Cliff May

Five years ago this month, an American facility was opened in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba to house the most dangerous combatants captured in the global war against Militant Islamism. To commemorate the anniversary, anti-Guantánamo demonstrations have been staged in more than 20 countries. In Washington last week, more than 80 protestors were arrested after they refused to leave a federal court house.

But it is Amnesty International that has come up with the most original way to display outrage, enthusiastically (if not quite grammatically) urging its supporters to “Sail, fly, windsurf with the Close Guantánamo flotilla! This extraordinary journey is a unique opportunity to express your opposition to Guantánamo, will help to pressure the US government to close the camp once and for all. Join us and invite your friends to travel with you to confront injustice!”

For those with limited vacation time, Amnesty suggests: “Say Close Guantánamo on Camera! Vote for your favourite video! …Whether you think the funniest or the most artistic should win, we need an all categories winner! Cast your votes and get a chance to win a Make Some Noise goodie bag. Voting closes 31 January, and the winning video (its prize being wrapped in secrecy, like Guantánamo;) will be announced shortly after.”

Who knew that protesting American oppression could be such fun? Evidently, opposing suicide bombings and ritual beheadings is less amusing. I could find no denunciation of such practices on Amnesty’s home page. Nor was there any apparent concern for prisoners being held by such Militant Islamist organizations as Hezbollah and Hamas.

Also conspicuous by its absence: A serious discussion of what would happen if Guantánamo were to be closed. Would detainees be released on the battlefields where they had been captured? Or would they be returned to their home countries? What if their home countries were likely to torture or execute them?

In wars, combatants are killed; luckier ones are taken prisoner and held -- not as punishment but to prevent their return to battle. If the combatants are honorable soldiers they are entitled to be regarded as Prisoners of War, with all the rights and privileges that status implies. But the combatants sent to Guantánamo are those who have violated the most basic laws of war, in particular by targeting civilians and by hiding among civilians.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.