Classifying Reality: "Recidivism" of Guantanamo Bay Prisoners

Amnesty International demonstrates in front of the US Embassy in London on 11 January 2007 for the closure of the US detentio
Amnesty International demonstrates in front of the US Embassy in London on 11 January 2007 for the closure of the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay.

Yesterday an article was published in the Washington Post, titled
"About 12 released Guantanamo detainees implicated in attacks on Americans." From the title of the article, one would guess that 12 signifies a large percentage of prisoners that have been released from Guantanamo Bay. One would also guess that there is evidence to substantiate claims that former Guantanamo Bay prisoners are or have been involved in attacks on Americans. In a climate where political officials are constantly working to thwart efforts to close the infamous prison, the truth matters and so does the rhetoric.

Where does the truth lie? According to the government, this information needs to be classified and made unavailable to the public. How then are we to know the truth of these claims without answers to the following questions:

1) Where is the evidence on the rates of recidivism of Guantanamo Bay prisoners? Classified
2) How many Americans were killed? Classified
4) Who perpetrated the acts of violence towards Americans? Unclear
5) Who are the victims of the purported attacks by Guantanamo Bay prisoners? Classified

The stories behind these questions illuminate the destructive efforts leveraged to keep the prison open, while at the same time obscuring a very real fact; most prisoners were innocent of any charges, captured not on the battlefields, but in their homes and neighborhoods for bounties. Rather than taking responsibility for manipulating the emotional health and well-being of the Guantanamo prisoners, most of whom were innocent of any charges, the US government has intentionally manufactured the threat of recidivism. The government also carefully avoids any indication that their cruelty is what may have led to former prisoners' propensity to commit violence after years of being unjustly detained. This differs from the War on Terror explanation that Muslims are inherent terrorists and that their terrorism occurs in a vacuum. In other words, the United States exists as a bystander to the genetically predisposed Muslim terrorist.

In the midst of the narrative created by the question of "recidivism," stories such as that of Mohammed Bawazir, a Guantanamo Bay prisoner who declined to be released, are erased. Bawazir had declined his freedom because U.S. government officials refused to tell him what country he was being sent to. This fact constituted a potential trauma for Bawazir that outweighed the hell of being in Guantanamo Bay. Moreover, Bawazir's story relays something much broader; that we choose to focus on 12 former prisoners who may or may not be implicated in violent attacks, rather than the other 688 who have been released to various countries without any form of economic, social, psychological, and/or medical support. This is because Muslim lives are meaningless collateral damage in the U.S. national security state.

This is the story of Guantanamo Bay. A prison that exists on illegally occupied land and which houses prisoners indefinitely. A prison that holds innocent people based on the fact that they may return to a life of crime without being involved in crime in the first place. A prison that exists in an orientalist vacuum. And a prison that exists to symbolize all that is wrong with American justice.