmo is a concept the Administration wants beamed to every television and radio, as many times as possible.

If the Red Cross hadn’t stumbled across the systematic abuses of law and international treaty at Gitmo, the Administration would have had to find some other means of getting the good word out.

The Bush people, I’m convinced, see Gitmo — like the death penalty — as a twisted form of deterrence.

Forget that it lowers our standing in the world by a measurable amount each passing month. Forget that it conflicts with every principle this country has claimed, from its inception, to honor.

Forget that the European Parliament is coming perilously close to a vote denouncing us as international pariahs. The recent suicides there — following an even larger number of suicide attempts — have refocused the world on pressing the issue as never before. But forget that.

This administration, down deep, doesn’t mind that Guantanamo is so horrific — such a lawless pit — that a large portion of the occupants would kill themselves if they were allowed.

That, in fact, is the point.

It’s the message dictators have used to stabilize their rule in countries the world over, in every age: I have a place you don’t want to go, I have the power to put you in that place, and once there, you will never leave that place.

So, as for the negative press produced by multiple suicides amid mass hunger strikes, bring it on.

gitmo suicides

Late Update, 12:02 pm:

Press reports now indicate that Rumsfeld has banished reporters from Gitmo as of today. Does this demolish the crackpot theory outlined above? Just the reverse: banishing reporters from the camp is, in fact, the only thing that could have made the multiple suicides story any bigger.

Think about it, if you’ve got the stomach for it.